Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: Don’t Fear the Reaping

(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.)

The Reaping

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Author: John Jackson Miller

Artist: Bong Dazo

Medium: Comic

Publication Date: July – August 2009

  • Reprinted January 2010 in Knights of the Old Republic Volume Eight: Destroyer
  • Reprinted April 2014 in Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 3

Timeline Placement: 3,963 BBY

Series: Knights of the Old Republic #43-44

A gang of comet miners in the Core Worlds is using slave labor to perform the dangerous task of harvesting thorilide crystals from inside the unstable comets. With the Jedi off fighting the Mandalorians, they gloat, there is no one to enforce the Republic’s anti-slavery laws. Their operation has been going on for several years, though, so apparently no one cared anyway.

Zayne and Jarael come aboard their ship dressed as Crucible operatives, which means a sleeveless leather vest and pants for Zayne and a strapless bodysuit  and thigh-high boots for Jarael. Any excuse, right? They claim that their organization has come to collect the fee for their next shipment of slaves in advance. Little do the miners suspect that they’re being conned, however; while Zayne and Jarael infiltrate the mining vessel, Gryph and the rest of the Hot Prospect crew are waiting to steal all the crystals for themselves. Little does Gryph suspect that he’s being conned, however; the cargo Zayne is actually preparing to send is all of the mining ship’s slaves.

Because this plan wasn’t thought out at all, there turns out to be way more slaves than Zayne and Jarael can surreptitiously transport back to the Hot Prospect. Fortuitously, the miners call up the real Crucible and discover Zayne’s deception at about the same time, which gives our heroes the opportunity to jump out of the spaceship alongside the slaves during a dustdiving expedition. Zayne uses the Force to propel them through space to land on the comet’s surface, then contacts Gryph and tells him to start bringing the slaves on-board.

Gryph is busy sucking up the crystals with a giant vacuum cleaner and using the Hot Prospect‘s giant blender to turn them into a milkshake. I don’t know what’s going on with this crystal subplot and it’s only important because they use them for some kind of hack physics gambit to escape at the end of the comic so I’m not going to go back and figure it out. Reading comprehension is hard.

Gryph is (rightfully) upset about being tricked into risking his life by going up against dangerous criminals to save people he doesn’t know, but Zayne “Forces” his hand by telekinetically levitating all the slaves off of the comet and up to the Hot Prospect, which is way more awesome than you’d expect Zayne to be able to do. Suddenly the giant Crucible battleship Gladiator appears in the system. Its captain is Dace Golliard, a creepy child molester-looking dude who, we learn through a flashback, was responsible for kidnapping and enslaving Jarael when she was a little girl.

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Kids, there’s nothing more cool than being hugged by someone you like, but if someone tries to touch you in a place or in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s no good!

Golliard unleashes a fleet of, as Jarael helpfully explains, “Skyreaper drones! We called them Skreapers!” which are basically stupid-looking robots made of ribbons and tentacles (of terror!) that capture slaves by wrapping them up in giant flower petals. Jarael is predictably captured, but Zayne rescues her, then Rohlan comes out with his jetpack and pulls them both inside the Hot Prospect.

The Gladiator is shooting at them and Golliard is like “You’ll never escape!” but they do a thing with the thing and get away. Gryph complains about his friends almost getting him killed on some damn fool idealistic crusade that has nothing to do with him. Jarael comes clean about her whole back story and resolves that she has to stop the Crucible before they destroy any more families the way they did hers. “I . . . suspected something troubled you, but I wanted you to tell me in your own time,” says Rohlan. “I am honored you did,” even though she didn’t tell him squat and only admitted what was going on when she had no other choice.

Elsewhere, slaver queen Chantique is beating on Dace Golliard for being a screwup when she is interrupted by a guy who looks like this:

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He tells her that they will need Golliard’s experience as a disgraced former Republic admiral now that pseudo-Jedi Zayne Carrick is involved in their affairs. Even Jarael doesn’t suspect the true nature of the Crucible, he tells her, so by trying to stop them she is just playing into Chantique’s personal vendetta against her. “Jarael may think she’s buried the past, but the past will bury her!” Chantique says cleverly.

Meanwhile, in a Coruscant hospital, Mandalorian mad scientist Demagol finally wakes up from his 34-issue-long coma. TO BE CONTINUED!

We’re rapidly approaching the end of this series so I’m getting a little tired of these transitional story arcs. That’s my fault, I know, since Dark Horse didn’t even announce that Knights of the Old Republic was ending with issue 50 until after issue 45, but once you know how little time we have left with these characters and this story it’s frustrating to deal with this glacial pace of plot progression.

Prophet Motive and Faithful Execution were disconnected filler episodes. Dueling Ambitions properly introduced the Crucible and our new main story arc, but then Masks had more to do with the broader Mandalorian Wars than the misadventures of Zayne Carrick. Now we have The Reaping, which gets back to the Crucible plot but, like in Dueling Ambitions, Zayne only interacts with third-party middlemen and the main villains themselves don’t show up until the very end. This structure isn’t inherently bad but the Covenant arc didn’t need half a dozen issues to get moving.

It’s especially galling because the specific plot of these two issues isn’t even important in the overall plot. The main dustdiver slave we meet in The Reaping is a guy named Qohn, an alien who looks kind of like a sad dog. We spend a decent amount of time with him, we see his plight and learn his history as a slave, he meets Zayne and tells him what life is like for all of them forced to do this deadly job, then when Dace Golliard shows up he’s captured by a skreaper and never seen again. You’d think he’d show up again in a future issue about Zayne and his friends rescuing the rest of the slaves they couldn’t save today, but nope. Like Goethar Kleej, he just serves as the voice of the Crucible’s victims for one comic, then disappears.

Dueling Ambitions and The Reaping could have both been condensed into a single story, because plot-wise they end up pretty redundant. You could even fold Masks into the mix as well: do a four-issue introduction to the Crucible, either through the swoopdueling or the mining operation, that organically integrates Malak into the plot instead of having him randomly pop in and out for one issue at a time. The events of the larger story could give him a reason to leave Zayne’s group for good midway through the arc, with the most relevant parts of Ambitions and Reaping happening in approximately the same places as before, just made more coherent by a unified narrative. Then you’ve got two issues left over that you don’t have to waste on filler arcs or repetitive plots or rushed conclusions.

As it is, nothing that happens in this one matters aside from the introductions of Dace Golliard and the Night’s King’s lieutenant. Oh, and Jarael dresses like a floozy for the ninety-sixth time. 2/5 Death Stars for that.

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Seriously, guys, why is it so cold in here?