Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War

Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War 

Tales of the Jedi is a six issue miniseries that picks up right where the previous collection in this series, Dark Lords of the Sith, left off. Released in July 1996, it was later collected in the Tales of the Jedi Omnibus, Volume 2.

                Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War is the penultimate movement of the story of light vs. dark that started four arcs ago. This is technically the conclusion though, as the only story left is the epilogue, Redemption. In The Sith War, Nomi's ascension to a powerful Jedi Knight is completed, while Exar Kun and Ulic Qel Droma's descent to the dark side is finalized. Plagued by many of the same issues that have haunted nearly the entirety of this series, The Sith War is a massive spectacle packed with action and conflict, but it finds itself lacking in art and compelling characters outside of the three or four most important to the plot.
                Early in this book the stage is set for the epic showdown later: Ulic gains the respect and combat prowess of the Mandalorians after defeating their leader in single combat, while Exar goes looking for more recruits among the Jedi. All of this is a bit hastily explained, particularly the Mandalorians, but it is much better than just having a huge army appear out of nowhere. We are even treated to a few scenes featuring Nomi Sunrider to check in on her emotional state. The book is well paced starting off, with a nice mix of action and dialogue, and it is a nice breather to prepare for the rapid fire remainder of the comic.
                The rest of the book is basically all conflict, with heaps of Jedi on Sith dueling. This is definitely a wild ride to end the long running saga of Nomi and Ulic on, even if the main villains are a bit bland. Ulic's motivations have never been particularly strong, but with his actions here it takes on a whole new level. I sincerely hope Redemption can salvage something of this character, because his only purpose is to show how someone could fall to the dark side in the pre-Episode I world. Unfortunately everything about the character's confused motivations and hare brained plots bring back unpleasant memories of prequel-era Anakin Skywalker. He basically turns evil for evils sake, as does Exar Kun, but at least he is a bit more forthright about it. I still like Nomi as a character, though I wish she was more of the focal point of this series. As it is she was pushed to the side a bit as Ulic gained prominence, and knocked all the way down to third billing with the introduction of Exar Kun. She is a fantastic female character and a more realistic figure than either of those two, so it was very disappointing that she only had a few scenes to star in. This series hasn't been great at developing its large cast of supporting Jedi, either. While the designs for most of them were enjoyable (something about the eyeless Human offshoot species known as the Miraluka really interests me,) they never develop as characters and the most we ever learn about them concerns their physical characteristics. They might spout off a random line of exposition or cheesy catch phrase here or there, but there is nothing to give Nomi's fellow Jedi any life.
                As far as random disappointments, I do have quite a few. I hated the Massassi warriors. They were a mystery in the lore of Star Wars for so long, known only for building the huge temples seen in the Yavin scenes in A New Hope, and this book definitely leads me to think that they should have stayed that way. They are nothing more than big dumb brutes manipulated by Exar Kun into doing his will. There isn't anything interesting about any facet of them, and I would have much rather had these creatures as a mystery than as yet another primitive brutish species. I'm also not thrilled with how a few of the duels turned out. Exar's duel with Ood Bnar promptly ends when Ood turns himself into a giant tree to protect a few old lightsabers. The character would later be used to no purpose in the Dark Empire books. Another duel between Exar and Vodo Siosk Baas was far too short and seemed to underrate the long standing Jedi Master's power. The power of the dark side is a major theme for much of this book, as the Jedi on the light side are pushed aside and handily defeated until the tide needs to turn. I'm not a huge fan of this because it undervalues the power of the light and the strength of the various Jedi masters. The Mandalorians were also pretty lame. I guess we get some insights into their culture but they certainly aren't as well defined as they would later be. On the other hand, it was nice to see the Basilisk war droids, as poorly colored as they were.
An example of some of the cheesier dialogue in this book, plus the horrible coloring.
                Coloring is my main concern with this book. For the most part, it is a very ugly and drab affair, particularly when we see the Mandalorians. These legendary warriors are pictured for one of the first times in this book, and they couldn't have been much worse. Their armor and war droids are colored with the same drab shade of brown/grey, and the various ships aren't much better. Everything has a very washed out feel to it, including the terrible looking Yavin forests and even the lightsabers in a handful of scenes. Using only one or two shades to color things doesn't help, but the designs that call for an all brown suit of armor need to take some of the blame too. 
Mandalore's color scheme was a serious eye sore.
                That isn't to say everything is bad though, I liked some of the more dramatic facial expressions and there is a nice amount of diversity in the cast that leads to very distinctive battle sequences (most of which are still hampered by this series' signature text boxes.) There is a nice variety to the action scenes too: plenty of individual combat, full on brawls, and even a scene or two that is more in line with "conventional warfare." The penciling by and large was very nice, pulling off some praise worthy tricks with shading and texture, but too often it falls prey to the terribly washed out colors. This book continues the tradition of putting narrative boxes all over the place though, which is a shame because they rarely ever contribute anything and more often totally get in the way of the art.
                As a conclusion to a story that has been ongoing for several arcs now, The Sith War comes more as a relief than anything. It is good to finally put this long winded story to rest and it is handled with an acceptable level of skill, giving us enough closure to make the whole thing satisfying but leaving a few threads more ambiguous for future debate/revisiting. Don't buy it for the art, but if you've been engaged with the story to this point, The Sith War won't let you down.
Final Score

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