Tales of the Jedi: Redemption
Redemption was originally released as a five part story from July to November 1998. The trade paperback was released in 2001 and it has been more recently collected in 2008's Tales of the Jedi, Volume 2 omnibus.
This is it: the last arc of one of Dark Horse's first stabs at a monthly Star Wars comic. Redemption doesn't fall prey to the surprise cancellation axe and leave readers wanting, like some of the more recent titles have done, instead it is clearly an epilogue to the last couple of arcs and a fantastic one at that. Despite a second story that doesn't go anywhere, Redemption's main conflict and greatly improved artwork make it a surprisingly strong high note for this consistently inconsistent series to go out on.
Most of the book's plot comes from the interaction between Nomi Sunrider's daughter, Vima, and exiled former Jedi Ulic Qel-Droma. Ulic feels a deep shame for his role in the Sith War that took place over the previous two arcs. He has lost his connection to the Force and seems resigned to live out his days in isolation. Vima, the rebellious young daughter of legendary Jedi Nomi Sunrider, learns of this man and decides she wants to learn more about being a Jedi from him. While her motives for doing this are kind of odd, something about her mother not teaching her at a fast enough pace, the results are nothing short of spectacular. Vima and Ulic quickly bond and teach one another important things about the nature of the Force, being a Jedi, forgiveness, and redemption. Although it suffers from occasionally heavy handed writing and a bit of the series' infamous reliance on exposition, for the most part this is a fantastically written book that may just be writer Kevin J. Anderson's finest work ever.
However, another story is also thrown in to mostly waste our time. Sylvar, the mate of one of the Jedi killed in the last book, is still reeling from the man's death at Ulic's hands. She spends this entire book in what is clearly a dark-side induced fury, slaughtering things and snapping at people for no apparent reason. To try to quell her demons, she travels with series regular Tott Doneeta to his homeworld of Ryloth. Visiting Ryloth during this time period is a highlight, but the rest of this arc is mostly irredeemable drivel. It is beyond predictable and not all that entertaining. Sylvar is a whirlwind of poorly written rage, and those around her look quite idiotic for failing to recognize just how bad of a shape she is in. The endgame produces more predictable results for this character, and for all the role she had in the final scenes of this book, it would've been far more helpful to just scrap this filler story line and leave this book as a concise and powerful message concerning the magic of second chances.
Redemption marks the end of Tales of the Jedi's long standing art issues. While not every arc was a disaster, most were hampered by very cheap coloring that felt like it came out of the previous decade of comic books, and cheesy designs that were more often than not bland rip offs of Egyptian architecture. Instead, Redemption brings the art into a more modern place and gives the book a memorable sendoff. The action, what little of it there is, looks fantastic and Ulic's soulless stare is captured perfectly. He truly does seem like a man who has lost the driving energy behind his life. Vima is also a great looking character for most of this book. She has a more bubbly and positive energy intended to directly counter Ulic's brooding vibes. As such, she is conveyed in very bright colors and seems to always have a smile on her face. There are some issues with her eyes, and a few scenes where her demeanor looks positively ridiculous given the circumstances, but otherwise this book very thoughtfully renders this newly introduced character.
The good news doesn't stop there though. Sylvar and Nomi both benefit from extensive makeovers that better define their characters. Sylvar transforms from a scantily clad Amazonian jungle warrior into a more appropriately modest, civilized Jedi Knight with features that are more Elvin than werewolf-lite. Nomi's weird hairdo is still in place, but at least the art team in this book manages to streamline the look. Instead of flipping back and forth between two different designs, this book figures out which one it wants and sticks with it. Ulic's enclave looks quite foreboding and there is a nice amount of variety in the settings as well. We get scenes on ancient Coruscant, a jungle planet, arid Ryloth, and the ice world where Ulic makes his home. In taking a more modern perspective to this series, drastically updating the production values and moving away from the generic and thoughtless designs that have plagued this series in the past, the art in Redemption manages to be one of the few instances in the entire Tales of the Jedi run where the pictures actually enhance the story.
In hindsight, Redemption isn't the no holds barred bit of comic perfection that I remember it being, but despite being overwritten in some places and featuring a truly ridiculous sub plot, it is nonetheless a perfect finale to the up and down Tales of the Jedi series and an excellent portrayal of a different kind of Star Wars family.