Knights of Suffering
Author: John Jackson Miller
Artist: Dustin Weaver
Publication Date: November – December 2007
- Reprinted August 2008 in Knights of the Old Republic Volume Four: Daze of Hate, Knights of Suffering
- Reprinted December 2013 in Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 2
Timeline Placement: 3,963 BBY (with flashback to 3,988 BBY)
Series: Knights of the Old Republic #22-24
When the first image in a comic is Mandalorian Neo-Crusaders riding Basilisk war droids through the skies of a conquered planet, you know you’re in for a good time. The Moomo Williwaw returns to Taris posing as a captured ship. Zayne jetpacks down to the planet in the suit of Mandalorian armor Rohlan threw out in the last story, and lands in the midst of a skirmish between Mandalorian invaders and the Black Vulkar crime gang. One of the Mandalorians calls over to him for help but Zayne is like “Nope” and runs away down an alley.
Just around the corner, Zayne’s old friend Gryph is holed up with several KotOR NPCs, including Brejik, Zaerdra, Griff Vao, and Gadon Thek, leader of the Hidden Beks gang. They have a large spider droid standing guard at the entrance to their hideout, and Zayne quickly cuts it in half with his lightsaber without giving them a chance to have it stand down. Way to make a good first impression. Despite what we were told in the previous comic, Gryph is not running the Taris Resistance. In fact, they won’t even consider him and his criminal cohorts for membership.
After Zayne joyfully reunites with Gryph and Del Moomo, Gadon Thek happily informs him that he’s still a wanted fugitive and they’re going to turn him over to the Taris Constable in exchange for medical supplies. I guess Zayne has just gotten used to being conned and betrayed because he doesn’t seem to care that much.
♪ Mission: Impossible music plays ♪
Also hiding out with the Beks is Mission Vao, a recruitable party member from Knights of the Old Republic. She’s about seven years old at this point, and takes Zayne to see her brother’s secret. It turns out that Brejik and her older brother, Griff, have kidnapped the Constable’s children and are keeping them in a pit where they occasionally feed them leftovers. Zayne and Gryph report this to Gadon, who chastises his high-spirited proteges for abducting the Constable’s family after he explicitly told them not to. I’m more amused by the fact that all five NPCs in this room have the potential to die at your character’s hand over the course of the game.
The Hidden Beks travel to the Resistance’s headquarters to return the Constable’s children. This buys them a ticket through the front door, where Zayne is thrilled to see Shel Jelavan, the hot blonde he was crushing on back in Jedi school and sister of his dead best friend Shad, a victim of the Padawan Massacre. He runs up to her and she shoots him with a blaster, which is conveniently deflected by the briefcase he’s holding. Insane Jedi Master-turned-murderess Raana Tey materializes behind her and urges Shel to finish the job.
For some reason Raana Tey doesn’t immediately do it herself, which gives Gryph and Del Moomo time to leap to Zayne’s defense. Haydel Goravvus, the green-skinned senator of Taris and leader of the Resistance, steps in and orders the Jedi back into line. Gryph explains that the real reason he returned to Taris after escaping the destruction of Serroco back in issue 15 is because he was hired by Jervo Thalien of Lhosan Industries to find the senator. Goravvus and Thalien previously appeared in the series’ first arc, Commencement, casually discussing the political situation in play here as Zayne fell screaming past their speeder during his escape.
Gryph activates the holotransmitter in his briefcase and contacts Thalien, who announces that the case is actually a bomb and he’s going to kill them all to protect his political future. Thanks to Zayne’s overly enthusiastic former crush, however, the bomb fails to detonate and this subplot dies a merciful death. Meanwhile, Zayne and Raana Tey each try to convince Shel that the other is responsible for murdering her brother.
Back aboard the Moomo Williwaw, Jarael is still disconsolate over Camper leaving. Rohlan suggests that she work out her issues the Mandalorian way: by hitting something with a stick. Zayne’s Jedi friend and Dark Lord-to-be Alek is all too eager to take off his shirt and wave his ‘saber at her. He loses their sparring match when he trips over some garbage. If you’re keeping score at home, so far in this series the future Darth Malak has gotten his ass handed to him by some Mandalorians, Mandalore himself, and a girl who can’t use the Force. Alek kind of sucks.
Having impressed Jarael with his flawless choreography and fancy footwork, Alek decides to make his move, and in the process confirms that the no-attachment doctrine of the prequels isn’t yet Jedi dogma (although certain parties have been pushing for it since the Sith War). Due to her recent experience with Arkoh Adasca, however, Jarael can never trust men again. She freaks out and bolts. Because he hasn’t embarrassed himself enough already, Alek calls after her, “Is it not now or just not me?” Jesus, no wonder this guy falls to the dark side.
Elsewhere, Cassus Fett, Mandalore’s top war strategist, has come to Taris to oversee the invasion and taken up residence in the abandoned Jedi training academy. The Resistance gets wind of this and decides to destroy the entire tower with Thalien’s bomb, which Del Moomo has adopted as his son. “I love bombs. I mean, really. You have no idea . . .” he explains. It is decided that Zayne and Shel will infiltrate the tower to make sure Cassus is really there, then Raana Tey will meet up with them for some reason. Somehow no one realizes that this is a terrible plan.
Raana Tey secretly gives Shel the crystal from her brother’s lightsaber and tells her how to reassemble it so she can kill Zayne once they’re alone in the tower. He’s standing right there, just kill him yourself, you psycho broad! Zayne dons his Mandalorian disguise again so they can sneak past the guards by pretending Shel is his prisoner. He puts her in handcuffs, but disappointingly that’s as close as we get to Fifty Shades of Zayne.
Predictably, Shel can’t keep her mouth shut (why did she even volunteer for this mission?) and starts bawling out Zayne for killing her brother right in front of all the Mandalorians. They demand to know what’s going on, to which Shell replies by pouncing on Zayne and shoving her tongue down his throat. Satisfied, the Mandos give Zayne a thumbs-up and move along. Once they’re gone Shel knees Zayne in the groin. It’s funny because he didn’t deserve it!
Once they make it inside the tower, Zayne is reminded of old times and starts crying about how much he misses Shel’s brother. This makes Shel reconsider stabbing him in the face with Shad’s lightsaber. Zayne heads up top and finds that the only Mandalorian left in the building is Cassus Fett’s hapless aide-de-camp, Gormer. Thinking that Zayne is a new recruit, Gormer helpfully explains that Fett moved his headquarters an hour ago and is currently attacking the Resistance base, then gets bisected for his trouble by Raana Tey.
A short flashback to Raana Tey’s childhood shows her overhearing a prophecy made by Lucien’s mother, Krynda Draay, about five unknown individuals who would play an important role in the next great conflict between the light and dark:
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.
Don’t worry, the eventual explanation is even less interesting than you’d think.
Raana Tey attacks Zayne and beats the shit out of him, slashing him with her lightsaber, throwing him against walls and into the fractured skylight overhead. Her face lacerated with shards of broken glass, Raana Tey taunts Zayne as she closes in for the kill, laughing about how many Padawans she’s killed. Then Shel impales her from behind with her dead brother’s lightsaber. In tears, Shel falls into Zayne’s arms and admits that she finally believes he didn’t do it. Yeah, real gracious of you, sister, seeing that the real killer just confessed right in front of you.
In the midst of the Mandalorian assault on the Taris Resistance, Gryph is determined to rescue Zayne from the Jedi tower before the Mandos reach it, so Gadon Thek flies him up to the building’s roof on his swoop bike. They toss a cable down to pull Zayne and Shel to safety, but Zayne refuses to leave Raana Tey to die. Uncharacteristically touched by this act of selflessness, Raana Tey chooses to accept Zayne’s help, but her hand becomes caught in the tower’s broken window. She draws her lightsaber to cut herself free, but Gryph misinterprets this as an attack on his friend and triggers the detonation of Del Moomo’s bomb.
The base of the tower explodes and Raana Tey falls away from Zayne as the entire structure collapses. As she falls she asks him to tell Krynda that she’s sorry. Gadon and Gryph fly away from the destroyed academy with Zayne and Shel dangling beneath them. Shel is sorry that Zayne lost his chance to get a public confession out of one of the Jedi, but Zayne replies that he has something even better now: a name.
Elsewhere in the galaxy, we cut to blind Miraluka Jedi Q’Anilia, Shad Jelavan’s former Master, in the process of getting it on with Zayne’s former Master, Lucien, when she feels Raana Tey’s death in the Force and senses that Krynda’s identity has been revealed. This is the worst thing that could ever conceivably happen, she cries. Realizing that he won’t be getting any tonight, Lucien agrees.
She’s fine, don’t even worry about it.
Finally, another really good KotOR arc. I’m not even the biggest Gryph fan (he’s a funny character, but his humor sometimes feels like the author is trying too hard), but it can’t be coincidence that things picked up again the moment he returned from the grave. There are no bankers, space slugs, or boring mad scientists around to louse things up this time, and the only wardrobe change Jarael does is when she takes off a badass leather jacket that frankly she should be drawn wearing more often. Yeah, that Alek/Jarael scene was kind of cringey, but still . . . it’s Darth Malak, man! I’m just glad he’s here.
This comic has everything that made previous arcs like Flashpoint and Days of Fear such successes, on top of basic good storytelling and illustrations by Dustin Weaver: memorable secondary characters, Mandalorians being demonstrably evil, back story from KotOR playing out in meaningful ways, interpersonal character stories set against the backdrop of the evolving galactic conflict. Most importantly, the main plot finally advances in a big way: Raana Tey is dead, and Zayne finally knows about Krynda, the puppetmaster allegedly pulling the Covenant’s strings.
It’s easy to make fun of Zayne for being an idiot and doing everything wrong, but Gryph’s description of him to Gadon Thek rings true: “The kid saves people’s lives—whether he knows them or not. Whether they deserve it or not. Without being asked and without being paid.” After Xesh and Ulic, it’s refreshing to follow a protagonist who’s genuinely good. Zayne doesn’t brood and he isn’t moody, he just tries to do what’s right, at least most of the time. The trade-off for this is that he’s utterly incompetent at most things, but he’s invested enough points in his Luck stat to compensate.
I don’t much care for Shel as a character. All she really brings to the group dynamic is a connection to Zayne’s past before he lost everything to his Masters’ paranoia and fanaticism. I didn’t care about that part of his life when we wasted two issues on the Moomo brothers trying to capture his father and I don’t care about it now. Zayne isn’t that person anymore and was at his least interesting by far when he was. I’m not sure if Miller is attempting to set up some future love triangle plot here, but everyone reading this series knows that Jarael is way more awesome than Shel and we don’t need any more obstacles retarding our characters’ personal growth.
I have nothing negative to say regarding the art. Tragically, this is Dustin Weaver’s last contribution to Knights of the Old Republic, and we still have 31 more issues to go. While his artistic style is not as hauntingly gorgeous as Chris Gossett’s, it’s completely appropriate for the tone and style of this comic and I deeply regret that the creative team didn’t have him stick around longer. His soft-lined, big-eyed, almost cartoonish designs are a perfect match for the light-hearted adventures of Zayne and his wacky crew of misfits and their series’ video game roots. I could overlook a lot of the flaws in this comic’s lesser issues more easily if Zayne always looked like this rather than this. I’ve been dismissive of Brian Ching in the past but I have the feeling I’m quickly about to gain a new appreciation for his work.
A very worthwhile installment in this series, and coming none too soon. 5/5 Death Stars.