Dawn of the Jedi (0)

Hey folks!
Finally finished the novel Into the Void, a prequel of sorts to the Dawn of the Jedi series from Dark Horse, which I’ve recently written about here, here and here!

Dawn of the Jedi

Let’s get this out here now: the novel has almost exactly the same failings as the comic series, insofar as it categorically does not feel like a story from the ancient past of the Jedi. Rather, this book actually feels like it would be more at home in the Clone Wars era. Some of the scenes around the middle of the book, for instance, strongly recalled that specific conflict, for me. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad story, don’t get me wrong. The fact that it has the same failings as the comic lead me to believe this is a design failing of the era rather than a storytelling failing from the author. But anyway.

The book is chronologically the first to take place in the Star Wars (legends) universe, though was one of the last to be published before the story group decided it didn’t really happen. It follows the Je’daii Ranger Lanoree Brock on a mission to stop a madcap scheme that could spell doom for the entire Tython system. Adding to the pressure, the man at the head of said scheme is her brother Dalien, who has long been believed dead.

The story is actually really nicely told. It has a blend of past- and present-tense storytelling, with the odd setup of having the past tense for “now” and the present tense for Lanoree’s dreams and remembrances. A bit disorientating at first (as well as slightly annoying), it eventually settled into a really nice rhythm, and makes this one of the best pieces of writing to emerge from the universe.

There are some really nice sequences here, and we get to see a bit more of the system than we did in any of the comics. While it continually annoyed me to see how technological the galaxy was over 25000 years before the classic trilogy, if you concentrate on the story being told rather than the timeline conceit, you will no doubt enjoy it a lot more. As I said already, the sequence on Nox, where a manufacturing city sees an orbital bombardment, could have been lifted right out of the Clone Wars, with a Jedi attack on a Separatist factory world.

In fact, to my mind there are only two things that distinguish this era from others in the GFFA: Je’daii/Jedi use metal swords, and droids can’t speak (though some stutter, or something). But I’ve already whined about this in my first blog on the comics.

Towards the end of the novel, we begin to investigate the possibility of a Gree hypergate on Tython, and delve into the ruins of the Old City. The Gree are a species from the West End Games days of Star Wars, with some info on the Gree Enclave being published back in Adventure Journal #8 (from 1995). Subsequent sources have put the Gree prior to the Rakata in terms of galactic dominance, so it was nice to see some more of that joining-up. While we’re touring the ruins of the Old City, I had a really strong Lovecraftian vibe from the whole place, as Lebbon describes massive staircases much like we see in Call of Cthulhu, though the actual trek into the ruins was more reminiscent of the Yithian city from The Shadow Out of Time. This is something that I really enjoyed!

It’s a really good book, anyway, and one that I’m really glad that I’ve read. I’m just not too sure that I could call it an ancient tale of the Star Wars past…

Dawn of the Jedi (3)

Hey everyone!
Well, after my look through the first two story arcs of the Dawn of the Jedi series from Dark Horse, I suppose it’s only right that I take a look at the final part of the trilogy…

Dawn of the Jedi

As you may recall, I have some fairly mixed views on both the previous issues – which you can read about here:

Force Storm                                          Prisoner of Bogan

The third story picks up where the last left off, though a year has lapsed since that last book. Now this, I like: there appears to be no such thing as hyperspace travel in this period (“Good!” I hear you cry!), so everybody moves around at sublight speeds. It therefore takes the Rakatan force a year to penetrate the system – a really nice point, though one at odds with the fact that they appear to have crossed the galaxy, from Tatooine to the Deep Core, over the course of the three books. Hm. Anyway!

here be spoilers!

Daegen Lok is now leading the Je’daii, and in an alarming number of panels he looks very similar to Quinlan Vos during some of the latter’s Clone Wars escapades… That aside, the book deals with the invasion in a really great manner. It’s action for almost the entire book, and I for one was really actually very impressed! We also get to spend a little more time with the Rakata, and get to understand a little more of their motives and so forth.

Something that really bugged me, however, was the love story between Shae Koda and Xesh. I hadn’t mentioned it in the second blog as I’d been hoping I’d been reading too much into things, and it wouldn’t happen, but alas, it does. I can’t decide whether this was a good move or not – that it felt inevitable might be good, because Star Wars is almost meant to be one long trope after another, but there’s that nagging sense that nobody is doing anything differently anymore, and it’s almost like the love story was put in “because there needs to be a love story”. It felt like it should have been a big moment, but I found myself bored by it, sadly. (Also, as a side note, Xesh reveals his “real name” as Tau – that just made me think of the Warhammer 40,000 race…)

Once the love story is out in the open, we see Xesh’s big betrayal of the Je’daii, which I supposed served to heighten my distaste for the romance. To me, the betrayal didn’t need any more layering, but again, it felt like the whole love story was added in to add to the sense of personal betrayal. But anyway. I admit to being a bit confused by the proceedings here, as at one point it felt a bit like we were leading up to a “it was all a dream” scenario – was it really Xesh on the planet, or merely his shadow?

The denouement comes when everybody meets down at the bottom of the Chasm, which has been with us since the first issue of course, and turns out to be the Infinity Gate to end all Infinity Gates, which the Rataka want to control. After a crazy duel between Daegen and the chief Rakata, Skal’nas, and one between Xesh and Shae, the Rakata are defeated with the death of their leader. Felt a bit too easy, that – the Rakata apparently felt Skal’nas’ death through the Force, and headed off to vie with each other for supremacy. However, with the Infinity Gate destroyed, there was no longer a point to fighting for control of Tython anyway. While the rest of the Je’daii lick their wounds, Xesh and Shae head off into the Tython wilderness to start a life together.

Ah, schmaltz!

I said above that I liked this one, and I did, but there were a few things I wish we had more of, and a few that I wish had been left out. I said we saw more of the Rakata, but we’ve really only scratched the surface here, so it’s a sad thing that we won’t be getting any further issues in the series.

Something else that I thought really salient, but have kept it until now to discuss, is the whole issue of how the Je’daii became the Jedi and Sith Lords of later eras. In this harmonious pre-Republic age, we have the light and dark sides, but we have pureblood Sith as Je’daii warriors, and it all seems a little screwy. There is a Council, though we don’t really get much info on that. It’s quite difficult to reconcile what we’re reading about here with what we know comes later, so in a sense it would be very useful to see where we’re headed, somehow. All that said, however, there is still the issue of it being bad for Je’daii to be forming attachments, while at the same time we see Je’daii who have married and had kids, etc. There’s a lot to wrap your head around, and I for one am really sad that we haven’t had the opportunity to see more around the Je’daii tenets in this era, to compare and contrast with those of the later Jedi. It’s something that I suppose you’d take for granted in a novel, say, but a comic has other priorities. (There is, of course, the novel Into the Void, set before the comic series, which I plan to move onto next). Anyway, it would have been nice to have seen more of the principles of the order, aside from that very brief scene with the rancor dragon.

Oh yeah, there’s a rancor dragon. She’s called “Butch”.

Dawn of the Jedi

The rancor dragon actually brings up another point. We see a lot of facets of both the later Jedi and Sith cultures, here for instance we’re almost telegraphing the Sith Alchemy of Ludo Kressh and his ilk, for instance. It’s an interesting blend of the two, but an odd mix all the same. I suppose this oddity fails to convince me that this really is how the Jedi Order began, which sounds pretty damning really, but there you have it. There are some very potent whiffs of a suitably epic origin, but when it’s all over, I just didn’t feel like this did the idea justice.

So in short, it’s an interesting little series, though one that I feel could have been so much better than it was. That’s not to say it’s awful, it just could have been better, principally in its distance from the core timeline.

Dawn of the Jedi (2)

Hey everybody!

Following on from last week’s post about the inaugural arc of the Dawn of the Jedi series, I’m back with a quick look at the second arc, Prisoner of Bogan, which I read last night!

Dawn of the Jedi

here be spoilers!

A lot of my criticisms of the first book hold strong here, also. For an ancient timeframe, we’re sure seeing some standard tech – at one point, we see jet packs that are virtually the same as that of Jango Fett, for instance. There’s next to no sense of temporal space in this story, which is a shame, as one of the main selling points, it seems, was the fact that this story takes place in the ancient past of the Jedi.

A small point, too, is the Noghri battle-master character, Tave. I must admit, whenever I see a Noghri prior to Heir to the Empire (that isn’t a member of the Imperial death clans), I just cringe. One issue of the Republic storyline (#68: Armor) in particular really grates on me. The reason being, Noghri are supposed to be something of a backwater race before the Clone Wars, unheard of in galactic society. So I was unimpressed there. I was also unimpressed at how he’s shown as being the same height as the others, when Noghri are supposedly much smaller. Hm.

But, you know, if you put these things aside, this is actually a pretty good story. While it seems to labour under exposition at times, it nevertheless feels much more action-packed than the last book, which really suffered from its own exposition.

The story contains the meeting of the mad Je’daii Daegan Lok – the prisoner seen in the first arc – with Xesh, the imprisoned Force Hound who was sent to Bogan in the previous book. Daegan Lok had a vision of an invasion of people wielding laser swords, and when Xesh appears and recognises them as Forcesabers, Lok is determined to forge his own and lead the Je’daii to victory. There are some really interesting themes coming out of this, and I particularly liked the way the story plays around with the perception of Lok as mad.

As it turns out, another Je’daii Ranger, Hawk Ryo, shared that vision with Daegan Lok, but he renounced it and returned to the Je’daii fold. We get to explore the system a bit more, as Hawk leads a band of Je’daii in an attempt to recover the fugitive prisoners. On Tython, however, there is discord as the Masters begin to consider the possibility that Daegan Lok may have been right, after all. By the end of the story, they’re forced to admit they were wrong, and begin to muster for war!

Dawn of the Jedi

We also see more of the Force Hound Trill, above. The Force Hounds were an interesting idea from the last story, and while I’m not sure I really wanted to know more about them, we get it here anyway, and it is pretty interesting. Turns out to be a lot of subterfuge and intrigue going on in the Rakata camp, which I actually got a bit confused by at first, I think because we haven’t really seen all that much of the Rakata so far.

Above all, however, I suppose I most appreciated the way this story ties in quite wonderfully with previous Star Wars comics. The biggest, for me, was the return of the Kwa and the Infinity Gates. Remember Infinity’s End, from 2000? Quinlan Vos, still recovering from his flirtation with the Dark Side in Twilight is sent to Dathomir and all sorts of nonsense starts happening around the Star Chambers and such? Well, the story is taken up again here, and merged into the birth of the Rataka and the Infinite Empire. While I didn’t really care for that story, it was nonetheless nice to see these odd bits of information taken up every so often, helping to keep it all one big story!

So yeah, a better story than the first, though still not without problems. It serves as a nice segue into the third arc, however, with the promise of war coming to the Tython system…

Dawn of the Jedi

Hey folks!
After a couple of weeks with various Warhammer novels, I’ve returned to Star Wars, and the dim and distant past of that universe – Dawn of the Jedi!

Dawn of the Jedi

Set over 25,000 years before the events of A New Hope, the comic series tells of the mythic origins of the Jedi Order, as Je’daii on the Inner Core world of Tython.

I’d been looking forward to these books since publication began in February 2012, though have only now got round to reading them – shocking, I know. From the Dark Horse dream-team of John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, who are responsible for some of the most awesome comics in the entire history of Star Wars publishing, I had high hopes, but I must admit, having read the first arc, Force Storm, I was left feeling a little disappointed. Let me explain.

Star Wars is, of course, science fiction, and so requires a reasonably high level of tech in any story being told. The danger of doing prequels in these circumstances is always to make the tech side of things not as advanced as the original, and yet still sufficiently advanced from our own society. The prequels famously got this kinda screwy with a whole host of aspects, and only vaguely tried to write it off as comparable to art deco before the cheap mechanical era of the 40s and 50s. The original Tales of the Jedi series managed to pull this off to an extent, with having its powerpack-fueled lightsabers, but the later Knights of the Old Republic still managed to incorporate some technology that, undoubtedly, looks really cool on the page, but looks much more advanced than the stuff we see 3000+ years later in-universe.

From the off, Dawn of the Jedi features some ships and droids that don’t look all that different from prequel-era and classic-era ships and tech, which instantly destroys the conceit that this story is taking place over 25,000 years before those eras. Even accepting that the Rakatan Infinite Empire was a race apart in the tech stakes, the Je’daii still have some nifty stuff that Luke, or Han, would be familiar with. To me, this either assumes that (a) there was little-to-no technological development over the subsequent 25,000+ years, or (b) this is a badly-designed comic, which has sacrificed any historical aesthetic for the sake of “being Star Wars”. Personally, I would have assumed something set 25,000 years before A New Hope would be like a Stone Age society.

Anyway!

My historical gripes aside, the story isn’t too bad. The execution suffers quite a lot from being overly expositional, but you really can’t hold that against it, given the trail we’re blazing here (just a shame the visuals didn’t match up – okay, okay, I’ll stop griping now).

here be spoilers!

We have a really compelling tale of Eye of Palpatine-like constructions floating throughout the galaxy herding up Force-sensitives to take them to Tython. Concentration Camp analogies aside, we don’t hear anything about how this worked – were the Tho Yor spaceships sentient? How did they find the Force sensitives? Just what was going on? At any rate, the ships deposited the Force sensitives on Tython, where they formed a society that, over the centuries, developed into a whole solar system of peoples. I was a bit baffled by this – my physics is rudimentary at best, but I thought there was an optimum distance from a solar body for life to exist comfortably. We have at least three planets in this system that support life with no mention of specific habitats being developed to facilitate this, so I was a bit confused by all this.

I realise I’m being really down on this book – so I shall move on to the good stuff!

The main story is actually really interesting. The Rakata, who you may remember from the Knights of the Old Republic video games, trawl the galaxy searching for Force sensitives to “reap”, and following their harvest of the lush world of Tatooine (clearly a shout-out, and quite cheesy at that), their attention is turned to Tython and the Je’daii community there. The Force Hound, Xesh, is sent to Tython, very much in the manner of the Silver Surfer, but ends up in a confrontation with three Je’daii Journeyers, who I assume are being set up for a starring role later in the series. These three – a Dathomiri, a Twi’lek, and a pureblood Sith – follow the pattern of almost every major Star Wars series, of having a leading trio. Something that really grated on me was all that “princess” nonsense from the Dathomiri, Shae Koda, which I feel was obviously meant to be a throw-back to the by-play of Han and Leia – but, what the hell?! Anyway. It’ll be interesting to see if and how the dynamic of these three is developed.

The planet of Tython has several distinct areas, and feels quite nicely developed as a world. The Je’daii community has built a series of temples on the planet, which serve as something of a training ground in different disciplines. This aspect of the story is part of something that I really caught onto in this tale. The Je’daii community has almost the feel of an eastern culture to it – I hesitate to say samurai, of course, but there is a definite feel of that kind of thing to it, which is precisely what the ancient origins of the Jedi Order should have, in my opinion! I really hope we get some more of that in later issues.

There are also ties to the meta history of the Jedi here. Fans may know that George Lucas originally had ideas for the light and dark side to be called the ashla and the bogan, which here are the names of the two moons. The core tenet of the Je’daii philosophy is to achieve and maintain balance, not to be too dark, nor too light. If a Je’daii goes too far into the light, he is sent to Ashla (the moon) “to meditate on Bogan”, and vice-versa. An interesting concept, and already there is some conflict being set up, as we see an exile on Bogan with a strangely scarred face.

Xesh, the Force Hound, is captured at the end of the book, and is sent to Bogan to meditate on the darkness of his soul – something that the scarred prisoner already there seems to welcome…

In spite of all my griping (and my spoilers!), I can still recommend you read this book, as it is an interesting story if you can get past the tech stuff. I’m certainly glad I read it, and am really intrigued for the second arc, the Prisoner of Bogan…

Dawn of the Jedi