Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon
Artist: Chris Gossett
Publication Date: October – November 1993
- Collected Aug 1994 in Tales of the Jedi: Knights of the Old Republic
- Reprinted Nov 1994 in Tales of the Jedi: The Collection + The Freedon Nadd Uprising
- Reprinted Oct 2007 in Star Wars Omnibus: Tales of the Jedi Volume 1
Timeline Placement: 4,000 BBY
Series: Tales of the Jedi #1-2
We pick up with Tales of the Jedi again an even 1,000 years since the previous entry in the series (the EU loves setting major events and story arcs at nice round-numbered years relative to A New Hope). This was actually the first TotJ story written, years before Kevin J. Anderson became involved with the series. When published, it was by far the earliest Star Wars story ever told, so while it feels a bit dated and slow, it still deserves credit for trying something new and actually expanding the universe in huge ways, something that much of the modern EU had given up on.
The comic opens with an introduction to our main character, Ulic Qel-Droma, and his two fellow Jedi trainees: his brother, Cay Qel-Droma, and the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta. Everyone in this story refers to him as “the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta,” like they constantly feel the need to point out that he’s an inhuman freak with tails for hair. Arca Jeth, their Jedi Master, tells them that it’s time to stop dicking around with their training and go out into the galaxy and do Jedi stuff. Their first assignment is to end the 300-year Beast Wars in the Onderon system.
No, not those Beast Wars. I wish though.
In the distant past, the atmospheres of Onderon and its moon Dxun would periodically overlap. This allowed giant winged monsters to travel from the moon and prey on the planet’s indigenous human population. I’m not sure how scientifically feasible that is but it’s a cool idea. As a result of moon monster attacks, civilization on Onderon developed inside a single, massive, walled city called Iziz. Long ago, Iziz developed the practice of casting its criminals out into the wilderness, where they eventually banded together and learned to tame and ride the Dxun beasts. These Beast Riders have been at war with Iziz ever since. Master Arca has been assigned by the senior Jedi Masters to resolve this conflict, but out of sheer laziness he’s sending his three half-trained students instead.
Ulic, Cay, and the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta arrive in the Onderon system aboard their ship, the Nebulon Ranger. Upon entering the planet’s atmosphere they are immediately attacked by Beast Riders, who try to make their space pterodactyls bite through the hull of a spaceship. Following the least tense chase scene in history, in which our heroes are in absolutely no peril at any point, the Jedi land their ship safely inside the walls of Iziz. They disembark and introduce themselves to the Onderonian welcoming committee, and the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta is promptly brutalized by the police because of space racism.
The Jedi are summoned before Queen Amanoa, seventy-year-old wife of King Ommin, who does not appear in this story because he is practicing evil sorceries in the basement. The queen introduces her eighteen-year-old daughter, Galia, heir to the throne. Suddenly a giant monster flies through the window and Galia is kidnapped right in front of the Jedi by Beast Warrior Commandos (the comic is so excited to use this term that I assume it must be capitalized).
The Jedi leave the city in pursuit of the kidnappers but their ship is immediately shot down by a seeker-torpedo and crashes in the jungle. Upon attempting to exit the ship, they find themselves surrounded by fearsome, adorable boma beasts. Fortunately, the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta possesses the rare Force talent of Beast Language, and he communicates their mission to the ravenous monsters in a series of grunts and snarls. These bloodthirsty killing machines are easily swayed by a well-reasoned argument, and they make the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta an honorary member of their tribe and allow the Jedi to ride them to the Beast Riders’ lair.
The Jedi and bomas burst in to find Galia being wedded to Oron Kira, son of reigning Beast Lord Moron Kira. Ulic tries to re-kidnap her but she claims that she wants to marry Oron. The Jedi discover that the princess’s abduction was staged because she knew she would never be allowed to marry a Beast Lord. So instead of just running away, she arranged for an invasion of her own city in which several Iziz soldiers and Beast Riders were killed. It’s like that scene in Aladdin where instead of climbing over the palace wall Princess Jasmine just has her tiger maul all the guards so she can walk out the front gate.
Princess Galia explains that she dearly loves her sweet old parents but they also happen to be evil devil-worshipping practitioners of dark-side witchcraft. Ulic is shocked to hear that the dark side of the Force is active on a world that only recently developed space travel, because I guess he thought negative emotions needed a starship to get around. Moron Kira tells the tale of how, four centuries ago, Jedi Knight Freedon Nadd, the most ludicrously named Star Wars villain since Ludo Kressh, fell to the dark side and brought the evil of the Sith to Onderon. In an unforeseen twist, it turns out that all the so-called criminals banished from Iziz, rather than being rapists and murderers, were in fact just political dissidents trying to resist the dark side!
Moron Kira has united all the Beast Riders on the planet into a giant army under his command, but Ulic makes him promise not to attack the city unless the Jedi fail to fulfill their mission and negotiate peace. They return to the city with Galia and Oron but at the sight of the Beast Lord Queen Amanoa tries to kill them immediately. “It would seem . . . I have failed Master Arca,” Ulic admits to the Beast Riders. “Do what you must. We will fight beside you. Arca would want it.” I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with you on that last part, Ulic, since it’s actually the exact opposite of what he told you he wanted.
A huge battle commences, with Queen Amanoa using the dark side to sap the Beast Riders of their will to fight. During the melee, Cay Qel-Droma gets his arm cut off at the shoulder. “Unnh— My ARM!” Cay screams, adding thoughtfully, “ULLIIIIICCC! They cut off my ARRRMM!” Which to be fair is what I think most people would say in that situation. Not to worry, though, because Cay just unscrews an arm off an old droid and gets busy attaching it to his cauterized shoulder. It’s not every day that you see the two dumbest things you’ve ever seen back to back.
At that moment, a new ship appears in the sky. Jedi Master Arca Jeth has gotten off his lazy ass at last and come to save the day. Using the Jedi Battle Meditation technique popularized by Odan-Urr in the previous comic, he gives the Beast Riders the confidence to win and they instantly do. He takes his three apprentices to task for failing to resolve this conflict without his aid. The way to win was through the method that he just employed, he says, to which Ulic protests that Arca never even taught them Battle Meditation. Arca admits that this is true; there was never any way the three of them could have done anything here and hundreds of people have died because he was too lazy to do his job earlier.
What an asshole.
Arca Jeth then leads Ulic, Cay, the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta, and Princess Galia into the queen’s inner sanctum, where they find Amanoa channeling the dark energies of Freedon Nadd’s sarcophagus. Arca projects an aura of light that dispels Nadd’s lingering darkness, cutting off the queen from the power sustaining her life. She immediately collapses and dies. “You killed her,” weeps Galia. “I don’t care how evil she was . . . she was my mother . . . I loved her.” Arca claims that he didn’t kill her, he merely removed the force keeping her alive . . . which means that he killed her.
What an asshole!
Galia seems to buy this however and they all have a big party to celebrate overthrowing the dark side. Ulic asks Arca how a Jedi like Freedon Nadd, trained in the light side, could ever fall to the dark. “It has happened more than once,” Arca replies. “Fortunately it does not happen often— Ulic, my son . . . pray that it never happens to you.” And then there is a close-up panel of half of Ulic’s face looking all sinister OH MY GOD I WONDER WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon is on the “meh” side of all right. It was drawn by Chris Gossett, the same guy who did The Golden Age of the Sith #0, but his artwork is much better here. Not as good as it will get by the end of the series, but the comic has a certain visual style to it that you can appreciate for actually being a visual style.
Tom Veitch is a better writer than KJA but that’s saying nothing; for the most part the writing is kind of boring and the plot is pretty basic and unmemorable, with the exception of giant monsters flying down from the moon. That detail aside, Onderon is just a boring planet with a boring culture and boring fashion. Even in Knights of the Old Republic II, the missions set there are some of the more tedious in the game.
The characters have the barest frameworks of personalities, but since Ulic is the main protagonist of this series I’m hoping he gets a little more development as we move along. The only character who really stands out so far is Arca Jeth, and that’s just because of what a colossal douche he is, but I don’t think that was the writer’s intention.
Overall, ho-hum. I don’t hate it but it’s just not that interesting. I could probably just copy that sentence and use it for 99% of these reviews.
2.5/5 Death Stars.
(Check out the Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha Archive for more meditations on obscure Star Wars lore.)
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