Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: Duel with the Dark Side!

(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.)

Vindication

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Author: John Jackson Miller

Artist: Brian Ching (issues 32, 34-35), Bong Dazo (issue 33)

Medium: Comic

Publication Date: August – November 2008

  • Reprinted December 2013 in Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 2

Timeline Placement: 3,963 BBY (with flashbacks to 4,006, 3,996, and 3,969 BBY)

Series: Knights of the Old Republic #32-35

We open with Xamar taking Zayne and Gryph to the Draay Estate. Malak, Shel, and Jedi Masters Vandar and Vrook don’t appear in this comic at all, so despite Turnabout‘s cliffhanger ending I guess they all had something better to do during the final confrontation (note: according to Wookieepedia Vrook does appear in issue 33 but he’s drawn so horribly I can’t tell if it’s really supposed to be him or not). Zayne’s wearing red contact lenses and a perfect replica of the Muur Talisman, hollowed out to conceal his lightsaber. It’s pretty lucky they just had one of those lying around and were able to get it on such short notice. Maybe they just 3D-printed it.

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Possibly Vrook Lamar, or a time-displaced Doc Brown.

Xamar has cut a deal with the Jedi to spare Krynda Draay’s life. Once she comes down to see Zayne, Xamar will take her outside outside while a Jedi SWAT team swoops down on the compound and arrests everyone else in the Covenant. Things don’t go according to plan, however, as Lucien Draay refuses to let Zayne near his mother and wants to cut him down right in the foyer. He is prevented by Haazen, the Draays’ butler, who I think I’ve mentioned like once before in these reviews but has remained a steady minor presence throughout the comics.

Haazen, too, refuses to disturb Krynda, so Xamar’s like “BRB, gotta pick up some more Sith artifacts I found on their ship that I forgot about until just this second.” While he goes to open the door for the Jedi, Haazen investigates the alleged Sith of the Jedi Covenant’s prophecy. He explains that Zayne has a unique and unconscious Force ability: sudden reversals of fortune. I guess that explains how he’s survived everything in this series so far. Haazen tears the false talisman from Zayne’s throat, telling him that he knows he is no Sith. Lucien and Q’Anilia are dumbfounded.

Xamar has gotten the door open by now and outside the compound the Jedi are fighting Krynda’s Covenant guards. Haazen transmits a command to all agents of the Covenant across Coruscant, put in place through Lucien’s position on the Jedi Council, and sets them to work cutting all communications with the Jedi Temple and retrieving the Sith artifacts stored there. Once they have returned to defend the compound, Haazen will destroy the temple and the Jedi Council using the Republic fleet still stationed in orbit.

Lucien can’t believe his sketchy, evil-looking butler has betrayed him. He falls to his knees, lamenting this sudden reversal of fortune and protesting that he never wanted this to happen. “Of course you did,” says Haazen. “I’ve always given you what you wanted—and what you didn’t want, I made you want. Knighthood. The Covenant. The High Council. Even Q’Anilia—though that was more amusing than anything else.”

Haazen reveals that the military computer program controlling the fleet is actually owned by the Draay Trust, and using his robotic right arm he now orders it to open fire on the Jedi attacking the compound. Admiral Karath is unable to control his own ship’s systems (“How many ups and downs can one career have?” he grumbles) and the fleet obliterates everyone outside the Draay Estate, including Xamar.

Lucien, Zayne, and Gryph all simultaneously say, “Holy shit.” They turn around to find Haazen holding a red lightsaber and decked out in Sith battle armor and medallions. “Lucien—what’s going on?” asks Zayne. “Who is that guy?” “Haazen—my family steward,” says Lucien. “A retainer. A flunky. You two should have a lot in common—he’s a failure, too!”

We then jump 43 years into the past, when Haazen and Lucien’s parents, Barrison Draay and Krynda Hulis, were still apprentices on the planet Arkania, studying under Tales of the Jedi‘s very own Master Arca Jeth! We see that Haazen is an incompetent dweeb in perpetual pursuit of a Nautolan smuggler named Dossa, much as Zayne once Tom-and-Jerryed around with Gryph. The Haazen family has long served the aristocratic Draays, but when Barrison decided to forsake his wealth for a life of service, he was able to bribe the Jedi into accepting Haazen for training as well.

Lucien’s smoking hot mom has just returned from Ossus, where she interviewed with Master Vodo and will be going to study after the Knighting ceremony. That night, Arca Jeth confers Knighthood on both Krynda and Barrison, but calls Haazen an awkward loser who sucks at the Force. “Even a rich man may have merit—and even a poor man may fail.” I really like how, no matter who’s writing him, Master Arca is still a sanctimonious douche. Now that’s continuity.

It’s pretty clear that Haazen worships Barrison and has the hots for Krynda, so when Barrison finds him crying after the ceremony and explains that it wouldn’t have been right to use his money to influence the Jedi’s decision, Haazen takes a swing at him. “You wanted me in the Jedi—once. Until we met her. Well, I’m out of your way now! You bought your way into the Jedi—the same way you bought Krynda!” Barrison punches him in the face and tells him that out of gratitude to his parents he’ll find Haazen a servant job as his personal pilot “or something.” “Yes, milord . . .” says Haazen quietly.

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Dude, that chick’s a MILF!

Ten years later, the Sith War is raging in full force and looks nothing like it did in the comic that was actually called The Sith War. I sure don’t remember armies of Jedi and Sith meeting in hand-to-hand combat on the battlefield. Exar Kun only had like a dozen dudes following him. But anyway, it’s the aftermath of the Battle of Toprawa and Barrison is busy striking heroic glory poses while Haazen has to pull the bodies of the dead out of the mud. All of a sudden who should appear but his former nemesis Dossa, now wearing Sith tattoos and brandishing what I assume is some shittily drawn Force lightning.

She tells Haazen that the war is nearly over but there’s a way he can return as the victorious hero for a change, if he’ll just tell her what his deepest heart’s desire is. “I—I want—” says Haazen, and lackluster as the art is there’s still a cool panel when he finally stops stammering and decides what he wants, and his body is drawn as an extension of the flames still burning on the battlefield, “—I want his lifeAll of it.” So they concoct a scheme.

Haazen leads Barrison and the other Jedi into a subterranean cavern, claiming to have found the location of the planet’s last Sith base. Then he runs on off ahead, yelling at Dossa to detonate the bomb. She doesn’t wait for him to get fully out of the way, however, and Haazen is caught in the explosion that kills all of the Jedi. He awakens to find himself a mangled amalgam of melted flesh and robotic parts grafted to Sith power-ups. One in particular, the Yoke of Seeming, clouds his intentions in the Living Force, explaining how he was able to live among the Jedi for decades without them sensing his true designs. To show his gratitude, Haazen crushes Dossa’s head with his robot hand and vows that he will yet achieve the life she promised him.

We jump forward yet again, “much of a lifetime later,” to maybe my favorite scene in the whole series. Krynda, now an old woman, sits on the balcony of the Draay Estate while Haazen hovers at her elbow, reporting on various Covenant activities. Krynda thanks him for his years of faithful service, admitting that she never could or would have come up with the idea of the Covenant without him. In turn, Haazen thanks her for taking him in after the war, despite the pain he caused her as a constant reminder of her husband.

“I—I think about that time more and more as the years go by, milady,” says Haazen, momentarily taken aback by her uncharacteristic openness. “Before, at the academy. Do you ever think about who I—who we were then?”

“You overstep yourself, Haazen,” Krynda replies coldly. “Who you were, what you did, what you wanted—is irrelevant. That person is dead, if he ever lived. And I—I only ever think of the future.” She turns away, leaving Haazen alone on the balcony.

“Yes, milady,” he says, “I have only ever thought of the future, too.”

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Now that he finally knows who the main villain is after 33 issues, Lucien attacks Haazen but is repelled by the artifact on Haazen’s robotic right arm, the Gauntlet of Kressh the Younger, which we’ve actually heard of before. Just like Ludo Kressh intended when he created it for his son, the gauntlet prevents its wearer from being harmed or touched unless the wearer wills it.

A bunch of Jedi burst in through the window and are like “You’re under arrest!” but Haazen just Force lightnings them all to death. Since we just saw him flunk out of Jedi High, I assume the reason he’s now such a badass is some amplifying effect of all the talismans, amulets, and relics he’s got strapped to his body. Which is a pretty good strategy when you think about it. Emperor Palpatine should have just done that.

Haazen goes into monologue mode, explaining to Zayne and Lucien that he is neither Jedi nor Sith, but he plans to use the two of them to train armies of both that he will command. He reveals that Krynda’s “Prophecy of the Five” has at last come to pass, marking the day of his ascension. The prophecy, if you remember, goes like this:

And in the time of tribulation to come, there will be five.

One for the darkness, and one for the light.

Another from the darkness stands in the light, while one from the light stands in the darkness.

The last one stands apart from all.

And between them, all that has been built will fall.

With the patience of an Internet fan theoretician, Haazen explains what this means. Lucien is the one for the darkness, because he was a willing patsy in Haazen’s scheme (and also maybe because he’s an unrepentant murderer). Zayne is the one for the light, because he’s just a nice guy. Gryph is the one from the darkness who stands in the light, because he was a petty criminal but then he became Zayne’s friend. Q’Anilia is the one from the light who stands in the darkness, because she’s a Jedi but also blind. And Haazen stands apart from all because he thinks it sounds the coolest.

I told you this wasn’t going to pay off.

Then the dumbest line in the series is said: “I am Haazen, dutiful retainer to Krynda’s Jedi Covenant. And I am also—were I to take a name like the Sith of old—Darth Hayze, for the clouds of deception I have created.”

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Darth Hayze

Haazen then offers Lucien this only slightly less embarrassing choice: “You shall be . . . what? Something for the illusions under which you have lived. Darth Luzion, perhaps. Darth Sion?

Which brings me to another point. I remember fan reactions to this series as it was coming out, and no small part of the discussion revolved around which characters from the comics were secretly which characters from the games. Is Alek going to be Darth Malak? Is the Revanchist going to be Darth Revan? Is Zayne going to be Darth Nihilus? Is Krynda going to be Kreia? Is Lucien going to be Darth Sion? There was a line in an earlier comic where someone called Lucien “the scion of an important family,” which could have been an unintentional connection, but here Lucien is offered the name “Darth Sion” directly. Then later in the comic Lucien says, “I saw a river leading to a dark world where I might embrace my destiny—as a Lord of Pain.” (“Lord of Pain,” as everyone who’s played Knights of the Old Republic II knows, is the name of Darth Sion’s metal band.)

And let’s not even speak of the fact that Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide, co-written by the same author and published two months earlier, had already retconned Sion to be like some 70-year-old dude who fought for Exar Kun during the Great Sith War, which was where he learned his trademark ability of not being able to die. This makes absolutely no sense based on what’s established about him in KotOR II, which suggests that he and Darth Nihilus only learned their ridiculously OP abilities (immortality and planet-eating, respectively) by studying at the Trayus Academy, a forgotten learning center of the ancient Sith Empire. What was the point of teasing that Lucien might become Darth Sion, then ruling out that theory in the same story? They have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

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Darth Hayze

So anyway Q’Anilia, in a desperate attempt to remind readers that she’s still a character, runs up to Krynda’s chambers but finds her already dead inside a glass coffin. She claims that her vision has come true and Zayne has killed them all, but Gryph helpfully explains that he was actually responsible for Raana Tey’s and Feln’s deaths. He starts to claim Xamar’s too before Q’Anilia interrupts him, which is a good thing because he had nothing to do with that. Q’Anilia brings up the red spacesuit that their prophesied mystery villain wore in the vision, but Gryph tells her that half the cast has worn that costume by now and trying to divine the killer’s identity based on that clue was not too swift. Q’Anilia OD’s on pills and dies.

Gryph realizes that the glass coffin is actually another Sith oubliette like the one they found on Jebble, and Krynda is still alive. Poison, I see, hath been Q’Anilia’s timeless end. Gryph wakes Krynda up and helps her get downstairs. She scolds her son for disobeying her order not to kill the Padawans and generally being a dick. Lucien’s like “Drop dead, Mom!” and she does.

Lucien blames Gryph for his mother’s death and starts chasing him around with a lightsaber, but Zayne intervenes, telling his former teacher to take control of his life and stop playing the part his mother and Haazen have chosen for him. “Fine. Go ahead! Kill Gryph, kill me—kill everybody! Become Darth Whatever! Be someone else’s pawn! You’ve done it all your life—it’s what you’re best at!” So they concoct a scheme.

Haazen has gone outside to watch the Republic fleet continue to rain fire on Coruscant. Zayne and Lucien come running out and Lucien is apparently killed when a statue of his father falls over on him. Haazen allows Zayne to approach him, telling him that the system has failed them both, but together they will create a new one. Zayne kneels before the dark mirror-version of himself but suddenly claims to be having a vision of the future. Haazen is delighted and asks what he sees.

You’re not in it,” says Zayne, and cuts off Haazen’s robotic right arm.

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Darth Hayze

Zayne tosses the severed arm, along with the Gauntlet of Kressh the Younger, over to Lucien, who explains his survival by revealing that his father would never hurt him (what?). Lucien telekinetically flings Zayne and Gryph like a mile into the distance, then uses the control panel in Haazen’s arm to redirect the fleet’s targeting coordinates . . . onto the Draay Estate,

Famous Last Words: “The control device! No! I don’t have the Kressh Gauntlet! Don’t do it, Lucien! Don’t do it! NOOOOOOO!” – Haazen

Days later, Admiral Karath addresses the Coruscanti populace to take the credit for foiling a Mandalorian attack on the capital that tragically saw the loss of the Draay family. All of our characters are getting ready to move on with their lives. Alek is protesting the war by making everyone continue to call him Malak. Rohlan is continuing his search for some nebulous truth, and Jarael is going with him because she feels bad for him or something. Gryph and Slyssk are getting ready to con some new marks. The Moomos’ professional reputation has soared to new heights after bringing in the infamous Taris Padawan Killer. Elbee hasn’t appeared in about 15 issues and is probably dead. And Zayne, now cleared of all charges, has formally resigned from the Jedi Order and is going into business with his best friend, Gryph. It’s like high school graduation all over again!

Elsewhere in the galaxy, Lucien has survived the destruction of his estate thanks to the Sith gauntlet. Apparently the orbital bombardment only made him go blind somehow. He has restarted the Covenant on an unknown world, hidden from the affairs of the broader galaxy. Rather than trying to prevent the future, the new Covenant’s mission is . . . I’m not exactly sure. Just to hang out and do their own thing, I guess.

“We are few, but the Jedi ways will go on after the tribulations come,” muses Lucien’s internal monologue. “I know this—because I am the son of Krynda and Barrison Draay—and at last, I can see my future.”

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The irony!

 

Next time, on Knights of the Old Republic: A NEW ERA BEGINS!

This is a pretty great conclusion to the first 70% of the KotOR comic. Some parts feel a little perfunctory, like Xamar, Q’Anilia, Krynda, and Haazen all being killed off within about a page of one another, but Q’Anilia was barely even a character and Krynda had only been glimpsed in flashbacks before so it’s not like I’m upset about it. It’s funny, but despite all the time we’ve spent on this story and all the colorful characters we’ve met along the way, Vindication almost feels like a premature conclusion somehow. Maybe the pointless subplots about space slugs, zombies, and interstellar banking have something to do with that.

I’ve said before that I don’t care for Brian Ching’s art, but there really isn’t anything wrong with it when everyone’s not scowling all the time. The contrast between the first, third, and fourth issues and Bong Dazo’s work on the second makes it abundantly clear how good we still have it, even without Dustin Weaver. So flashback issue aside, no complaints in the art department.

This series has frequently utilized flashbacks as a narrative tool throughout its run so far, but devoting an entire issue to Haazen’s back story, let alone doing it within the structure of the first major story arc’s conclusion, feels rather braazen. Miller is mostly able to pull it off, but it’s kind of strange how weaselly and unlikable Haazen is in these flashbacks. You think he’s going to be a sympathetic figure who fell through the cracks in the Jedi’s system, just like Zayne and Ulic Qel-Droma, but mostly he’s just a pathetic loser. I’m not sure if that was the intention, because you do feel bad for him even though he’s a creep, but at the same time you’re sympathizing with him you still dislike him. Could this be nuanced characterization? In a Star Wars comic?

The fact that Haazen was such a minor character until now also works in favor of his late-game back story. He’s not some all-powerful, endgame, final-boss archetype whose villainy needs to be set up years in advance. He’s just a guy who caught a few rough breaks and didn’t deal with them in the most healthy manner and spent the rest of his life being friendzoned by the girl he liked in high school. He’d be a tragic figure if he weren’t such a prick.

Lucien, on the other hand, has been the central recurring antagonist for the series so far, but a sudden reversal of fortune sees him making an about-face at the last second and allying with Zayne, in the process achieving some measure of redemption. I’m not sure I completely buy how Lucien gets to where he is at the end. Haazen may have wanted to take over the galaxy and kill a bunch of people, but the things we actually see Lucien do are a lot more heinous than Haazen’s ill-fated chessmaster gambit.

I understand that Lucien only killed the Padawans because he wanted to save his mommy from dying like she did in the Covenant’s vision, but he could have been a little remorseful about it. He’s the only antagonist who walks away from the final confrontation, and he’s also the only one whose certainty in his own righteousness never wavered. For the whole series, he really, really wanted to murder Zayne; not just because of the prophecy, but because he really, really hated Zayne. Lucien could have been shown to be more conflicted as we went along, but at the same time that also might have weakened his character. Lucien’s interesting because he’s an unrepentant douchebag; it’s just that same trait that makes his redemption a little hard to swallow.

There’s a lot more to talk about in this comic but I feel like I’ve done it a disservice by talking about it at such length already. Highly recommended installment, a worthwhile follow-up to FlashpointHomecoming, Days of Fear, and Knights of Suffering.

4.5/5 Darth Hayzes.