Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: Intrigue in the Old Republic

Commencement

SW17 2

Author: John Jackson Miller

Artist: Brian Ching (issues 1-4, 6), Travel Foreman (issue 5)

Medium: Comic

Publication Date: January – June 2006

  • Reprinted August 2013 in Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Volume 1
  • Reprinted July 2015 in Star Wars Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1

Timeline Placement: 3,964 BBY (with flashback to 3,977 BBY)

Series: Knights of the Old Republic #1-6

Another day, another bungled attempt by Zayne to apprehend Marn “The Gryph” Hierogryph. Zayne gets drenched in sewage and ends up crashing through a window of a restaurant, interrupting the celebratory banquet for his class of Jedi initiates that he forgot he was supposed to be at. Having recently completed the Jedi Trials, Zayne and his friends will soon be informed by their Masters whether or not they have been approved for Knighthood.

Zayne confides in his friend Shad Jelavan that he’s confident he’s the only one who won’t be promoted. Shad helpfully suggests that Zayne failed on purpose so he could stay on Taris and continue nursing his crush on Shad’s sister, Shel, who is awkwardly standing right there.

After the banquet, Zayne is left behind to compensate the restaurant manager for the damage he caused. Master Lucien has also stiffed Zayne with the bill for the entire meal, leaving his hapless apprentice penniless. Suddenly, Zayne spots Marn Hierogryph wandering around outside. He immediately pulls a dine-and-dash on the beleaguered manager.

Now penniful once again, Zayne seizes Gryph with the Force and handcuffs him to his speeder, taking him back to the Jedi academy as a prisoner. Why was this so difficult an arrest for him to pull off before? I guess it was destiny or something. They arrive late to the commencement ceremony and Zayne leaves Gryph handcuffed in the garage while he rushes in to catch the end of his friends’ graduation. Instead, he finds their newly murdered corpses cooling at their Masters’ feet.

“You’re late, young one,” Lucien chides.

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The Jedi Masters—Xamar, Raana Tey, Lucien Drey, Q’Anilia, and Feln—pursue Zayne through the academy, back to the garage. Zayne jumps on his speeder and takes off with Gryph, who is so confused he pronounces the word “help” as “HAAALLLLPPP!!!” The Masters follow on their own speeders, but lose their quarry when Zayne and Gryph jump down the garbage chute of a college cafeteria.

After they put on the freshman fifteen, Zayne explains to Gryph what the hell is going on. Gryph wisely decides to ditch the clueless Padawan, but reconsiders when he discovers that the Jedi have framed him as Zayne’s accomplice. Realizing they have to get off the planet, Gryph takes Zayne to meet with a discombobulated inventor named Camper, but when they arrive at the junkyard where he lives, they are attacked by his bodyguard, Jarael.

Camper and Jarael are Arkanians, the same alien species as Master Arca Jeth from Tales of the Jedi, despite the fact that they look nothing like him. This discrepancy will be explained in a future comic, but that story arc is so bad I wonder if John Jackson Miller didn’t write it solely to justify having Jarael look like a sexy albino elf babe while Master Arca looks like death. I mean, no one ever bothers explaining why Gryph looks nothing like a regular Snivvian.

Nope, not seeing it.

Nope, not seeing it.

Zayne tries to explain that he was set up but the Jedi suddenly arrive with the Constable of Taris. Gryph and Zayne take cover in the Arkanians’ junk-house, which they are surprised to discover is actually a ship, the The Last Resort (why is The part of its name?). The The Last Resort takes off from beneath a pile of garbage and heads for space, where they go into hiding in the system’s asteroid belt.

Zayne, Jarael, and Gryph bicker for a few pages while Camper sits alone muttering to himself because he is crazy. Camper passes out and Jarael tends to him while Gryph goes off to take a nap. Later, Zayne sneaks away to contact his Jedi instructors on Dantooine while no one’s looking, piloting the ship out of the asteroid field to send a clear transmission.

The phone is answered by Master Vandar Tokare, a Yoda-type alien and an NPC from the original KotOR game. Despite his vaunted Jedi insight, Vandar just goose steps along and tells Zayne how disappointed he is in him for murdering his classmates. Zayne argues that he’s such a terrible Jedi he never could have overcome all his friends, and Vandar has to admit that that’s true. Then Jarael hits him with a stick for endangering everyone’s lives on this pointless phone call.

Zayne decides that they have to crack the case themselves so they take the The Last Resort to the last place all the Jedi Masters and Padawans were together before the day of the massacre: the Taris system’s rogue moon. Lucien and his buds dropped off their apprentices there for their final test before being knighted. Wearing spacesuits with opaque helmets, they had to use their Force senses to navigate their way across the moon while avoiding the constant bombardment of debris from the asteroid field. The Taris Masters, meanwhile, drank lemonade and worked on their tans while waiting for them beneath a giant deflector shield. Seriously no one could have figured out that they were a bunch of psychopaths before the mass murder? Really?

Zayne and Jarael go down to the moon and recover the remains of T1-LB, the Jedi’s labor droid who had mysteriously fallen off a cliff during the Padawans’ trial. Zayne uses his physics degree and one semester of detective class to deduce that Elbee didn’t fall, but was in fact telekinetically thrown. As they attempt to salvage him, Lucien shows up with the cops again. This whole story is one long chase scene.

Zayne whispers to Jarael to get close to him, like he has some kind of plan to get them out of this, but I guess he just wanted to cop a feel through her spacesuit or something because they just sit there and then the The Last Resort shows up and saves them by shooting at the cops’ spacecar.

One quick getaway later, Camper has rebuilt Elbee and added a hologram emitter to his head so they can see the droid’s final memories before his death. While the Padawans stumbled around dodging death from space, Xamar, Raana Tey, Q’Anilia, and Feln entered a meditation trance while Lucien awkwardly just stood around because he didn’t properly allocate his skill points to achieve the Jedi Consular class.

The four Jedi experienced a shared vision of their own deaths, with the Sith rising once again and the galaxy in flames. The center of the vision was the person who appeared to be responsible for everything: a masked figure wearing a red spacesuit identical to the ones currently worn by their apprentices. Logically, they decided that the only possible recourse is to murder all of their surrogate children in the off chance one of them becomes the Sith in the mass-produced spacesuit probably owned by trillions across the galaxy. Lucien then noticed Elbee watching them and Force-pushed him off a cliff.

Elbee is so distraught over witnessing his own death that he immediately deletes the recording from his memory, conveniently destroying the evidence that could have cleared Zayne’s name and wrapped up this series a couple dozen issues earlier. The The Last Resort is then captured by bounty hunter Valius Ying and his crew, looking to collect the price on Zayne’s head. Gryph leaves Zayne with him because he’s a scoundrel, but later Zayne mind-tricks the guards and sneaks away in the dead of night, but Jarael shows up and says that he’s screwing them over by hanging around and inviting the wrath of Jedi who can’t tell one spacesuit from another. Zayne decides he can’t continue to endanger his newfound friends and agrees to peacefully return to Taris in Ying’s custody.

Ying brings Zayne before the Jedi Masters, hoping to get his money and be on his way. For some reason Lucien explains their entire evil plan and the circumstances behind it, then murders Ying for having learned too much. Before he can strike down Zayne, however, someone wearing the same red spacesuit and helmet from the Jedi’s vision crashes through the window. The Jedi are thrown into chaos, giving Jarael time to take off her helmet and rocketpack away with Zayne. You would think this incident might teach the Jedi that there are more than five of that same model of spacesuit in the galaxy, but NOPE!

Back aboard the The Last Resort, Jarael explains that they couldn’t bring themselves to leave Zayne behind to try his luck with the psychotic Jedi. No one had ever sacrificed themselves for her before, and she didn’t want him getting a big head over it. Gryph then offers Zayne a job in his criminal empire, which doesn’t exist. Zayne agrees, but only if Gryph stops calling him “intern.” Cue studio audience laughter, freeze frame, producer credits.

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Let’s not beat around the bush, John Jackson Miller’s Knights of the Old Republic is a pretty good Star Wars comic overall, so there’s only so much here to snark about. Commencement isn’t the greatest story arc, but it’s a decent introduction to the new cast and setting. My biggest problem with it (besides the unfathomly horrific art in issue 5, excepting the intentional stylization of the prophecy sequence) is how structurally repetitive it gets after a while. Every scene seems like it ends with the Jedi and the cops randomly showing up, only for Zayne and his friends to somehow slip through their fingers yet again. The whole book really is, like I’ve said, one long chase scene. And Jeff Goldblum isn’t even in it!

There’s also the issue of the Jedi becoming an unrepentant cabal of murderers based on an extremely vague and unspecific vision of the future. Literally anyone could go to Space Kmart and get that same spacesuit, let’s use a little reasoning here, guys. Admittedly, this is only the first arc of the series; maybe later revelations about the Masters’ history and the true subject of their prophecy will justify their single-minded certainty (spoiler: no).

Travel Foreman’s pencils in issue 5 are just terrible. Everyone looks like some horrible nightmare doppelgänger of themselves. It’s just bizarre how randomly awful everything looks for one sixth of the story. Brian Ching’s art is much better, but I’m not really a fan of his style either. Everyone is always scowling and hunched over with claws for fingers. Unfortunately, he’s the primary artist of the whole series. They should have just gotten Dustin Weaver to illustrate everything.

There’s also a montage at the end of the book showing the state of the broader galaxy after Zayne’s escape from Taris. Several of the Jedi who left to fight in the war, including Squint from issue 0, have been taken prisoner by the Mandalorians. This news report is watched by a cloaked figure sitting in a chair. You would expect this guy’s identity to be revealed at some point in the future, but I’ve read this series before and there are multiple characters who wear cloaks and I still have no idea who this was supposed to be.

Whatever, 4/5 Death Stars.

Check out the Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha Archive for more meditations on obscure Star Wars lore.

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