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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #15

"DAYS OF FEAR" PART 3

As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

Part three of “Days of Fear” belongs to a vague subset of comic books I’ve done depicting, basically, a train wreck in progress. My favorite issue from my Iron Man run, #77, does the same — and really, all of Crimson Dynamo is a slowly approaching disaster that th protagonist is powerless to stop. (Some might say too slowly approaching, but, hey, you try to walk from Siberia to Moscow!) As such, I’m fond of the story, and there is quite a lot to say.

For the first time, we hit a point in continuity that was, to some degree, foreordained and known to fans. I could fake out some of the veterans with the beginning of the Mandalorian War, but the fate of Serroco was spelled out in one of the games. Well, maybe not completely spelled out — which gave me some room to maneuver. The game spoke of the disaster befalling the Stereb cities of Serroco, but gave not guidance as to what Stereb cities were, nor too many constraining specifics on how it went down.

This allowed me to do one of the role-reversals of which I’m fond: putting Zayne in the shoes of his Masters. His first on-panel vision of the series in #14 told him of what was coming this issue; now, he gets to consider what actions such knowledge would warrant. It’s no wonder he’s all confused by the time it’s over. He’s gone through the wringer.

I also worked in one of my favorite storytelling devices, the surprise ending. My favorite surprise endings are the ones that have the fewest moving parts, yet turn everything you know about the story completely upside down. I particularly like ones that can either be delivered in dialogue (the visual surprise in Planet of the Apes, either one, never did much for me) or, if in prose, in as few words as possible.

As prose goes, probably my favorite in that regard is Rendezvous with Rama, which ends with six words that turn the entire maudlin nature of the ending upside down. The trip from despair to elation is a line long. You’ve got to love that. Cinematically or on TV, there’s not as many places where so spare a change has meant so much – again, without throwing in the visual element (like in the final Newhart). I’m fond of the surprise at the end of No Way Out; though I know a lot of critics derided it as tacked on, it really is internally consistent with the rest of the film.

And while I have mixed feelings about the episode itself, I can never turn off the ending to the JFK episode in Quantum Leap. When Al explains to a despairing Sam that, while he has failed in his intended mission, he might have accomplished something else (and, no, I won’t spoil it here), we have in a little bit of dialogue something that changes our view of the whole situation.

I think it was that feeling I was going for in Carth’s final speech here, which is set up in #14’s dialogue and has ironic ties to other things gamers know about the character. I even looked for a long time at exactly what the proportion of saved to unsaved should be. What number would be meaningful? I realized I couldn’t talk in terms of population — readers would get lost in the big numbers — but whatever unit of measurement I used, the number needed to feel weighty. So if “one” feels like cold comfort, “seventeen” feels like you’ve done something. It’s more than half the total established earlier, and it even looks longer when you spell it out. Seems like a minor point — but it’s the sort of thing that requires some thought beforehand.

The sequence of intercuts to the final fate of Gryph gave a needed rhythm to the story, a growing sound for the advancing train. I initially considered an interlude advancing Jarael, Camper, and Rohlan’s storyline further for this issue — but it really didn’t fit. This “A-story/B-story” tempo for the three-issue arc is something I return to later, and I hope it in some way recalls the Archie Goodwin stretch on the original Star Wars series where the characters would be separated, but we’d always get a look in on the next storyline in the interludes. But for this issue, it simply didn’t fit — physically or thematically.

Finally, when people ask where inspiration comes from, rarely have I ever been able to mention my daily life — at least, not when it comes to Star Wars! And yet, I had a moment exactly like one seen in this story — which wound up being my model for it.

On September 11, 2001, I was awakened by a call from James Mishler, then my co-worker on Scrye, telling me of the planes colliding with the World Trade Center. I snapped the TV on and had a look, but it was early going and there wasn’t much information. (Aaron Brown was reporting on CNN — back in my grad school days of staying up all night, he was my constant TV companion as the anchor of ABC’s overnight news block. You can do a lot of funny news at 3 in the morning, and I always enjoyed his work.)

Anyway, I got ready to head into the office — and Meredith got ready for her day as well. But checking the set again, they had more information. Fifty thousand people worked in the building, and they were trying to evacuate — and with all of this, I stood right next to the screen, spellbound by what I was seeing.

Until Meredith walked into the living room, unaware of what was going on – and  I grabbed her and screamed, “The people! The people!” And she gave me a look like I had lost my mind — and I pointed her head toward the set, where all she could see was smoke. The first building had just fallen.

I have been on the other side of that moment, before – well, not that moment, but walking blindly into a situation where something was going on I was unaware of — and all hell broke loose. It’s almost more terrifying for the person who doesn’t know what’s going on. I wanted to plug into just a little bit of that fear and surprise — and that’s what Dustin Weaver ably rendered in the scene with Zayne and Carth.

They say that it’ll be decades before we fully know the impact of 9/11 on the culture, but I know I have certainly drawn on feelings and experiences — mine and others’ — in several works now. The aforementioned Iron Man #77 depicts a scene similar to what I heard happened in one of the Washington press rooms — everyone’s cell phone going off at once, telling them the news. One of a number of frightening moments, big and small, repeated all around the world. Now a sliver of my own worst moment has a little echo here, for what it’s worth.


TRIVIA


  • The cover of this issue is one of a handful I have directly suggested, though as with most artistic things, the kernel of the idea comes from somewhere else. I noted to Brian Ching that I liked one of Frank Miller’s Daredevil covers showing the character cowering on a white background, and noted that we could pick up Zayne’s posture from #14 and use it somehow. He added the flames and Mandalore to great effect.

  • An earlier promotional image showed a redder-looking Mandalore mask. I don’t know why it was changed, but it is the case that the redder it is, those raised lines make it look more like the movie Spider-Man’s mask.

  • Carth’s cargo vessel does have a name, but as it wasn’t revealed in the issue, I can’t say it here. Sorry…

  • I like the fact that little things like levitation are as good as ID cards for Jedi. Doesn’t take much to prove who you are!

  • Serroco is not to be confused with another planet in the galaxy, Socorro. Which didn’t stop me from constantly confusing them. I think we spelled it right throughout.

  • You could look for hours at the detail Dustin throws into those exterior space views and the bridge setting. I kept looking to find Saul Karath’s coffee cup!

  • Yeah, that whole nickname thing comes to bite Zayne in the backside. Recall that Alek told his name to Jarael, but not Zayne.

  • Dig the little hairnet that Slyssk’s wearing. I don’t know why, but I like it! I guess it keeps the scales out of the salad…

  • Before it winds up wrong on someone’s website, the word “ecliptic” does not refer to a spaceship by that name, Rand or otherwise. They’re referring to the plane of the ecliptic, which is defined by Serroco’s star and the orbit of the planet around it.

  • The mention of nuclear weapons certainly raises some eyebrows in Star Wars — but they have existed elsewhere in the continuity, and there’s little else that you can ascribe the destruction described in the games to. We’re not absolute on the specific type of weapon, either – an observers say that sensors note a radioactive signature and that the weapon is nuclear in class, but that might be true for a proton weapon, too (at least in my psuedo-physics book). As it is, until the Mandalorians say what they used, anything said on the bridge could be interpreted as conjecture.

  • You’d think Q’anilia would have a better cell-phone than that. No, actually, that’s an underground sea of sorts. Not too many towers around there!

  • I like the effect color can have when it’s applied in specific ways. If you want to see Michael Atiyeh’s influence on the issue, look in places like the “Why wouldn’t you leave” panel, where everything suddenly goes red.

  • You know, it wasn’t planned, but at the time this issue came out, Carth’s and my hairstyle and facial hair were just about identical. Maybe I will get that action figure after all!

  • We bring back the Taris Holofeed from #0, and promptly change the spelling of Senator Gorravus, whose name was inserted into the first trade. I’ll let everyone know what the correct spelling is, just as soon as we decide what it is!

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