Friday, July 6, 2007

Review: Knights of the Old Republic: Flashpoint

Well, the second trade paperback of the Knights of the Old Republic monthly comic series was released on May 16. Somehow, I managed to miss this getting released until the end of June. Frankly, I'm not sure if that's an issue with my own research or if Dark Horse just isn't doing enough to push out knowledge to those of us who have gotten lazy about news with our RSS Readers. I mean, how hard would it be for them to do a new releases RSS Feed filterable via their various zones, and for the monthlies and the trades. Of course, that has nothing to do with the TPB, but rather just my own annoyances.

Anyways, the new TPB is the Flashpoint story arc, written by John Jackson Miller with art by Brian Ching, Dustin Weaver and Harvey Tolibao. If that seems like a lot of artists, it is. The reason for that, is because despite the blurb on Darkhorse's website, the Flashpoint TPB is not a cohesive storyline the same way that Commencement was. But, before we get into that, let's look at the blurb, this is what Darkhorse provides (and what is on the back cover of the trade):

Nearly 4,000 years before the Death Star, fugitive Padawan Zayne Carrick's quest to clear his name for the alleged murder of his fellow Jedi-in-training brings him head to head with the galaxy's most feared fighting force-the Mandalorians!

Along with a petty crook named Gryph and Elbee the grouchy droid, Zayne is a passenger aboard the Last Resort, a renegade ship piloted by the senile genius Camper and his fierce protector Jarael. Together, this motley crew will face kidnappings, hijackings, maniacal scientists, Mandalorian traitors, bumbling bounty-hunting brothers, and a few really big explosions.

Collecting issues #7-12 of the ongoing comic book series Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, this volume launches our lovable heroes into one of the most outrageous and exciting adventures since Luke Skywalker learned the ways of the Force!
Frankly, from that blurb, I was expecting six issues of Mandalorian goodness and fighting. There are actually three stories here, Flashpoint, Homecoming, and Reunion. How these three were broken up via the actual issues, I'm not certain, but in the end it doesn't really matter. All that matters is that the stories are somewhat... disjointed when viewed in relation with each other.

In terms of an overarching plot for the TPB, there's not one. Each of the stories are fairly self-contained and work within their own constructs, but in terms of a trade the collection of all three is lacking. Of course, these stories have to be put into trades at some point, so this works for that as well as anything else could. The only true issue involved there is that this is the second TPB for KotOR, so having what are effectively filler stories this early in the ongoing storyline is well, disheartening.

Anyways, the first of the stories is Flashpoint. This one is a basic rescue the girl plot, and is a perfectly serviceable story as well as a decent follow-up to the Commencement storyline. Plot-wise there is nothing that jumps out at me as being bad. Nothing overly great, but not bad.

The plot for Homecoming is different though. I'm not entirely certain what the plot is, as it seems to be just a vehicle for character development and back story for Zayne's former master and his cohorts.

The plot for the final story, Reunion, is basically a grab the macguffin story. Of course, the macguffin in this case is a person, but that ends up somewhat irrelevant for the purpose of the story here. The plot would have serviced perfectly fine if the macguffin had been a droid or a box of nails.

I guess because this is a monthly comic strip that maybe I should expect everything to be character-focused and driven, yet such things still cause me to intellectually stumble. I see it in Traviss' Sacrifice and Bloodlines and I see it here as well. Maybe I'm just old fashioned and like a strong plot to push character development rather than the other way around. Regardless, what we're left with are three distinctly differing plots, none of which tell a cohesive story for the trade.

For the characters, we're giving the same major players as in Commencement as well as a few new ones introduced here. The first introduction is the Mandalorian, Rohlan Dyre. Rohlan is the Mandalorian traitor listed in the blurb above, though I'm not certain traitor is the correct description of him. Or at least, see it as accurate of an description of him as the fact that the other Mandalorian's consider him something of a coward. Frankly, I'm interested in his character arc, and slightly disturbed that he disappeared at the end of the the Flashpoint story.

The other characters introduced include Lucien Draay's mom, mainly featured in flashbacks, and the Sith War veteran who did his primary training in the Jedi arts. Of special interest here is that the Draay's are Miraluki, at least partially. The writer also goes to great lengths to show just how... miserable a mother Mommy Draay is in relation to Lucien. Frankly, I'm worried that we're going to get something of a twisted villain/good guy here from this character-you know, one of those, "I'm evil because I'm misunderstood" kind of things. This is a comic book! We should be allowed our rambunctious, over-the-top villains, especially this early in the story arc. Again though, that could just be me though, and the fact that I've watched a bit too much magical-girl anime's recently (specifically Magical Lyrical Girl Nanaho) where all the bad guys really aren't bad, just misunderstood from a certain point of view.

To be honest, the character that intrigues me the most here is Jarael. There's something there above and beyond the proposed storyline regarding the murdered padawans. I for one, can't wait to see where the writer is planning to go with her story arc, and I really want to know why Demagol was so interested in the fact that she had elfin ears. Yes, I know it's because she's a half-breed, but, so what? It's not like she's the only half-breed, or only pointy-eared alien out there.

Art wise, the pencils are well done, and I'm enjoying them. Additionally, Dark Horse chose well with the artists they've picked for the various stories, as they all have very similar styles. This made reading the various stories of the TPB easy. Is this spectacular art? No. Is this the best line art I have ever scene. Not really. Would I mind having some of those pages as their original pencils (or even a copy of the original pencils) to hang as framed art on my wall? Without a doubt. The art is... inoffensive? Which I guess is what Dark Horse wants these days, as opposed to the odd, washed out colors and the lack of details from earlier books, such as Dark Empire. Ultimately though, I like the artwork. It does the job it is supposed to do, and that is that it tells the story. Above that, what more can be asked for?

Overall, I'm satisfied with this trade. I'm not upset that I purchased it, but I am glad that I did so with my Books-a-Million bonus value card. Frankly, it's not the best trade that I've read, and the lack of an overarching plot is definitely felt, but as I said, in the end I did not feel bad about spending nearly $17 on the book. The problems inherent in the multi-storyline per trade are not enough to make me actively dislike this particular trade, and if I were rating each individual story arc, then they would all get high marks. Unfortunately, I'm rating the trade as a whole, therefore the use of multiple stories here adversely affects the rating... which is sad because taken separately all these stories are really good. It's only when they're shoved together into the trade that we get this feeling of, well... disappointment.

In the end, I give it a 2.0 out of 4.

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