Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement

Knights of the Old Republic: Commencement  


Commencement is the first arc of the ongoing Knights of the Old Republic comic book series. Released in late 2006, this trade paperback collects issues 0-6 of the series.

                Commencement, the first arc of the ongoing series Knights of the Old Republic, is an entertaining, action packed tale with a light undertone not seen in many recent Star Wars releases. Mixing comedic moments with straight up action, wrapped around an initially intriguing mystery, Commencement is a fantastic opening arc with very strong characters. Despite a bad resolution to the hook and some terrible artwork for the fifth portion of the story, Commencement is a resounding success.
                Despite sharing a title with the popular video game by Bioware, Commencement is a totally self-sufficient work. It is set a decade or two before the game, and the only thing it has in common thus far is a cameo by a minor character from the game and the planet of Taris. The book details the coming of age of a young and relatively incompetent Jedi apprentice, Zayne Carrick. Zayne is constantly being looked down on by the masters, and his constant mistakes have caused him to question whether or not he will be promoted with the rest of his friends. Zayne manages to mess up simply getting to the meeting on time, though this time his tardiness actually saves his life. His masters have slain every one of his friends, and he is next.
                The rest of the book sees Zayne on the run from the Taris law enforcement and the people he once considered to be his guardians and teachers. He hooks up with a motley crew of individuals to help him in his quest, including Gryph, a con artist that Zayne has been trying to capture to no avail, and Jarael, a deadly Arkanian warrior. Much of the book's charm comes from Zayne's interaction with these two characters. Gryph is often laugh out loud funny in his attempts to belittle Zayne and improve his own position, and Jarael's tough exterior and sarcastic remarks bring to mind both Han Solo and Princess Leia. The book relies heavily on humor to carry an otherwise lackluster plot, which is perfectly acceptable because writer John Jackson Miller has a great ear for entertaining dialogue.
                When the book tries to get relatively serious and focus on the deaths of Zayne's friends, it falters just a bit. The premise is a strange one, though initially it works well as a mystery for Zayne and company to figure out. After we are treated to the big reveal, the whole concept of purging an entire class of Jedi apprentices feels very contrived and pointless. They actually decide to kill all their students based on a vision that showed a powerful Sith wearing the same red spacesuits that the trainees were wearing at the time. This seems to overlook the fact that the masters were wearing the same suits at that time (early prediction: the Sith ends up being one of the masters) and it seems to go against the tenets of rehabilitation that the Jedi tend to show. It also ignores one of Yoda's important teachings: "Always in motion is the future." The fact that this is done so hastily and with very little consideration makes the Jedi masters look like imbeciles and the lack of time spent in their point of view doesn't do their decision any favors. This could easily be fleshed out in future arcs, but after Commencement it seems to be quite implausible.
                Thankfully the book is more about Zayne and company than the case of Zayne's dead friends. The book is spectacular fun when it stays away from the inexplicable hook, allowing us to revel in the enjoyable dynamic Zayne shares with his new companions instead of poking holes in the poorly thought out twist. If you can ignore the dumb resolution, the book is an action packed and entertaining affair with few flaws. Even the art manages to impress despite being a style I'm usually uncomfortable with.
This isn't the most realistic comic you will ever see, but that doesn't mean it isn't a fun one.
                For five of the six segments of the book, the art is a worthy compliment to the rest of the story. The script's comedy works well with the wide range of facial expressions and physical comedy to create a light hearted comic despite the somewhat troubling premise. Everyone is drawn with a great degree of competence and the art style perfectly fits the story despite being a bit more cartoonish than I would usually prefer. On the technical side the book is lacking a bit by comparison. There are a few ship designs to enjoy but nothing too spectacular. The same can be said of Taris, which looks nearly identical to its counterpart from the near future as seen in the Knights of the Old Republic video game (which in turn looked far too much like Coruscant.) Fans of Taris will be delighted to see more of the planet's architecture and society detailed here, but it didn't do anything for me. The book is a bit thin on fight scenes, generally sticking to frantic escape sequences and character interactions. These scenes benefit from excellent dialogue and rapid fire pacing ensuring that the action doesn't overstay its welcome. Luckily there is a great degree of variety and humor to be found in nearly every scene, so the format never gets stale and it isn't so much of a concern that the book isn't as big on action as many of its contemporaries. 
The fill in artist is brutally bad.
                Even with the art being so strong for most of the story, the fill in artist for the fifth segment of the story manages to drop the bar quite a bit in terms of quality. The characters look far too cartoonish, and Gryph looks nothing like he did in the comics leading up to this part. There isn't really anything good to say about the art for this part. Despite being reasonably similar in style to the rest of the comic, it is several steps below where quality is concerned. Thankfully the original artist returns to close out the book and submits yet another superb chapter of complimentary artwork.
                Knights of the Old Republic is an unconventional comic that manages to simultaneously pay homage to many Star Wars tropes while also breaking (mostly) new ground. A charming take on the universe without the more grim elements that Star Wars has been keen to utilize more recently, Knights of the Old Republic is a great comic for those who want something a little different out of the genre.  
Final Score

1 comment:

  1. Nice review! I read this one yesterday, and as a long time Star Wars fan, but a newcomer to the comics it definitely left me craving for more