Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - Commencement

(2006) John Jackson Miller, Brian Ching & Travel Foreman, Titan Books, 14.99, trdpbk, 148pp, ISBN 1-845-76371-8

What's the distinction between good and bad? This question, which runs right through Knights of the Old Republic, is quite a daring one for a series that has always drawn a clear line between good and evil. As we all know, there is a light side and a dark side to the Force: the dark side is undeniably bad, the light side is nobly good. So how about muddying the waters a bit...? KotOR follows the Jedi Padawan Zayne Carrick on his journey to prove himself innocent of murdering his fellow students, a crime actually committed by their instructors. The obvious parallels with Anakin Skywalker's fall from grace aside, Zayne's story has him face questions about the Force that push the basic morality of Star Wars - can you do bad for the sake of doing good? Does the end justify the means? The truth is that there is a pretty clear binary opposition in Star Wars that leaves you either on the light side or the dark side, but KotOR does play very close to where the line is drawn between the two.

The story itself is somewhat thin: a series of action sequences carried forward mostly by the inept Zayne and his crooked sidekick, Marn Heiroglyph. It is nicely illustrated, very accurately portraying the world of the most recent Star Wars films, and keeping the action pretty busy. The mood of the story is also reflected very nicely in the contrast between light and dark in the artwork. But few of the characters are developed enough beyond their stereotypes - snivelling conmen, sexy and mysterious mercs, crazed genius engineers, etc. Their motivation all too often seems forced by the story rather than being believable in any sense. It is a very different idea for Star Wars, and the collection ends on an ambiguous note that makes you wonder how the rest of the series will play these themes out further. Zayne leaves us with the impression that he may indeed be taking the path to the dark side; perhaps may have been driven there by the desire of his instructors to do good. The distinction between the light and dark side of the Force is pretty simplistic, but still an interesting spin on Star Wars' morality. If it weren't for a fairly directionless plot, and some one-dimensional characters, this would be a promising start to a new series.

Peter Thorley

See also on this site Inside the Worlds of Star Wars, Star Wars: Empire vol. 4 and Star Wars: Visionaries.

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