Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #8
"FLASHPOINT" PART 2
As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.
#8 brought us our first heavy-duty space battles – rendered wonderfully
by the detail-minded Dustin Weaver. The care such detail required –
plus unrelated scheduling issues -- resulted in a slight delay, but the
final result was worth it.
As with #3, #8 follows a breakneck action issue – and is in some senses a chance to reset the scene and lay out what’s going on in the larger world around Zayne. In this case, we finally get our first real look at the Mandalorians and how they look at things. They’ve been the bogeymen off-camera up until #7; now, in Rohlan and Demagol, we meet two Mandalorian figures with very different outlooks on what's going on.
One of the things starting earlier than the Knights of the Old Republic games allowed us to do is delve more into how the Mandalorian War on the Republic actually started. There is, of course, discussion of it in the games as a blitzkrieg taking the Republic off-guard. But it left another element to be explored, which gave us a chance to elaborate further on the war’s start: the political status of Taris.
A quick look at the Star Wars galaxy map suggests why Taris would be pretty early on the Mandalorian list of places to invade – it’s out on the Outer Rim, near Mandalore itself. So what the heck is the Republic doing here? We finally find out from Captain Karath – a guy we’ll see later in the video games. It wasn’t the purest of motives that brought Taris to the Republic’s attention – and, indeed, the decision to protect it proves “a bridge too far.”
This element allowed us to make Zayne’s escape from his masters an event with galactic consequences. It also allowed us to make the Mandalorian blitzkrieg a bigger surprise than it otherwise might have been for gamers familiar with the history. Where the wars against non-Republic worlds had been going for some years, if you listen to commentators in the game, you might expect the surprise invasion for 3963 BBY, a year after the date given for the beginning of comics series. Yet we showed the Republic and Mandalorians already at odds -- and we showed Tarisians and Jedi both feeling they’re at war. And everyone is right!
How? As we’ve seen time and again in history, “war” is a bit of a relative term – and whether or not you think you’re at war often depends on where you live and what’s happening to you. The alliance with Poland caused Britain and France to declare war on Germany in early September of 1939 – but until the middle of the next year, most of the action between them and Germany came in more remote theaters, such as Africa, Norway, and on the Atlantic. After the sudden invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940, the reality of war was brought home – literally. The U.S., of course, isn’t technically at war until December 1941 – even though it’s clearly chosen sides long before that, through Lend-Lease and airmen volunteering to fly for Claire Chennault in China.
So there’s war, and then there’s war – and there’s something like that going on here. People on Taris, near the frontier where #0 established that the Republic and Mandalorians have been quibbling inconsequentially for more than a year, feel they’re at war. Regular folk on Coruscant? Not so much.
What results is a more nuanced picture for those looking to put events into a simple timeline – as with a lot of Earthly wars, there’s more than one starting date. There’s when the Mandalorians started attacking non-Republic worlds; there’s when the Republic intervened in one of those attacks; and, now, when the Mandalorians attacked the Republic in full force.
- Jarael’s shockstaff, from #3, makes a reappearance; eagle-eyed readers will note that she didn’t have it with her in #7. It delivers a nasty shock to flesh, and evidently has some quite visible effects on Mandalorian armor.
- Saul Karath’s colossal battleship, Courageous, comes by its name through a trivial route so obscure I won’t expect anyone to figure it out. The older Karath’s video-game vessel, the Leviathan, hearkens back to the Royal Navy vessel class of the same name. According to Nelson’s Navy, four ships of the 74-gun Leviathan class were based on the design for the Courageaux, a French ship captured in 1761. The Star Wars Leviathan is NOT the same class as the Courageous, so there the resemblance ends.
- Readers with the Star Wars Galaxy Map will notice that Vanquo is pretty much directly between Mandalore and Taris. We speak of it being along the Jebble-Vanquo-Tarnith line in #0; those other two places are not on the map, but we can assume they’re nearby.
- The American versions of this issue had a Science Fiction Book Club insert in the centerspread.
- Flashpoint, with its incredibly short days and close proximity to its sun, is clearly a very new arrival in its solar system – at least from the standpoint of astrophysics. It’s in the manner of smaller bodies (including our own Moon) to eventually become tidally locked with the larger ones, such that the rotational and orbital periods synch up. Flashpoint, therefore, is either just-formed or a fresh arrival – making it an unusual and attractive object for academic study. As time goes on, its sidereal days will lengthen to approach its year in length – if its sun doesn’t engulf it first!
- The name of Rohlan (ROH-lan) is partially inspired by the similarly sounding name of another warrior, the paladin of Charlemagne. Demagol (de-muh-GOL) just sounds evil!
- Ulic Qel-Droma, of course, is an important figure in the Tales of the Jedi comics.
- A couple of “we’ll-fix-it-in-the-trade” moments
panel, though only a handful may notice the Mandalorian word “manda”
where it should’ve been “mando’ade.” But my favorite typo
ever may be Rohlan speaking of “border skirmishes here, police auctions
there.” That’s “actions,” of course. Can you imagine a guy in a suit of
armor bidding on an impounded Chevy Nova?