The Old Republic: The Lost Suns
The Lost Suns, the third arc in the Old Republic tie in comic series, once again shifts to a different character and conflict. Instead of Darth Thanaton's quest for respect amongst his fellow Sith, we follow the adventures of a Republic spy in the midst of Imperial space. As solid as Thanaton's story was, the change in scenery is among the least of this book's problems as a ridiculous new superweapon is introduced, culminating in one of the more rushed and boring conclusions of any Star Wars comic I've yet to encounter. Throw in the very sloppy artwork complete with numerous pencillers to create a notably inconsistent look, and you have a book that is in danger of being overshadowed by Dark Horse's myriad of other Star Wars comics, most of which have a true appreciation for detail and ideas that don't just rely on going bigger and badder than those who came before.
In the Lost Suns, we are introduced to a new protagonist, Theron Shan, and his quest to track down his old mentor, a wandering Jedi named Zho. Along the way, he picks up a strange companion named Taff'ith and uncovers the existence of a top secret Imperial project. Zho has more knowledge of it and we eventually discover the purpose of this new weapon: in a twist that would make noted master of pointless grandiosity Kevin J. Anderson proud, the Empire's masterstroke device is a giant ship capable of harnessing the energy of stars to create new superweapons at an unheard of rate. Theron and company must assemble a plan to destroy it and escape with their lives. Even though it has a few cool ideas, like the Sith Knights- imprisoned Jedi forced to fight for our main antagonist, Darth Mekhis, this book is overall lacking in inspiration and suffers from highly questionable pacing.
The pacing in this book is really weird and one of the more glaring flaws. After a build up that could generously be termed glacial, complete with Theron and company camping out on an isolated rock world and doing very little, our heroes finally get on board the enemy spaceship. Then the story's progress stops and we are treated to a seemingly endless amount of exposition about the superweapon and its ability to create other superweapons at a prodigious rate. Of course, for a book so centered around an eccentric group trying to take down a powerful battle station, the writers could have learned just a thing or two from the film that made this book possible to begin with. Did A New Hope spend ten minutes talking about the technical specifications of the Death Star? No, the image of blowing up an entire planet was more than enough for the viewers to realize just why this thing must be stopped. This stilted setup to the final conclusion is a major reason why it falls apart. It feels very rushed and major events are just brushed over in order to wrap the arc up in a nice tidy 5 issue run. There isn't much life to this final escape sequence, the villain is nobody special so that showdown has no steam, there isn't much that goes against the hastily conceived plans of our heroes, and the limp wristed climax lends further credibility to the notion that this series was poorly plotted with only a modicum of care.
The characters in this book are somewhat interesting and easily the most positive aspect of the book. Theron is a Republic spy with a lineage of a Jedi. The son of Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan, Theron has no ability to use the Force. For reasons not touched upon much in this book, we learn that Theron hasn't seen his mother in decades and in fact when they meet at the end of the book Satele doesn't recognize him. He seems to harbor some level of ill will towards her and the other Jedi, and this idea of a truly failed Force sensitive is a great twist on the usual paradigm of a struggling Force sensitive or a younger and impulsive one with enormous potential. His mentor, Zho, is a senile old Jedi prone to bouts of dementia and incomprehension. Another interesting take on a familiar archetype, Zho has more in common with someone like John Hurt's character in Indiana Jones 4 than he does Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda. As for Taff'ith, a slaver captured by Theron, she is a crazy character that provides a valuable counterpoint to Theron's more serious demeanor. She reads a bit like a cross between Alema Rar and Villie from the Republic comics. Referring to herself in the collective sense and making use of very limited English, the character is just bizarre enough to work. There wasn't a lot of time spent showing why she was worth keeping around, but she was a fun addition nonetheless. While three people is probably a bit too small of a group for the kind of task this bunch was faced with, the dynamics between the members are solid enough to make up for the relative lack of characters.
In The Lost Suns, there is definitely a concerted attempt to capture the art style of the MMO that the series is attempting to promote. As such, you can expect to see a more cartoonish style with very exaggerated faces and garish coloring. It isn't quit the mess that The Threat of Peace was, with its cross hatching disasters and frustrating backgrounds, but it isn't anything more than a forgettable attempt at mimicking the game's design. There are also a handful of changes on pencil duties, and while the style remains similar, there are just enough differences to be distracting and unpleasant. There are also a few embarrassing efforts concerning continuity: Theron's facial augmentations, shown on two or three of these covers (including that of the trade, pictured at the top of my post) plus the newly released novel Annihilation, are nowhere to be found here, and Teff'ith at one point fires a laser blast out of her hands-her rifle was shown in the previous panel but nowhere to be found in the important action shot. It's this kind of sloppiness that really shows you what kind of book The Lost Suns was meant to be, especially on the art front, and it certainly isn't anything to get excited about.
Uninspired is a word that sums up Lost Suns quite nicely. Boring artwork, a story that has been done to death over and over again, particularly in Star Wars, and a totally unexciting, by the numbers conclusion seals this book's fate. If you liked either of the previous volumes of this series, you might consider giving this a go, but there is absolutely nothing here to earn any kind of recommendation. This is one of the most bland and forgettable Star Wars comics I've yet to read, and while it never really gets offensively awful, it also never distinguishes itself from the many books out there that are far more deserving of your time.