Author: John Jackson Miller
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Publication Date: January – May 2012
- Reprinted April 2014 in Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 3
Timeline Placement: 3,962 BBY
Series: Knights of the Old Republic
John Jackson Miller’s intent for Knights of the Old Republic originally encompassed three distinct story arcs. In the first, Zayne Carrick was a fugitive from injustice, framed by his teachers for the murders of his fellow Padawans and on a quest to clear his name, all set against the backdrop of the opening salvos of the Mandalorian Wars. In the second, Zayne was a freelance do-gooder who traveled around righting wrongs that escaped the Republic’s notice, culminating with helping Jarael overcome the past she was running from and vanquish the evil she was once a part of.
The third arc was to shift focus, foregrounding the ongoing war and throwing Zayne into the role of a hapless soldier, left adrift without his friends to bail him out of trouble. I’ve remarked several times throughout these reviews that the story arcs more involved with the macro-conflict of the Mandalorian Wars, like Flashpoint and Days of Fear, were some of my favorites, so making the war the central plot of the series instead of something Zayne happened to stumble into from time to time could potentially have been a very cool narrative shift.
So of course Dark Horse canceled the series for no reason right before it was going to happen.
I should note that I’m not overly bitter about this because KotOR already had a long run and Demon wrapped things up so well. As nice as it would have been to see Zayne’s continuing adventures go on for another 20-30 issues, the fact that we missed out on a series set during the Mandalorian Wars actually being about the Mandalorian Wars isn’t my biggest complaint here. It’s that if they weren’t going to let John Jackson Miller do it the way he wanted, they shouldn’t have done it at all.
Because War kind of sucks. Like a lot.
Shortly after the events of KotOR #50, Zayne’s family moved from Dantooine back to their homeworld of Phaeda. Zayne attempted to visit them but immediately upon setting foot on the planet he was drafted by the Republic. He’s now under the command of Dallan Morvis, Saul Karath’s henchman from the main series. Zayne is the worst soldier ever, though. He refuses to carry a gun or kill anybody, so instead of court-martialing him or making him a support staff member or just allowing him to refuse to serve on the grounds that he’s a pacifist, they just let him carry his lightsaber and run around the battlefield doing whatever.
No wonder the Republic’s losing this war.
The Jedi Master working with Morvis’s detachment is former High Councillor Dorjander Kace, but in a twist that no one could have seen coming, Kace and his three Charlie’s Angels Jedi associates (if Charlie’s Angels were weird-looking alien chicks) betray Zayne and the others to the Mandalorians. Zayne, Morvis, and the rest are pressed into service as Neo-Crusaders under the command of Kace, who uses the captured Republic frigate Reciprocity to infiltrate and take over Republic installations.
Zayne still refuses to fight, however. You’d think the Mandalorians would just shoot him for cowardice and move on, but for some reason both sides are really intent on sabotaging themselves by forcing an unpredictable element into volatile combat situations. Zayne tries his best to save lives by disarming the outnumbered Republic soldiers with his lightsaber, but somehow he’s unable to foresee that the Mandalorians would just shoot them all anyway. It’s like they’re in a war or something!
Despite his inappropriate and inopportune moral dilemma, Zayne has made an ally of Koblus Sornell, the Mandalorian communications officer we briefly met in “Interference,” by saving her and her son from Morvis’s troops before they were captured. Who didn’t want to see her again, right? He persuades her to send a message to Gryph’s Coruscant eatery. Gryph answers the phone wearing a top hat, which would be a great image if the art weren’t so lackluster. The cameo only lasts a single page, but seeing Gryph’s flourishing restaurant business, along with Elbee (looking depressed as ever) and Slyssk in the background, is like looking through a window onto a more entertaining story.
Gryph reads up on Dorjander Kace and gives Zayne the skinny on his history. Kace was captured by the Mandalorians during the Great Sith War and apparently went native while in their company. When Revan dragged the Jedi into the new war, Kace saw an opportunity to even the odds for his adopted people by bringing Force-users over to their side as well. Zayne realizes that he plans to attack the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine and induct all the students there into the Mandalorian forces.
He persuades Sornell to turn a blind eye to his activities, because splitting up families and harming children is anathema to Mandalorian culture apparently (I wonder how many children were on Serroco and Cathar). Using bile rat stew to make it look like his and his fellow escapees’ brains are leaking out of their heads, Zayne hijacks a Mandalorian dreadnought and makes a beeline for Dantooine, where Kace’s Mandalorian Knights have already subdued the Jedi instructors (including KotOR NPC Zhar Lestin in his first speaking role of the series) and rounded up the children.
Disguised as Mandalorians, Zayne and the others are almost able to con the Jedi turncoats into allowing the students to go with them while the Mandalorian Knights go off on a mission for Mandalore, but in one of the comic’s few humorous bits, Morvis accidentally gives them away and Zayne slaps himself on his armored forehead, unable to withstand the stupidity. (I know how he feels.) Zayne blows up their stolen Mandalorian landing craft, however, buying enough time for Morvis to escape with the students in Reciprocity while he duels Dorjander Kace.
Kace is about to kill him when Sornell shows up and pulls a gun on the Mandalorian Knight, telling him that his backup troops aren’t coming. Despite Mandalore the Ultimate’s orders, they’re refusing to have anything more to do with Jedi magic after the “Jedi brain fever” they witnessed among the crew who stole their dreadnought. Superstition wins out against pragmatism, just like always.
Kace refuses to back down, however, even if he has to kill Zayne and Sornell both. But Sornell informs him that she is pregnant, and Zayne reminds Kace of his own pregnant Mandalorian wife who was killed by a Jedi during the war. “Perhaps . . . perhaps this wasn’t the way,” he admits. He relents and is taken into custody by the Dantooine Masters.
“When you were a pupil here,” Zhar Lestin confesses to Zayne, “I never thought you would become a Jedi. I see now that I was right—you seem to have become something more.”
Dorjander Kace is taken to stand trial in the same chamber where Demagol didn’t. He talks for nine hours about how corrupt the Republic and the Jedi are. “I think they’re going to have to come up with something else for the next Jedi who goes wrong,” comments Zayne. Oh we know they will!
Zayne finally makes it to Phaeda to see his family and finds his sisters showing embarrassing baby pictures to Jarael. “So what am I supposed to be, the big reward at the end of your story?” she asks. Well . . . yeah.
Zayne joins the Republic Navy as a special diplomatic agent attached to Captain Morvis’s command, a job he describes as being the crew’s “official conscience.” “And the fight goes on . . .” promises the concluding textbox as the Reciprocity sails off to meet the Mandalorian forces. That may be true, but we’re not going along for the ride.
All right, this is kind of cool I guess.
Going from Demon to War is like playing the expansion pack Dragon Age Origins: Awakening immediately after finishing the main game. Sure, the setting and the main character are the same, but without the party of companions you’ve gotten to know and love over the course of the adventure, who cares? It turns out that, without Gryph and Jarael around to play off of, Zayne isn’t all that compelling a character.
His Batman-esque refusal to take a life, an endearing trait when he was an independent agent contending with various foes on the fringes of the Republic, just comes off really annoying when he’s a soldier. The frontline is no place for your conscientious objection, Zayne. You’re going to get someone killed trying to force your ethics down their throat. I lost track of how many times he tells someone, on both the Republic and Mandalorian sides, “you don’t have to do this.” It’s a war for cultural survival between two irreconcilably different civilizations, you twit; if you’re not going to fight, just mind-trick the draft board and walk away.
But despite everything he has to go through in this book to get back to his girlfriend and family, in the end he decides that the armed forces is the best place for him to be after all. I don’t know if the author was planning on writing more tales about Zayne’s military service that never materialized because of the Disney buyout and reboot, but this is a pretty crummy place to end the story. It undoes all the resolution from the end of Demon in favor of a new status quo that doesn’t even fit with the themes and characters of the main series. Zayne Carrick is a nice guy who helps people who are down on their luck like he once was. That’s what he was doing at the end of issue 50, and that’s what we should have left him to do once the story was done.
Also the art blows chunks. The only cool-looking character is a Togorian Mandalorian named Kra’ake. Everyone else looks so beady-eyed and ugly. Zayne doesn’t even look like Zayne. You know, I take back every negative thing I ever said about Brian Ching’s art. It’s fantastic. It’s no Dustin Weaver, but it’s still fantastic. Please bring him back to redraw this comic.
Actually just don’t make this comic at all. Everything about it is redundant, unnecessary, and pointless. A good story always leaves you wanting more rather than knowing too much.
1/5 Death Stars. Truly disappointing.
Compounding that disappointment is the fact that this is the last we’ll see of the Mandalorian Wars. Cassus Fett’s confrontation with Revan and Malak at Jaga’s Cluster, Revan’s duel to the death with Mandalore the Ultimate, the destruction of the Mandalorians at Malachor V—we never get to see any of those things. Maybe that’s for the best, because how could they ever live up to our personal visions of them?, but it sure is disappointing. In their stead, however, at least we have this movie: