The glory days, they ain’t what they used to be.In Star Wars: A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about a more civilized age, and that age is shown in the long-running Knights of the Old Republic games, comics and novels. And with the arrival of the MMORPG Star Wars; The Old Republic later this month, fans are being taken once more into the breach – and long-time Star Wars comic writer John Jackson Miller is coming along with you.
Following up from the four-year and 50 issue series Knights of the Old Republic which concluded last year, Miller is returning to that era in the all new limited series Knights of the Old Republic – War. Once again, the peace-loving former Jedi Zayne Carrick is at the center of it, being forcibly drafted into the Republic’s war effort against the warlike Mandalorians. If you thought Boba Fett with his piece-meal Mandalorian armor was something, seeing these warriors at their height will give you a new understanding of the fear they bring.
Set to debut this January, John Jackson Miller spoke with Newsarama for the exclusive first look at the front lines of Knights of the Old Republic – War.Newsarama: So John, what can you tell us about this new Knights of the Old Republic series, War
John Jackson Miller: Knights of the Old Republic – War is set nearly four thousand years before the movies, in a time when the Republic, while vibrant and defended by many Jedi, is under attack. The Mandalorians, armor-wearing nomads — like the later Boba Fett — have spent the past year warring with the Republic on the Outer Rim, and they’re starting to inch ever closer to the “bright center of the galaxy” that Luke once talked about.
We saw the first shots of the war in the first Knights of the Old Republic comics series, which remains in print in nine trade paperback volumes from Dark Horse. When the Republic Navy failed to fend off the onslaught, a splinter movement of Jedi under a rogue knight named Revan joined the cause. Now, a full year after the Mandalorian War began, enough Jedi are volunteering to serve aboard its warships that the Republic is hoping for more of an even fight.
Dorjander Kace is one such Jedi — and as War opens, he and his companions are in the vanguard of what the Republic hopes will be its first major counterattack against the Mandalorians. But even Jedi can’t fight a war on their own — they need an army. Which is where Zayne Carrick comes in, unhappily for him...
Nrama: So you’re bringing back Zayne Carrick, star of the original Knights of the Old Republic comic series. Where does he fit in with the lineage of Star Wars heroes?Miller: Zayne always fit well into the tradition of Star Wars heroes in the sense that he never set out to be a hero, but always rose to the occasion when called upon. Alan Dean Foster’s line in the original Star Wars novelization was “They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally, they became heroes.” Well, Zayne has been in the wrong place at the wrong time most of his life — and his luck doesn’t improve any for this series!
When we met Zayne in the previous title, he was a lackluster Jedi student who got tangled up in a great conspiracy. It took all his efforts — and the help of his new con-artist friends — to clear his name. Zayne emerged from that first series as a strident defender of the underdog — steadfastly refusing to use deadly force just because it’s convenient. As Zayne sees it, neither the Jedi nor Republic officials are wise enough to know who should live and who should die, so he’s certainly not going to kill anyone.
But now, with Knights of the Old Republic – War, he may have no choice. And if he thinks he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time when the story starts — well, he hasn’t seen anything yet!
Nrama: When we last saw Zayne, he has overcome his challenges and was aiming for a relatively quiet life with Jarael. How does he get drawn back in, and where is Jarael in all of this?
Miller: As our story opens, a few weeks have elapsed since the previous series ended. Assuming that his adventures were over, he decided to take a breather by visiting his family on his homeworld of Phaeda. Unfortunately, he never even gets out of the spaceport there — as induction agents identify him, correctly, as eligible to be drafted into Phaeda’s militia. He isn’t a Jedi, and he is a citizen.
Now, the Republic doesn’t have a proper army in this period; the Grand Army of the Republic comes a lot later, with Palpatine. Rather, it relies heavily on member and allied planets, like Phaeda, to provide its ground-pounders. Carth Onasi from the video games started his storied career with his planet’s militia; Zayne, unfortunately, gets into the wrong end of the business — the infantry!
And that’s where we find Zayne as the story opens: hitting the beach with his fellow soldiers during the first attack, serving with the forces attached to Jedi Master Dorjander Kace. Zayne doesn’t have a friend in sight; he’s completely on his own, and forced to rely on his own skills and judgment. Because he is alone, we’ll learn more about Jarael and other familiar cast members as we go along. But a familiar face isn’t necessarily a friendly one, as Zayne also finds!Nrama: The fighting is already underway when the series starts, but what are the Republic and the Mandalorians at war over?
Miller: The Mandalorians picked this fight — in part, because that’s what Mandalorians do. They’re a movement, not a single species. Most Mandalorians believe that life is about constantly testing themselves against their rivals -- finding their inner potentials and surpassing their limits. The Republic is the biggest kid on the galactic block, so it’s only natural that the Mandalorians would find it a challenge worth taking on.
The prose novel, Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan, just released, deals more directly with exactly why Mandalore turned the Mandalorians against the Republic to begin with — it was the big secret that Rohlan Dyre was searching in vain for during our previous Knights of the Old Republic series. But as we show, they don’t take a whole lot of prodding. The Jedi embarrassed the Mandalorians a generation earlier in the Sith War, and quite a few warriors are still stinging over that. And Mandalorians remain very suspicious of and superstitious about people who can use the Force. That includes not just Jedi like Kace — but also common soldiers with Force talents, like Zayne.
Nrama: Most people know the Mandalorians for the ties Boba Fett has to them. Can you describe them more for us?
Miller: Well, they’re not just the bad guys. They don’t think they’re the bad guys at all, in fact! The Mandalorians are nomads who are especially adept at using technology, and they can very quickly exploit the worlds they conquer. There are archaic elements to their settlements, artistically — you’ll see banners and skull emblems and such — but also, there’s everything they’ve ever scavenged and refitted for their own use.
One of the issues we highlighted during the previous series is that there’s a tension between the older-guard Mandalorians, who are traditional and honorable, and the new Neo-Crusader movement that Mandalore has cultivated, which has less of an aversion to trickery. We see that at work here — though I shouldn’t get into specifics. It’s enough to say that we do try to provide some new ideas about the Mandalorians, and how they see themselves in this era.
Nrama: It’s no coincidence this is coming out the same time as the MMOPRG Star Wars: The Old Republic. How does this series and that game tie in with one another?Miller: It isn’t a coincidence in the sense that The Old Republic is in some ways an outgrowth of the success of the Knights of the Old Republic video games and setting — and we’ve just seen it tie backwards to the Knights of the Old Republic era via the Revan novel that just came out. There’s a whole lot in the Knights of the Old Republic era we haven’t seen yet — we’ve only scratched the surface of the Mandalorian Wars — and so it makes sense to keep developing this part of the timeline.
Players in the The Old Republic beta have seen some familiar names from the Knights of the Old Republic comics series, including Carrick Station, an important hub. No comment on whether it’s related to the Zayne Carrick we know, or any of his relatives, past or future; it’s a pretty big galaxy, and he has a big family. Certainly the Zayne that we last saw in the comics was unlikely to be honored by the Republic for anything — he’d just been a wanted criminal not too long before that. We’ll see in this storyline whether the Republic’s view of him improves — or gets worse!
Nrama: The Old Republic Era is a highly regarded timeframe in the Star Wars mythos; how would you describe it to someone new who’s only seen the movies?
Nrama: One of the quotes about Star Wars when it made its first appearance at San Diego Comic-Con in the 1970s was that it depicted a futuristic universe in which everything wasn’t brand new. The technology on Tatooine wasn’t fancy; the galaxy had a lived-in look. Well, in the Knights of the Old Republic era, many things are still shiny and new. We’re in the period that Obi-Wan told us about, where the Jedi keep order in the galaxy; and unlike in my Knight Errant novel and comics series (which continues with a third arc in 2012), the Sith are very hard to find. So it’s something of a brighter place to live — until, of course, the Mandalorian Wars kick off a whole series of tribulations.
But because the technology, culture, and concepts are basically the same as during the movies, the Knights of the Old Republic era is ideally accessible for the new reader. Artist Andrea Mutti gives us a world that we recognize. And with War, we tried to tell a story that built on some of the characters and notions from our previous series — editor David Marshall, colorist Michael Atiyeh, and letterer Michael Heisler all return — without requiring any knowledge of that past title. We do think new readers will be interested in seeing Zayne’s earlier adventures, but they’re not prerequisite at all. Zayne may not think wars settle anything, but War for us is a fresh starting point.
I’m very happy to have the chance to tell another Zayne story. Between Knight Errant and Lost Tribe of the Sith, my prose paperback release from Del Rey for next summer, I’ve been hip-deep in Sith for a long while. Things may not be any less dangerous for the galaxy in Knights of the Old Republic- War, but at least Zayne has a sunny outlook. Those Sith never smile unless it’s to cackle!