Outlander, published in April of 2001, collects issues 7 through 12 of the Republic ongoing series, originally published between June and November, 1999.
Ki-Adi Mundi’s adventures continue in Outlander, the second arc of the Republic ongoing series. The Cerean Jedi finds himself returning to Tatooine, the stage of last arc’s climactic battle, this time to discover the truth behind the recent reemergence of a Jedi believed to be long dead. Along the way he will fend off the harsh climate of the desert world, vicious Hutt gangsters, and plenty of local wildlife. This was one of the first comic books I ever read, but have the years (fourteen of them, to be exact!) been kind to this humble journey?
This book is a great sampling of all that Tatooine has to offer. As Ki-Adi Mundi makes his way through the various hazards the desert world has to offer, we get to see a little bit of everything that makes it one of the most commonly seen locales in the Star Wars universe. The dynamic between the various peoples of the planet- Jawas, Tusken Raiders, Hutts, and common folk- is explored in a way that few other stories have bothered to do, and we are also introduced to the local wildlife, which is about as deadly as you’d expect. As a study of Tatooine and its inhabitants, this book is an unqualified success.
At face value, the story is a simple one. Ki-Adi Mundi is tasked with finding Sharad Hett, a long-lost Jedi Master recently resurfaced on the desert world. Some bumps in the road arrive courtesy of Aurra Sing and her Hutt employers, a vile group of gangsters with internal politics all their own. The dynamic between Sing and the Hutt crime bosses helps make the conclusion wildly unpredictable and suitably chaotic, as the two most powerful players try to come out on top of the Tusken situation.
The Hutts and their underlings aren’t the only dangers that the Jedi must face, as there are also appearances by womp rats and krayt dragons to make things even more interesting, not to mention the challenge of gaining acceptance among the Tuskens. Even though the story is simple and about as small scale as can be (until the end, atleast) it works thanks to a likeable and engaging protagonist.
Ki-Adi Mundi is once again the star of the show, and he’s becoming quite the lead character. There are plenty of efforts made to show how he differs from the average Jedi, both in terms of practicality (having multiple wives and children) and personality (a self-depreciating humor sometimes masked by a righteous sense of anger.) His interactions with Jabba the Hutt make for some of the more emotionally loaded segments of the book, and as the character becomes more fleshed out it becomes even easier to take this journey as the epic that it is. We sympathize with Ki when he is betrayed, stranded in the middle of the desert, and forced to fight a Krayt Dragon alone because he has earned it, not because the narrative tells us to.
This book isn’t just a good portrayal of Ki, however. Aurra Sing does most of the narrating, and this story is one of her best character moments ever. We get to see a great many sides of her character, from the brash arrogance to the seductive charmer to the unhinged lunatic. A few scenes meant to build up her character, most notably one involving a Trandoshan in a burning cantina, fall a bit flat, but her narration is solid and there are some great displays of her combat prowess, enough to make this one of the definitive arcs for the character.
The new characters, Sharad and A’Sharad Hett, are interesting more because of who they are than what they do. The concept of a Tusken Raider Jedi just sounds like awesome fun, and it will be interesting to see where A’Sharad goes as he develops as a padawan. Meanwhile, Sharad’s wizened old Jedi routine is spiced up by his drive to assist the Tusken people in their crusade against the Hutts. It’s not something we’ve seen before and it’s a great way to cover up the otherwise bland nature of these characters.
Artwork in this book is for the most part competent. The final battle scene is absolutely incredible, and the swordplay in general is quite excellent. Similarly, the art teams do a very nice job of showing the different aliens and cultural icons that represent the planet of Tatooine. Facial expressions are for the most part appropriate, and although there is little to wow readers outside of the huge climactic engagement, the art is for the most part complimentary to the story. Unfortunately, there is a rather large concern with the cohesiveness and unity behind the artwork.
Undoubtedly the biggest problem with the art in this book is the staggering amount of cooks in the kitchen. Four pencillers worked on this book, and only one did consecutive installments (Al Rio for parts five and six.) This includes the first issue, which involved two different pencillers. Three inkers were also involved in what was merely a six part series. As you might imagine, this book has severe consistency issues and lacks a streamlined look. Granted, the artists aren’t that varied, and there was clearly some effort to keep things cohesive, but it’s still discernable to all but the newest comic book readers that there are many hands at work here, and the overall vision suffers greatly for this. One fight scene is interpreted by two different pencillers and the results are disastrous. There is little continuity in positioning and the species of many of the antagonists, even though it is a small scale fight scene that features no more than seven baddies, are different from one artist to the next.
Additional characterization details, like an inability for all but one of the artists to draw an Aurra Sing that doesn’t look like a man and actually has some measure of sexuality, and a lack of agreement on what Ki-Adi Mundi’s facial hair is supposed to look like, further adds to the confusion and sullies the quality of this book. With one artist’s unified vision, the art would’ve been great because there are very few actual flaws beyond low production value with some of the coloring (particularly anything involving the Krayt Dragon,) but as it is there is just too much going on to look and feel like a real work of art.
Outlander is a fun but nonessential story featuring a side of Tatooine that has rarely been seen despite the astonishing number of stories set on that planet so far from the center of the universe. It is a very solid story for Aurra Sing and Ki-Adi Mundi fans, and features the appearance of a Force Sensitive Tusken Raider, a concept too cheesy to not be brilliant fun, and one with plenty of promise in future arcs. Art issues aside, just about anyone who picks this book up will enjoy it on some level.