Friday, June 29, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Threat of Peace

The Old Republic: The Threat of Peace 

The Threat of Peace collects the second story arc in the Old Republic tie in comics. The original three issues were printed in 2010 after previously being released on the internet. This trade was released in mid-2011.

            Threat of Peace is the second of three comic book arcs that tie in to the events of the Old Republic videogame. Unlike its predecessor, Blood of the Empire, it lacks focus and jumps back and forth far too often, diluting the plot and hindering any character development that may have otherwise occurred. Additionally, the art is a substantial step down from the previous series, and ultimately Threat of Peace is a disappointing and confused story.
             The book starts off well, with a comic adaptation of the infamous Treaty of Alderaan and Sith destruction of the Jedi Temple. Unfortunately even this exciting event is dulled by the fact that instead of actually getting in on the action, we mostly just watch characters like Satele Shan react to it. While I'm glad that the comic didn't just give us the same depiction seen in the other Old Republic media, it is still a disappointing setup that is well below the quality of the Deceived novel or the Old Republic trailer featuring the same events. From here the narrative quickly takes a nosedive as the plot becomes increasingly complicated and deviates from the original course, trying to do far too many things at once.
            After this opening scene, the writers are guilty of trying to juggle too many things at one time, especially for a comic book. We jump between Satele's ongoing doubts about the standoff, to two men on the ground on Coruscant, to a bounty hunter employed by the Republic, to some Sith rivalry stuff, to an utterly useless "underworld" segment concerning some random information broker. The comic refuses to let any scenes soak in or give greater importance to any one element of the plot, as the crucial events are glazed over in favor of the ability to quickly cut away to a different character. The various threads do intertwine a bit, including at the climax, but for most of the story we are reading about completely unrelated adventures featuring a random cast of unknown characters. Even when the characters come together for the big finale, the undercooked stories that have led to this point do no favors in establishing tension or interest in the outcome.
            This is a story better suited to a prose novel, or even a longer comic. There just isn't enough space to fit everything in, and as a result, the actions of the primary antagonist are completely unexplored. Additionally, the various characters, many of whom show up for the Old Republic videogame (Braden, Baras, Tavus, Satele, Angral, etc.) aren't expanded on at all, despite the fact that this should have been a key feature of the comic. Instead we get what amounts to name dropping that fails to deliver meaningful set up stories for the game.
            Characters end up suffering even more than the scattershot plot threads as a result of the hectic pacing. Our protagonist, Satele Shan seems like an interesting character with her potentially dangerous mixture of passion and impatience, but she barely develops in this comic. Instead, she is thrown into a half baked, incomprehensible romance with Tavus, a Republic trooper. The romance comes out of nowhere as they had only a scene or two together before they were ready to vacation together after the mission was over. The rest of the characters fare even worse, acting more as random placeholders for the action than proper characters. Jedi Master Dar'Nala is an intriguing character with potentially strong motivations, but we never get to delve into what is driving her to do what she does throughout the story. In fact, most of this character's actions and behind the scenes manipulations are never revealed, and she ends up being a totally unwelcome surprise in the book's final act. The same can be said of the rivalry between Darths Baras and Angral, as all we learn about the two is that they seem to dislike each other rather strongly. No origins are given and the two could be interchangeable outside of their physical features.
            Art is a weak element of Threat of Peace, featuring bold line art and sloppy, disproportionate faces and vehicle designs. Everyone's eyes look really small, and facial expressions are limited to pain and something that might be curiosity. Of all the characters, only Satele looks halfway decent in most of her depictions, but even then she looks not one bit like the character from The Old Republic videogame. Backgrounds and buildings look awful, and characters like Tavus drastically change appearance from panel to panel. It is a cheap style adequate for a free webcomic (the method in which the comic was originally published) but ill advised for a full blown, magnified trade paperback.
            The only real positives are the occasionally creative panel arrangements, and the above average saber dueling that manages to capture movement and energy quite well. We don't get to see a lot of dueling here, and most of it is over within two or three panels, but the lightsabers look really good and the dramatic backgrounds in these scenes help create a nice sense of action.
            While Threat of Peace does explore the background of a few important characters from the games, ultimately it is too choppy to really enjoy. Not to mention the key event, the Sith invasion of Coruscant, is handled much better in the prose novel Deceived. Stick with that and stay far away from this sloppy and rushed comic series.
Final Score

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