Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: Turnabout Intruder

(Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha is a foolish attempt to examine the entirety of the now decanonized Star Wars Expanded Universe and quantify its assorted artistic merits. Read the introduction. Check out the archives.)

Turnabout

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Author: John Jackson Miller

Artist: Alan Robinson

Medium: Comic

Publication Date: July 2008

  • Collected April 2009 in Knights of the Old Republic Volume Six: Vindication
  • Reprinted December 2013 in Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 2

Timeline Placement: 3,963 BBY

Series: Knights of the Old Republic #31

This single-issue comic opens with Lucien taking up residence in his new office in the Jedi Temple. Despite his success, he is plagued by a sense of  lack and inadequacy. He looks at a painting of his father, Barrison Draay, as a young man. Barrison was a great Jedi Knight who was killed during the Sith War 33 years ago, when Lucien was just a child. Lucien admits to himself that his father should be the one standing in this office today, instead of him.

After this scene, I was hoping that this issue was going to end up being a sequel to Homecoming, but what it actually is is pretty decent too, I guess.

Across town, Jedi Masters Ed Asner and Fake Yoda head down to the entertainment district to meet a mysterious informant called “Captain Malak.”

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Oh god damn it.

Surprise, it’s Alek and Shel! Master Asner comically can’t pronounce Alek’s last name, which I’m not sure actually works as a joke because unless I’m mistaken we’ve never heard it before and can’t appreciate how difficult it is to say. The correct name isn’t even stated in this scene. His full name is Alek Squinquargesimus, except not really, because as “Captain Malak” explains, the people of Quelii don’t have surnames, they’re just identified by the name of their village. This explains Alek’s nickname “Squint” and why he previously called his last name “a mouthful”! This explains everything! I don’t care!

There’s more KotOR retcon wankery coming down the pipeline, but this, Alek’s final transition from Squint to Malak, seems as good a place as any to lay out some of the grievances I’ve had with Revan and Malak’s role in this series from the start. Let’s start with the fact that their names aren’t even Revan and Malak.

Like the classic Star Wars film trilogy, the 2003 videogame Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic begins in medias res, with the player character waking up in the middle of a galactic war and piecing together the back story of the conflict as he or she goes. And the two names most central to that back story that you hear over and over again are the Jedi Knights Revan and Malak. Everyone in the game who talks about them, including their Jedi teachers and people who knew them from before and during the Mandalorian Wars, calls them Revan and Malak. It’s pretty clear that that was actually what they were named, and then when they turned to the dark side and became Sith Lords they just prepended “Darth” to both their names.

In the spinoff comics that are supposed to fill in more of that back story, though, their birth names are Alek Squinquargesimus and [REDACTED]. “Revan” comes from an abbreviation of his public nom de guerre, the Revanchist, and “Malak” is . . . I guess just a more evil-sounding version of Alek’s name? I have no idea why John Jackson Miller added this wrinkle to the game’s background, other than to prevent readers from immediately knowing the characters’ identities when they first appeared in the comic. But Malak’s nickname and lack of baldness and everyone’s refusal to refer to Revan by name should have covered that. It’s not strictly a contradiction, but it was completely unnecessary and seems to work at cross-purposes with the comics’ status as ancillary material to the game.

There’s also the matter of Revan and Malak’s relationship. The games make it clear that the two of them were peers; they went to Jedi school together and while Revan was always the leader, it was their close personal friendship that drove Malak to support his cause and follow him to war, not some formal allegiance. In his very first appearance in the comic, however, Malak identifies Revan as his “Master,” and even personally addresses him as such later on.

Revan calls Malak and the other Revanchist Jedi mere “learners” and seems to be more of a peer to Lucien Draay and the other Jedi Masters. Rather than being of a similar age, Revan comes across as somewhat older and higher-ranking than Malak, which doesn’t really jive with the games’ description of them as two young Knights who basically co-founded the Jedi war effort against the Mandalorians. The first game even states that the two of them battled for supremacy after they became Sith Lords, and it was only Revan’s victory that relegated Malak to the position of apprentice.

I also take issue with Alek/Malak’s physical appearance in the comics—yes, I’m really complaining about this. Not the fact that he starts off with hair or anything like that, but that he’s consistently drawn way too short. In the videogame, he looms over all the other characters. Every time you encounter him, he is presented as a formidable force to overcome, the Goliath to your character’s David. He commands a vast martial empire, has access to all the destructive powers of the dark side, and looks like he can easily kick your ass in a punching contest to boot. The old Databank feature on StarWars.com gave his official height as two meters, or over six and a half feet. Which still seems too short for how he appears in the game, but is at least better than the comic, where Alek is six-foot at best. He’s a decently sized bro, but there’s nothing physically memorable or remarkable about him.

KotOR writer John Jackson Miller was actually asked about this discrepancy by fans. “I think there’s some allowances for format,” he said. “He’s video-game-boss big.” This strikes me as needlessly reductive and dismissive and actually kind of pisses me off, but despite all these issues, Miller’s adherence to continuity was still practically second to none, especially in the EU’s twilight years when the Lucasfilm editors stopped pretending to do their job and canon became a Wild West free-for-all. Nevertheless, as enjoyable as this series is, it is to Knights of the Old Republic as the broader EU is to the movies: secondary material. I just wish it had followed its source more faithfully, because these games mean a great deal to me.

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Oh, I guess I have to finish talking about this comic now. Admiral Karath’s fleet recognizes the Moomo Williwaw as it approaches Coruscant and a starfighter squadron led by Carth Onasi flies out to bring them in, so Jarael and the others draw the fleet’s attention by crashing the Williwaw in the docking bay of Karath’s flagship and Zayne, Gryph, and Slyssk steal a cargo hauler from the hangar and make a break for it, and I guess somehow no one noticed. Gryph gives Slyssk some money to go calm his nerves at a brothel “hotel” and they prepare to rendezvous with Alek and Shel to hand over their evidence against the Covenant, but Xamar had already snuck aboard their ship at some point before they stole it. He brings them to Ed Asner and Fake Yoda at lightsaber-point and declares that what happens next depends on what kind of deal he gets. TO BE CONTINUED…!

This is mostly just buildup to the conclusion of the Covenant arc in the next story but despite my tangential bitching above, there’s some good stuff here. It’s nice to see Carth again and it’s cool to get a little sequence of Masters Vrook and Vandar actually out doing Jedi stuff instead of sitting around in the Council chamber complaining all day. Xamar’s and Lucien’s developing character arcs continue to make them the most interesting antagonists in the cast, and the Moomo Williwaw‘s kerfuffle with the Republic fleet is a fun little action sequence.

Also in one scene Rohlan says to Zayne, “The gambit has failed, human! We should do whatever we must to escape!” Gee, that’s funny; I thought Rohlan was human. Weird that Zayne doesn’t notice that little snafu. He does notice that Rohlan is acting conspicuously out of character, though. And how come he’s never taken off his helmet since Flashpoint? You don’t think there could be something a little suspect going on here . . . do you?

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3/5 Death Stars.