Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #16
"NIGHTS OF ANGER" PART 1
Jarael goes into the belly of the beast to find a cure for Camper — visiting a world where genetic "offshoots" like her and Camper are despised, even criminalized!
I was very happy that Brian Ching got to draw this issue given the opening sequence, which by design mimicked the layout and appearance of panels from the end of #1 and the beginning of #2, as well as bringing in some dialogue from #5. These images were ones he had crafted to begin with, so it was fitting that he got to “re-imagine” them for this sequence. Given the unusual nature of this sequence, scripting it was almost like writing a ransom note. I suggested in the script that we ape this particular panel for this scene, another one for the next. Brian really delivered. I hope it saved him some time!
And the sequence itself allowed me to do something I’d been planning on for some time, which was to return to Raana Tey and show a little of what’s going on in that bumpy head of hers. Known alternately as “the wild one” and “the bad attitude,” Raana is one of my favorites of the Covenant Masters, and I wanted to start shedding some light on her own “nights of anger.”
Arkania, meanwhile, goes all the way back to the Tales of the Jedi comics, and it was always my intention to get us back here. I don’t know how many surface shots there have ever been of the place, but I knew they were spare enough that we’d essentially be working up the atlas from scratch. I think you can really tell the contribution of Michael Atiyeh when you see the hopeless drabness of the cloud cover — reminds me of my Upper Midwestern home for way too many months of the year!
Readers of this site may recall that, early on, Brian had submitted designs for Camper and Jarael that were a variation on the theme of Arkanians we’d seen before. That worked in well with something I wanted to do in a larger sense, which was to do something dealing with segregation. The first game had introduced a theme of division, with classes being divided on Taris — but I wasn’t going to be able to get into that much there, because we weren’t going to be staying on Taris very long. (Also, while the game was able to effectively seal parts of the world off from each other with the closure of an elevator door, it is hard to imagine completely walling off the lower areas when there are so many ways to get around.) Arkania and the Offshoot concept resolved that, as it cut down the number of parties involved to two — and you pretty much have to hoof it across the tundra to get to any of the cities that aren’t floating.
Most younger readers today will thankfully not know what apartheid was, or most any kind of physical separation of races; I don’t claim to have had any direct knowledge of it myself, although I did learn a lot secondhand. When I worked on my college newspaper, I covered the student protests against the university’s investments in companies that did business with in apartheid-era South Africa. I wrote close to a year’s worth of stories about that — both talking with the protesters and to Governor (now Senator) Lamar Alexander, who at the time was the university president — up to and including when the students built their own shantytown in front of the Humanities Building. (The protesters lived in them for weeks — until an inebriated frat boy drove his pickup truck through one of them — thankfully, unoccupied — in the middle of the night, prompting the police to finally end the protest before someone got hurt.)
So I knew broadly what kind of notes I wanted to hit here — and as I thought further about Offshoot culture, I began to bring in echoes from the Russian communes of the 19th century. Zadawi’s grandmother’s defense of the system here is a spin on the “myth of the good tsar.” The tsar was never at fault — it was always the tsar’s minions. (Which is why so often in peasant revolts they could kill the tsar’s tax collector or whatever and claim it wasn’t insurrection. They were protecting the good tsar from the bad underlings!) And now that we’ve seen how the Offshoots live, next issue we can get on to the other half…
Finally, this issue returned something to Star Wars comics that had been gone for a long time — word balloons on the cover. I don’t want to say they haven’t appeared since the Marvel days — I’d be surprised if that was the case — but they do definitely have a throwback feel. They were the brainchild of editor Jeremy Barlow, who looked at the military storylines of the year and saw an opportunity to begin paying tribute to some of the old Joe Kubert war comics covers. I think they complement Colin Wilson’s great cover well here.
Word balloons used to be an integral part of comics covers (although not, it should be remembered, the Gold Key Disney books, which were always silent) but they fell out of fashion some time in the last decade or so. I think for one thing, Diamond’s advance deadlines for cover art made it hard for publishers to know exactly what they wanted to put on their covers. (And sometimes, they weren’t entirely sure what was in the issue yet!) And some publishers began looking at their cover art as assets to be repurposed later — as posters or trading cards or whatever — and so contextual references topical to the series tended to get replaced by pin-ups that could have been put on any issue. Here, I think we get the best of both worlds, though — the verbiage only appears on the comic book cover when it’s on the shelves, and isn’t part of it in the solicitation or for any other purpose. It’s an experiment, but one worth doing…
- Five points to anyone who can identify every panel-by-panel inspiration from earlier in the series in the open sequence! Note even who’s standing where. It’s all significant…
- For Zadawi, I asked Brian to come up with someone that would really hold a mirror up to Jarael. Not just literally (as she does in this issue), but suggesting what Jarael’s life might have been like if she’d lived in the forbidding recesses of Arkania, rather than Taris. Zadawi’s got a spunky against-all-odds resilience about her, and I think Brian captured that well.
- Rohlan suggests something some may have forgotten: Not every Mandalorian was born a Mandalorian. Especially not now…
- Edessa is also a city in Greece, just in case you’re Googling it now to see what else there is to know…
- I’m so pleased to have brought Walt Kelly’s reference to the “blunked-out eye look” into continuity. Little Orphan Annie? Dark Phoenix? Arkanians? Blunk-eyed, all…
- Brian spent a lot of time in the design of the Arkanian Legacy, and just wait until you see inside. It almost looks like the sign-language letter for “e.” Just call it the claw-with-a-maw…
- Saul Karath’s dispatch to The Admiral’s List recalls again the British Naval Chronicle, much of which (from what I’ve seen) consisted of dispatches coming in from the fleet. It was also a place for captains to commend their crewmembers by name, which is what Karath does here.
- The Tremendous battle group may really be tremendous, but it’s also named after a ship. As with the Courageous, I reached back into the British navy of the Napoleonic era. Both the Tremendous and the Courageaux were 74-gun ships housing 650 men — and probably, some large rats...
This issue has been reprinted in the following collections:
Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 (Marvel, 2015),
available from Amazon.
Star Wars Omnibus: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 1 (Dark Horse, 2013),
available from Amazon.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Vol. 3: Days of Fear, Nights of Anger
(Dark Horse, 2007), available from Amazon.
The issue is also available digitally from Marvel.com.
Be sure to also check my shop for the availability of signed editions.