(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.)
Author: John Jackson Miller
Artist: Brian Ching
Publication Date: November 2009 – February 2010
- 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 #47-50
“ ‘Forever’ is a word for children.”
—Master Kan, Kung Fu
We open with a flashback to the Sith War, when Exar Kun fought and killed Vodo Siosk-Baas on the floor of the Senate chamber. Since then, the chamber has fallen out of use, replaced by a more modern venue (probably the one from the prequels with the floating pods), but the old Senate hall is still the site of important show trials, such as that of Mandalorian mad scientist Demagol, who as I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now is actually Rohlan Dyre. The real Demagol has been impersonating Rohlan and traveling with Zayne Carrick all this time. Whoops!
After their breakup in the last comic, Zayne and Jarael have gone their separate ways. He, Gryph, Slyssk, and Elbee have come to Coruscant for Demagol’s trial, while she and “Rohlan” have gone off together on their own journey. The gang runs into Malak, who’s also in town for the big event. Although he’s disappointed not to see Jarael, Malak confides that he knew she and Zayne wouldn’t make it (“No offense, bro”). Mostly though he’s just excited to finally denounce the man who made him lose his hair.
Zayne tells Elbee that he should stop being so existentially morose because with Rohlan gone, they no longer have to travel with the Mandalorian who once shut a door on his hand. Elbee’s like, “Oh that’s not the same guy.” Zayne’s like, “What?” There follows a series of flashbacks to all the hints and clues the series dropped that Rohlan wasn’t who he claimed to be, like the end of a Saw movie. Zayne’s like, “Wtf, Elbee, why didn’t you tell us this before?!” Elbee’s like, “I didn’t really feel like it.”
In court, Malak is testifying about what a douche Demagol is. Rohlan’s like “Stop calling me that!” and bursts out of his restraints like a badass. Overjoyed at the chance to flex his muscles, Malak Force-flings him into a wall, declaring that the Jedi will save the Republic and destroy the Mandalorians once and for all. “This—this is your secret, isn’t it?” says Rohlan. “You can’t beat us in a fair fight! That’s the way you like it, Jedi—isn’t it? So save your Republic—but who’ll save the Republic from you?”
The crowd starts getting out of hand so two Republic security guards rush Rohlagol out the back door and into a speeder, then take off their hats to reveal that they are in fact Zayne and Gryph and they’ve come to bust out their friend in the most effortless jailbreak in history. “Sorry that we didn’t notice Demagol drugged you, switched places with you, left you in a coma for a year, and sent you off to be tried and executed in his place,” says Zayne.
Meanwhile, the Jedi introduced to us as Squint, later called Alek, now known as Malak, is unaware of A) the fact that Demagol wasn’t actually Demagol, B) the fact that his friends were involved in Demagol’s escape, and C) most facts in general. Most of all, he’s furious that the Mandalorian who made him lose his hair has gotten away. “You’re all a bunch of incompetent clowns!” he rages. “Demagol never got back to lockup! You know who we’re looking for—stop every vehicle you find! I don’t care about rights or jurisdiction—there’s a monster on the loose!” The next time we see him, he’ll be the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Demagol, who Jarael still thinks is Rohlan, says, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Remember all the kids you went to school with when you were a little kid who were taken by the Crucible at the same time you were? Let’s go find them! What a time we’ll have!” He takes off his helmet, revealing the face of Jarael’s childhood mentor, the Zeltron professor Antos Wyrick.
He explains that he’s been searching for her and her fellow students, and Jarael, overjoyed to see her old teacher again, asks if that’s why he kept running off from the Mandalorians. Demagol’s like, “Er, yeah, that was me! I was totally Rohlan all along, or something, even before we switched places. I mean—what?”
“Pay no attention to my incongruous behavior!”
They head for the planet Osadia, Jarael’s birth world and the site of Antos Wyrick’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Chantique had previously told Zayne that Jarael’s former schoolmates were being held captive someplace ironic. From this, Demagol has deduced that they must be on the very planet they were taken from so long ago! Either that or in a prison made of irons.
Back on Coruscant, Zayne takes his friends to the secret base of operations he built in a garage using money he stole from Gryph. Called the Rogue Moon Command Project, the garage, complete with a hidden elevator to the Batcave, is basically a 911 call center staffed by the parents of Zayne’s murdered friends from the Taris academy. With the Jedi occupied fighting the Mandalorians, the little people of the galaxy have fallen through the cracks, and I’m not talking about Jawas and Ugnaughts. So Zayne has set up this organization to help people with less galactic problems, like being an escaped fugitive framed for murder or a Mandalorian framed for being Dr. Mengele.
Rohlan fills everyone in on Demagol’s back story, how he was raised by an obscure Star Wars ripoff of the Borg, how he joined the Mandalorians and was mentored by Mandalore the Indomitable himself, how after witnessing his hero’s defeat at the hands of Ulic-Qel Droma he stole Arca Jeth’s robe from Ulic’s suitcase and discovered the dead Arkanian Jedi’s DNA on it, how he convinced the Mandalorians to fund his science experiments to clone a Force-sensitive army of Mandalorian Knights, how all the experiments were failures because Arca Jeth secretly had impure Arkanian blood because he was part Sephi but his telltale pointed ears were burned off in a fire before Tales of the Jedi so his normal ears in that series were the result of reconstructive surgery (what?), how this caused only Arkanian offshoots to be able to breed the Force-sensitive children Demagol needed for his army, how he was double-crossed by the Crucible and they stole all his students so he just took to vivisecting Jedi instead. You know, the typical villain origin story.
Shel Jelavan shows up in this sexy evening dress and brings Zayne a new lightsaber, powered by the fused crystals of all the dead Taris Padawans, and Rohlan a Halloween costume of his own armor. “Oh, er . . . I forgot to tell you—you’re a sports hero,” says Zayne. “I’m a what?” says Rohlan.
Also we find out that Gryph secretly runs a restaurant franchise called Goodvalor’s, and it was his actor brother playing the fictional “Captain Goodvalor” for the Republic back in “Interference.” Who knew?
“Um, please stop touching me, Zayne.”
Rohlan texts Cassus Fett and convinces him to help them set a trap for Crucible Captain Dace Golliard so they can find Osadia and rescue Jarael. The Mandalorians fake like they’re going to attack Admiral Karath’s forces so Golliard will show up to enslave the survivors, then they get the hell out of Dodge while Zayne tells Karath to look behind him. It turns out that Dace Golliard left Saul Karath’s father to die when he deserted his command during the Sith War, so he’s only too happy to set aside being a dick to Zayne for a few minutes in order to catch the Republic turncoat. Cassus Fett FaceTimes Zayne and says that the debt he owed him for saving the Mandalorians from the rakghoul plague on Jebble has been repaid.
Zayne gets Osadia’s coordinates from Golliard’s computer and plans his strategy with Rohlan, Gryph, and Captain I-Wear-Eyeglasses-In-Star-Wars. Glasses Guy fesses up to being a total Revan fanboy, because this is Knights of the Old Republic and everyone loves Revan because he’s the best at everything. Not even being sarcastic, he is just that cool. Gryph and Zayne discuss Zayne’s previously mentioned unique Force ability, “sudden reversals of fortune.” Zayne explains that the Jedi called it a learning disability; every time he tries to influence an outcome or affect a probability through the Force, he can’t hit what he’s aiming at, causing fate to become unstable. Gryph teaches him that even though he can’t control it, as long as he understands his ability he can use it to his advantage, safe in the knowledge that everything will always balance out for him in the end. Gryph still isn’t getting anywhere near Osadia, though, so Zayne and Rohlan set off without him.
Meanwhile, Jarael and Demagol have made their way to the Osadia School and are preparing to take out the Crucible foot soldiers guarding it. Demagol gives Jarael a badass suit of black body armor and something else: the blue double-bladed lightsaber of Exar Kun, which he stole from the Moomo brothers after they stole it from the Covenant’s repository in the Sanctum of the Exalted. Jarael effortlessly slaughters the guards while Demagol runs into the building and encounters Crucible Chief of Security and ex-Night’s King lieutenant Bar’injar. “You stole my children! Where are they?” demands Demagol. Bar’injar replies that he’s stolen so many children he doesn’t even remember who Demagol’s talking about, so Demagol shoots him in the face.
Eventually Jarael enters the school as well, only to find Chantique waiting for her. Jarael’s like, “Holy crap, you’re alive? Thanks for the heads-up, Zayne, you dick.” Chantique taunts her about how easy it was to turn Zayne against her, and says that once they’re finished here she’s going to find Zayne and send him back to the dueling pits. Pushing to the breaking point, Jarael attacks, destroying Chantique’s weapons with Exar Kun’s lightsaber and pummeling Chantique into submission with her karate.
Just then Rohlan and Zayne come flying through the window. Zayne tackles Jarael, knocking the lightsaber from her hands because he’s afraid its evil taint is turning Jarael to the dark side. So now Chantique has the lightsaber. Great job, Zayne. She can’t understand why Zayne would come back to save Jarael despite knowing all the terrible things she was involved with. Zayne explains that he couldn’t think clearly after the influx of emotions from Ralthar Sitan’s memes, but he realizes now that Jarael really is a protector while Chantique was the destroyer all along. And also her father is here. Chantique runs off to find him.
During all of this, Demagol is tearing around the school looking for any sign of his former students. Rohlan comes up and taps him on the shoulder, then goes “Give me my armor back!” and starts beating the crap out of him. Demagol throws up his hand in defense and accidentally Force pushes Rohlan across the room. Demagol looks at his hand and is like “What the eff?”
Zayne catches Jarael up to speed while they go looking for the others, revealing that her beloved mentor is actually an evil bastard who genetically modified her DNA for a science experiment. Zayne asks if she’s sure the lightsaber didn’t turn her evil and Jarael says she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. She wasn’t even going to kill Chantique, she just wanted her to stop bothering her.
Chantique comes in and starts bothering them with attempted murder, but then Demagol stabs her in the back. “Where are my children?!” he demands. “I’m your child!” Chantique cries. “I don’t care,” says Demagol. “I meant the good children. The other ones. The ones that worked!” This is like the best burn, I love it.
Chantique tells him they’re in the schoolyard. Demagol runs outside to look, but Chantique follows him out and goes, “Whoops, sorry, Dad, I meant that they’re in the schoolyard,” because she buried them alive. Demagol’s like, “Well, shit.”
Zayne, Jarael, and Rohlan meet up with the bad guys outside for the final confrontation. Demagol tells Jarael he at least has her and her Arca Jeth genes as a consolation prize, but Zayne tells him he’s an idiot. He’s just figured it out: Jarael doesn’t have the Force at all. She couldn’t sense the evil in Kun’s lightsaber or feel its call to the dark side. Chantique, on the other hand, is throwing Force all over the place, because she inherited that from her father.
Jarael doesn’t say, “But wait, if I can’t actually use the Force how did I hear Zaybe telepathically say my name back in Flashpoint?”
Demagol realizes that when they thought Jarael used the Force to break a chain holding them captive in a scene I didn’t bother describing from Prophet Motive, it was actually he who broke the chain. He spent his whole life trying to create children who could use the Force, never realizing that his own daughter, the one he threw away, was his only success. It’s like he’s trapped in a prison made of irons.
Chantique lunges at her father with a knife but Demagol reaches out and, with his unskilled grasp of the Force, pulls both Exar Kun’s and Zayne’s lightsabers to him, activating the one that reaches his hand first. Exar Kun’s twin blue blades ignite from both ends, impaling Chantique and Demagol at the same time. “Wrong . . . saber . . .” mutters Demagol as he dies, “. . . but I had . . . a fifty-fifty chance . . .”
“Not around me, you didn’t,” Zayne corrects him, as Gryph’s words from earlier about things balancing out come back to him.
Later, the Scooby Gang reunites back on Coruscant. After returning Exar Kun’s lightsaber to the Jedi, Zayne apologizes to Jarael for having doubted her and allowing Chantique to get inside his head and mess him up. Jarael remarks that the next day will mark exactly one year from the day they met. Zayne’s like, “Oh, well in that case, happy anniversary,” and pulls open a curtain to reveal Jarael’s birth parents that Rohlan found somewhere. When Jarael turns to thank him, however, Rohlan has already vanished like Batman into the midday night.
The following evening, Gryph is hosting a big soirée at his Coruscant restaurant, Goodvalor’s Little Bivoli. Everyone who’s everyone is there, and Gryph has the tables wired for sound so he can blackmail them all later. Now that he is a successful restaurateur with the twee-est Trandoshan in the galaxy as his head chef, Gryph is semi-retiring from the con game business. As Zayne prepares to ride off on his motorcycle to rescue kittens stuck in trees, Gryph asks him to wait on a table real quick. “Just this once,” says Zayne. “I don’t think you could find anything that would keep me around here, playing henchman again!”
He goes over to the table to find Jarael waiting for him. “Happy anniversary,” she tells him. They pounce on one another and shove their tongues down each other’s throats in the background while Gryph waves jazz hands at the camera and says his catchphrase: “Mastermind!”
Cut and print.
This comic is like the great series finale of a really good TV show. Everything just clicks. Every character gets something to do and has at least one memorable scene. Every important theme or idea raised by the series is brought up again in a relevant way. Every dangling plot thread and relationship that we cared about is wrapped up in a neat bow that still leaves the door open for future adventures. There are some gaps (How did Jarael hear Zayne through the Force? What was it about Jarael that Toki Tollivar recognized? Does the Crucible stop existing just because all its leaders are dead or captured? What about all the thousands of slaves they still have?), but they are extraneous, outside the scope of the story’s focus. Demon accomplishes everything it had to accomplish to cap off not just the Crucible story arc but KotOR‘s four-year, 50-issue run as a whole. I really, really dig it; it’s just so good.
Besides succeeding admirably in the telling of its own story, Demon also has a lot to offer to this era of Star Wars storytelling as a whole. It’s like a perfect bridge between Tales of the Jedi and the Knights of the Old Republic games, closely related stories separated not just by time and media but by a strong shift in aesthetic style as well. It is so cool seeing scenes from TotJ reimagined here in a more modern art style, and having characters and artifacts from old Star Wars lore given new life outside the stories that birthed them. It was this sense of organic connectivity and growth that made the concept of the Expanded Universe so appealing to me as a young Star Wars fan who couldn’t fathom all the ruin that was to come.
It may seem strange, considering the hard time I’ve given this series throughout its run, but the more pages I turned in Demon, the more I didn’t want it to end. Knights of the Old Republic isn’t high art; it doesn’t transcend its status as a comic tie-in to a videogame spinoff of a space movie franchise. But it embraces that status for all it’s worth and runs with it. Until The Force Awakens reminded us, it was sometimes easy to forget that Star Wars used to be fun, and from the EU there are few better examples of that old-fashioned spirit of excitement and adventure than KotOR. The characters are fun and energetic, even the ones I’ve made fun of repeatedly, the heroes likably heroic and the villains suitably villainous. Although this isn’t the end of the Kooky Misadventures of Zayne Carrick, it’s an end, probably the only one that matters. We have one key left on our belt, but all it opens is that final door onto an empty room.
In his behind-the-scenes blog post on KotOR #50, John Jackson Miller mentioned that the last words on the last page were “Another Beginning…” Hopefully that text will remain intact when Demon makes it into Marvel’s Epic Collection series, because it’s completely absent from Dark Horse’s Omnibus edition. It’s a good note on which to leave our characters, though. Despite the ongoing galactic war and the next major galactic war that looms just a few years down the timeline, they’re all in a good place, each having gotten what they wanted, even if they didn’t know it all the time. And though there’s still more we could do with them, we can still say goodbye with the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve done enough. What more can you ask for?
5/5 Death Stars. The best of the series, highly recommended.