Blood of the Empire
Author: Alexander Freed
Artist: David Ross
Publication Date: April – September 2010
Timeline Placement: 3,678 BBY
Series: The Old Republic #4-6
The Great Galactic War has begun!
Three years into our latest entry in the Old Sith Wars, the one that nobody asked for but we got anyway, we’re introduced to Teneb Kel, a down-on-his-luck 18-year-old Sith assassin who’s stuck doing the Dark Council’s dirty work as penance for his master’s religious heresy. Upon successfully assassinating Mayor Tom of the planet Bergeron, Kel is tasked with his greatest assignment yet: to find and kill Exal Kressh, the Sith Emperor’s apprentice. Apparently she’s gone rogue and has been betraying military secrets to the Republic. Also for some reason she just looks like a human female with red skin. Sith women are creepy-looking broads, but Exal’s basically a Zeltron.
Kel and his personal slave, an Abyssin he calls “Maggot,” travel to the space station Lenico Colony Blue in the Lenico system, where he confronts Exal and gets his ass handed to him. Exal destroys the station to cover her escape, leaving Teneb Kel and Maggot stranded in the inhospitable wastelands of Lenico IV. Kel leaves Maggot behind to repair their ship and ventures off into the desert in search of his quarry.
Close to death, Kel calls upon the forbidden knowledge of his disgraced master to summon a Force vision. A “thought form” of Exal Kressh appears to him and explains that the former population of Lenico IV, a primitive tribe of Ortolans, or blue elephant people, possessed secrets desired by the Sith Emperor, passed down among their tribal myths and legends. Exal came to the planet and learned the Ortolans’ secrets, then destroyed them. In the process, however, she also discovered the Emperor’s true goal, his secret use for all the arcane knowledge he had sent her to gather: he plans to create an army of thralls called the Children of the Emperor, a collection of mindless puppets whose husks will serve as his eyes and extensions of his will. Exal Kressh was to be the first of his Children, but she realized what he had planned for her and fled before he could complete her possession.
Teneb Kel awakes from his vision to find that he’s been discovered by a Miraluka Jedi called Jerbhen Hulis, presumably some relation of Krynda from the Knights of the Old Republic comics. Hulis and his apprentice have been searching for Exal Kressh to try to determine the validity of the information she’s provided. Hulis and Kel strike a deal: if Hulis reveals what Exal Kressh has told the Republic, Kel will help him rescue the survivors of Lenico Colony Blue. Hulis agrees, reasoning that Exal’s information is soon going to become public knowledge anyway, and Kel lives up to his word.
After helping Jerbhen Hulis get the survivors to safety, Teneb Kel returns to his ship, where Hulis’s apprentice has already met and befriended Maggot. “He steals your dignity. You become the animal he makes you,” the apprentice insists when Maggot explains how his master doesn’t treat him like a slave. “Claim your freedom, my friend.” He walks out the door and straight into the point of Teneb Kel’s lightsaber.
Kel and Maggot set course for Korriban, homeworld of the Sith and most evil planet in the galaxy. When they arrive, it’s already under siege by Republic and Jedi forces, its defenses betrayed by Exal Kressh. Kel knows a secret backdoor into the Sith Academy (presumably the same one you can enroll at in Knights of the Old Republic), however, and rushes off to confront the tergiversator, telling Maggot that if Kel dies, he wants the Abyssin to have his freedom; he doesn’t see him as his slave or his apprentice, but as his loyal companion.
Kel finds Exal Kressh already in the process of destroying the academy. The ritual by which the Emperor will create his children will soon begin here in this very building, she explains, and she will confound his centuries of planning as revenge for how he betrayed her. Suddenly Maggot appears and shoots her with a giant gun. For some reason this doesn’t seem to hurt her at all, and Kel watches in horror as she blasts Maggot away with a burst of Force lightning.
He attacks her but the Emperor’s apprentice is too powerful; she destroys Kel’s lightsaber and seizes him in the grip of the Force. “Maybe you are Sith,” she tells him, preparing to strike the final blow, “but you’re still a failure.” Teneb Kel uses the Force to propel another lightsaber into her back. As Exal Kressh dies, the last thing she hears is the Sith Emperor’s mocking laughter in her head.
Kel rushes over to attend to his friend. “Maggot!” he exclaims. “You came to save me.” Maggot addresses him in the Abyssin language, which Kel cannot understand: “My name is Qawohl, of the warrior clans of Byss. It is time I had my freedom.” Ignoring him, Kel asks how much he overheard. Qawohl grudgingly admits, in Basic, that he heard something about the Emperor’s children, which he didn’t understand. “It doesn’t matter,” says Kel. “Suffice to say, we won.” They turn to go, and Teneb Kel stabs his friend in the back.
Back on Dromund Kaas, Kel reports to the Dark Council. He refuses to kneel to them and announces that he will no longer serve as their puppet. In exchange for his knowledge of the Emperor’s true plans, which are unknown even to the Council, he demands to be made a Sith Lord. “You will name me Darth Thanaton,” he says, in a way that makes me suspect I’m supposed to know who that is. The end!
This comic is far from terrible but I have mixed feelings about it. The art is quite decent for a trashy Star Wars tie-in comic made to promote an MMO, but the comic is very short, only three issues long, though it was originally published as a biweekly series of webcomics. As a result, the story and characterization feel very rushed. There are occasional glimmers of hidden depths below the surface, especially with the character of Maggot/Qawohl and his complicated relationship with Teneb Kel, but there’s just not enough breathing room to flesh these things out sufficiently.
The script for the comic was written by Alexander Freed, a senior writer for The Old Republic. I haven’t played the game, but his writing was perfectly adequate here. There are a few passages that I actually really enjoy, like Teneb Kel’s disgraced master describing his former student as “The one I found dreaming in the slaves’ quarters . . . The one who devoured books like scraps of bread . . .” and Exal Kressh’s recollection to the Sith Emperor: “Remember the Ambrian monastery? I woke up in crushed snow and glitterfly wings, and the monks wouldn’t say what happened. They just cried and cried.” I have no idea what she’s talking about, but it sounds interesting. I want to see that story.
Oddly, my biggest problem with the script is the opposite of the one I had with most of Tales of the Jedi. That is, I kind of wish there were more textboxes explaining what’s happening. The narrative is so compressed and things happen so quickly that it’s difficult to follow certain actions and characters motivations from panel to panel. Like on one page Teneb Kel is trying to escape the exploding space station and unable to get Maggot to answer his communicator so he can get their ship ready, then on the next page he’s somehow inside the ship and Maggot is already there and Kel’s dialogue starts seemingly in the middle of a sentence but Maggot somehow understands what he’s talking about. It’s not like the story is a mess of fragments that make no sense, but there are a few quick moments like this where I felt like I was missing something.
Overall a decent comic, but too short, especially since we’ll never see “Darth Thanaton” again outside of the MMO. 3/5 Death Stars.