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A graphic novel by Darko Macan, Ramon F. Bachs, and Raul Fernandez (2002, Dark Horse Comics)
1000 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Young cousins are caught up in the struggle of a giant Force battle.



Read on August 1st, 2008 for the second time  
    It was interesting to revisit this graphic novel immediately following Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. Which story was conceived first? The author of the novel did an even more impressive job than I thought, weaving all the events of this story into his own. Some things are ordered differently, like Farfalla's arrival and his conflict with the Jedi leader Hoth, but I think dramatically they work well for both stories. In Path of Destruction, we can tolerate a longer time interval between Hoth berating Farfalla and his apology, while we can't do that in the graphic story.

On the other hand, the novel did a great job of ignoring the kids, right up to the end. Githany's story is expanded wonderfully, though the seeds were planted here. But when she leaves Kaan's circle, she does so before the thought bomb process is started, and with one of the kids. In the novel, she discovers something wrong when she is in the meld, and leaves alone. Then why did she die, while the child survived being even closer to the source?

If the rating for this story is better the second time around, it is solely because of the Darth Bane novel. I think it's funny that the weakest parts of Path of Destruction take place on Ruusan, while those same parts of the novel improve the graphic story, making it even better. How is that for irony? Maybe the author will expand on Rain's backstory in Rule of Two, deriving it from what is told here.




Read on May 19th, 2003  
    Quite impressive, marred only by the poor artistic style and the apparent age and ability of these kids.

Seeing the cover art of this graphic novel led to some trepidation about starting the book. However, like Underworld, the story was very much up to the task of keeping me interested in the book. The people are drawn in a very flamboyant style, with large features, lots of very tousled hair, and they tend to fill the frame. The backgrounds are minimal, and they don't tell the story -the characters do that. I didn't care for much of the art at all, finding it too much like a cartoon than an artistic story. However, as the book went along, the cartoonish nature seemed to diminish, bringing out more of a life-like appearance. Any scene that the Floaters were in was well received, and the fireballs were quite amazing.

The story is something I didn't want to revisit. This book is a direct prequel to Jedi Knight, the story of Kyle Katarn of the Dark Forces games. That book was so bad that I didn't want to return to Ruusan. The story of the Jedi battling a large Sith army and both being defeated by some sort of Dark Force concentration was so bad and ill-conceived, that I didn't think anything could safely conjure up a satisfying tale to accompany it.

I am glad to see that I was wrong, as this book does a really good job of depicting the battle -not from the standpoint of a war, but from outsiders. The only problem is that these kids didn't act their ages. Tomcat, Bug and Rain, three cousins on whom we get no background, except that they have superstitions about using their real names, are recruited for the Jedi because they have some Force talent. The story doesn't care who they are, nor what they are doing before the Jedi take them away. They are presumably orphans, from things that are said, but I really would have liked to see them portrayed as teenagers instead of under ten years old, at the least. This book was written after The Phantom Menace came out, so there is no excuse for the Jedi taking youngsters like this, instead of infants. I suppose it could be a bridge of some sorts, though. In the Tales of the Jedi, the Jedi accept even adults. Perhaps at this time, the Jedi realized that they needed to create some order in their ways, and take children as young as they could.

The Sith operate much the same way. I would have liked to know more about Darth Bane, and why everybody thought he was dead -I doubt many knew about the poison, and they seemed to have had enough time to restructure and attack the Jedi position since then. I disagree with the notion that the poison worked on him because the Dark Side was spread too thin. I don't believe there could be a finite amount of Force, which would have to be split up between the Lords. I do, however, like his question about everybody being Lords now! Ha!

The three cousins are brought into this conflict in different ways. Tomcat is desperate to become a Jedi of legend, but is disappointed by what he sees, especially when so many Jedi die around him. Even when they first crash-land on Ruusan he seems to have extraordinary power. There is no way that he could have defeated so many Sith minions without training. The authors should have made him older, and given him some knowledge of Force fighting. He goes over to the side of the victors of a battle -the Sith, but sees how they can be defeated, as well. He seems to yield the Force with neither the Good nor the Dark Side. However, given his ambition, it was no surprise to see him go to the Sith.

Bug becomes a Jedi (the ceremony doesn't seem to be more than giving him a lightsaber -no training, no building his own weapon...) only after he hears of Tomcat's traitorous murdering of a Jedi captain. He doesn't get to do much until the Jedi attack Lord Kaan in the caves. There doesn't seem to be much motivation for Jedi Hoth to attack, except that the story demands it. The Sith set off their "thought bomb" while Tomcat and Bug are fighting each other, allowing Bug to be killed, and turning Tomcat back to the Light.

Rain, the youngest, is thought to be killed after she is thrown through a hole in the ship as it is crash-landing, but she is caught by one of the native Floaters, Laa. The Floaters are explored through her point of view, as they go about spreading peaceful emotions around the battlefields, soothing the trees and animals that were disturbed. Rain uses the Force after the Sith use another thought process earlier in the story to destroy the entire forest on Ruusan. She is able to preserve a small section of grass with herself and Laa in it, while everything else is devastated. The surprising twist in the story comes when Laa is shot by a Jedi (since when do they use bow and arrow?), because many Floaters have gone crazy, spreading depressing emotions instead of calming ones. Laa kills two Jedi, breaking every bone in their bodies with her anger, just as Darth Bane strides into the area...

What really impressed me about this book was the way the characters were turned on their heads. The authors were able to take initial character traits, and allow the three youngsters to evolve from beginning to end, in unexpected ways. They grew more than many characters do in a full-length novel! In the end, Rain explodes her brother's hand when he threatens Bane, and follows Bane to become his apprentice. Tomcat, short one hand, as so many Star Wars characters are, walks out into the wilderness with the Floaters, to become the spirit which will guide Katarn to the Valley of the Jedi a thousand years later.

What I didn't like was the way this read more like a fantasy book than a Star Wars one. Everybody fought hand-to-hand, with barely any blasters to be seen. There were a few air strikes, but only by the Sith, really, and even then, the end of the battles were done by hand. As I already mentioned, the Sith minions acted like minor thugs, and I thought the kids had too much ability for what they were given at the beginning of the story. Even the kitchen steward knocked Tomcat's lightsaber from his hand. How did he get so successful that afternoon, then?

There was also a minor plot with a Centaur-like Jedi, who is thought to enjoy riches and his looks too much. They don't really belong as more than filler, because they don't do anything. We see one page where they celebrate a victory, but we don't see the battle. At the end, it's not even clear if he follows Hoth to his death, as we don't see him leave, though he is urged to. Is his group left alive? Certainly these were not all the Jedi in the Republic. Just not enough is explained.

However, because of the way this story was made personal, it succeeds on many levels. It allows the story to proceed at its own pace, in line with the point of view of the kids. But it skips critical plot points and doesn't really fit in the Star Wars universe. 


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