Omnibus: Tales of the Jedi: Volume 1
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release date: October 17, 2007
Designed to gather novel-sized stories and material never before collected, the Star Wars Omnibus Collections are perfect for any fan looking to find a long, cohesive story. With an average of 400 pages in each release, Dark Horse has provided an economical way for readers to experience stories from all the different Star Wars eras.
Omnibus: Tales of the Jedi: Volume 1 takes place thousands of years before not just the Star Wars films, but everything else in the Expanded Universe. These are the earliest stories that have been told in the Star Wars universe, and they set the stage for every major story that follows – from Knights of the Old Republic and The Old Republic, all the way to the stories of Darth Bane. These are stories that are rich in both lore and characters, with something for every fan to pick up and enjoy.
The Golden Age of the Sith:
Taking place 5,000 years before the Star Wars films, The Golden Age of the Sith is the earliest story told in the Expanded Universe. Fans might be surprised to learn that Kevin J. Anderson wrote this story, and it just might be some of his finest work to date. The artwork looks great, and serves as the perfect accompaniment to a well-crafted story, looking both incredibly detailed and also making the Star Wars universe look very old – which it should, given the time period. The essential backstory for this time period is told through perfectly acceptable means, and never comes across as overwhelming or forced to the reader. This is paramount, because of how far in the past this story takes place. In fact, The Golden Age of the Sith is the first time that the Jedi and Sith come into conflict following the original schism between the Jedi and the Dark Jedi. Whereas the Jedi have worked tirelessly to help the Republic grow and expand, the Dark Jedi enslaved the Sith species and transformed the small civilization into an expansive Empire. In perhaps a throwback to our own culture, everything in this time period seems heavily influenced by Egyptian architecture, and Coruscant looks vastly different than in other time periods as it, too, is in the process of becoming a city-wide planet. To make matters more intriguing, this story takes place in a time when hyperspace routes have yet to really be mapped out. Most of the galaxy is an unknown quantity, and it makes sense that the Sith Empire could exist without anyone else knowing about it.
In essence, The Golden Age of the Sith is the introduction to what will eventually become the Great Hyperspace War. As the title suggests, the story focuses more on the Sith then their Republic and Jedi counterparts, and it really works well in the story. The main Sith character is Naga Sadow, while the main Jedi character is Odan-Urr, two characters that Expanded Universe fans have likely heard mentioned before. In fact, The Golden Age of the Sith is a treasure trove of Expanded Universe material, as characters like the ancient Sith, Marka Ragnos, Empress Teta and the Massassi are introduced, while locations like Korriban, the Koros system and Ziost play key roles in the story.
The story would never have been told, though, if not for Jori and Gav Daragon. These two young adults are hyperspace explorers, following in the footsteps of their deceased parents. Unfortunately, they’re also awful at their job, and broke. When they end up with a bounty on their head, it does not take long for the two to flee known civilization with a blind hyperspace jump – and they end up finding the Sith Empire on Korriban. The opening to this story feels entirely believable, and readers will have no problem sympathizing with these down-on-their-luck characters. Both Jori and Gav end up the prisoners of the Sith Empire, which begins to fracture as a consensus cannot be reached regarding whether to simply kill the siblings so the Sith Empire remains hidden, or to interrogate them so that the Sith can discover the location of the Republic and begin a campaign to conquer their old enemies.
Fans of the Sith will be happy to know that The Golden Age of the Sith Empire contains some really interesting customs and lore that these usually mysterious characters have, while still retaining the classic double-crossing that is omnipresent in any Sith tale. Swords imbued with the power of a lightsaber, ancient Sith ghosts returning from Chaos, a beheaded Sith that uses the Force to keep his head alive for centuries and seeing how the ancient Sith become a Dark Lord are all on full display here, and all serve as delicious nuggets of insight into the Sith culture. In this story, Marka Ragnos has died and a power vacuum has emerged in the Sith Empire. Naga Sadow and Ludo Kressh both hope to be the next Dark Lord of the Sith, and their constant struggle for control of the Sith Empire plays a wonderful backdrop to the rest of the story as the Jedi and Sith both struggle to come to terms with the realization that they are both about to be thrust into a reunion that neither side really wants.
That isn’t to say that this story is without some flaws. The role of the Jedi and the Republic is very much reduced, as vast portions of the story are dedicated to the Sith. The characters also speak the exposition, and while it does tell the story faster, it has the drawback of looking awful in its execution. It also ruins dramatic tension, when a character helps someone, and then the next page shows him with an evil grin as he proclaims that everything is going according to plan. In the overall scheme of things, though, these flaws are small and do nothing to detract from the overall story.
All things considered, The Golden Age of the Sith is a great story. In addition to the strong plot, fans will discover a wealth of new material and interesting tidbits to satisfy them several times over. It doesn’t hurt that the story ends quite definitively, too. When the story reaches its conclusion, the characters will have overcome their various obstacles and have settled into definitive roles. With the drums of war beating and the Great Hyperspace War about to break out, the cliffhanger ending only adds to the urge to jump right into the next story and find out what happens – the sign of a great story.
The Fall of the Sith Empire:
Literally beginning right where The Golden Age of the Sith ended, The Fall of the Sith Empire is a direct sequel that details the Great Hyperspace War and shows just what happens when the Sith Empire clashes against the combined forces of the Republic and Jedi. Readers will notice virtually no change in the flow between the stories, as the artwork is the same and Kevin J. Anderson is once again in control of the script.
The characters are really put through the wringer this time around, especially Jori and Gav Daragon. The emotional charge runs deep, particularly in the beginning, and there are several poignant moments that are surprisingly strong. In addition to the emotion, there is also plenty of action for fans of space battles. The scale of the battles is magnificent, with thousands of ships battling in the skies while ground forces engage in similarly huge battles beneath the carnage in the skies. The Fall of the Sith Empire will continue to delight fans with its strong adherence to established Expanded Universe details. For readers that have been curious, Celegians and Sith Meditation Spheres (the latter being an example of the sentient ship that readers of Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi novels have come to know as Ship) are given ample time in the spotlight. The story also manages to tie up the loose ends of The Golden Age of the Sith, some that the readers may have even forgotten.
Probably the biggest flaw of The Fall of the Sith Empire is just how rushed the story feels. I don’t envy the task of having to start and finishing an epic-scaled war in just six comic book issues, and the awful pacing issues are clear examples of what happens when writers have to compress their story down. Characters are promoted to new roles with such speed that it may pull the reader out of the story for being so nonsensical, and the tide of battle is turned so fast in the actually fighting that readers are likely to wonder what was so “great” about the Great Hyperspace War. The pacing also affects the key story elements, reducing characters to bumbling buffoons in order to further the plot in the quickest way possible. At times, it feels as though the writers are simply making the story fit with a predetermined ending, especially given how open-ended, yet decidedly final, the last few pages are. It often felt more like The Fall of the Sith Empire was about showing the reader how characters like Odan-Urr and Naga Sadow reached their (presumably) final destination, rather than focusing on the journey that each character ultimately undergoes. As such, the ending feels rough. Yes, fans might be surprised with the ending, or be glad to put a mystery to rest, but there is also a slightly empty feeling that readers will likely discover too. That is the feeling of disappointment.
For such a strong start, The Fall of the Sith Empire simply does not hold up in comparison to The Golden Age of the Sith. There is a competent story to be found, and it does include some really great moments and visuals, but the rushed pacing and disappointing ending keep it from reaching the heights that The Golden Age of the Sith reached. In the end, this story struggles with the pitfalls of writing about characters that have already been created and established to a certain degree. The Fall of the Sith Empire is far from perfect, but it is still a pretty fun read.
Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon:
Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon jumps forward 1,000 years after The Fall of the Sith Empire. In all honesty, thought, the galaxy really hasn’t changed much. Sure, lightsabers no longer need power packs and the architecture looks much more advanced, but the overall politics are the same. The Republic and Jedi still work together in expanding, while the Sith have seemingly vanished from the galaxy. The artwork for this story is decent, but the coloring does seem to make the story look rather dated.
Although there are a few important characters to be found, like Jedi Master Arca, none match the role of the titular character, Ulic Qel-Droma. Ulic is an overconfident, almost arrogant Jedi. To make matters worse, the long disappearance of the Sith has caused the younger generation of Jedi to be more vulnerable to the dark side and its many influences. Within the opening pages, it is clear that Ulic, who is headstrong and tends to make decidedly rash decisions that fly in the face of logic, will face a temptation of the dark side at some point. Unfortunately, though, this foreshadowing is handled with the finesse of performing heart surgery with a chainsaw. Along with his brother and another student, Ulic is dispatched to the war-torn planet of Onderon in an attempt to keep the peace. Fans of the Knights of the Old Republic games are likely to recognize Onderon and its moon, Dxun, along with a slew of references and characters that appear as the story continues. For any fans curious about Freedon Nadd, the Dark Jedi that is so influential in this time period, virtually the entire backstory of the character is told throughout this tale. It adds a great depth to the character, and it is one of the highlights of the entire story.
That said, there is an abundance of exposition in this story that is told through various forms of summary, and they all tend to fall flat in execution. In fact, the story opens with a lengthy history of Onderon, which is told in the form of a campfire story. As if to compliment the opening, the story ends with Master Arca literally summarizing all the loose ends from Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, which informs the reader of the content of the inevitable sequel (The Freedon Nadd Uprising) with all the subtlety of a blow to the head.
There are some great twists to be found in Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, and, as the title suggests, plenty of action too. Force techniques also play a large role, with battle meditation and the (really weird) ability to understand beast-languages taking center stage throughout the story. Even dark side techniques, like sapping away the will to fight, are utilized well. What really makes this a great read, though, is that this story shows that the Jedi are not infallible. They do fail, and sometimes it can be quite spectacular. It is the kind of story that is not told often enough, and one that carries a powerful weight that can really resonate with fans.
The Saga of Nomi Sunrider:
For a character as well-regarded as Nomi Sunrider, The Saga of Nomi Sunrider is far from the perfect introduction. It does not help that the artwork in this story is very bland, with colors that seem bleached and muted. To the reader, it looks as if the soul of the story has been sucked out. Taking place one year after Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, The Saga of Nomi Sunrider really isn’t much of a saga. In fact, it isn’t much of a story.
At the start, Nomi is introduced as just another character in the Star Wars universe that just happens to be brimming with Force potential and decided not to pursue the path of a Jedi. In Nomi’s case, she was too timid. Instead, she married Andur Sunrider, a Jedi, and spends her time raising their daughter, Vima. When Andur is murdered, Nomi pledges to finish her husband’s task of delivering lightsaber crystals to a Jedi Master, eventually facing her own shortcomings as the story progresses. As a character, Nomi is fairly unlikable in this story. Her biggest flaw in the story is her refusal to use a lightsaber, being a stubborn pacifist even when the lives of others are threatened. There are many ways to make a character compelling, but transforming Nomi into a flawed idealist was an awful way to evoke an emotional reaction, primarily because it made look stupid rather than naïve.
There are a lot of weird and interesting things that happen in The Saga of Nomi Sunrider, and unfortunately, they are often never given more than cursory attention. Andur, for example, returns as a Force ghost almost immediately after his death, and helps guide her to the next destination. How he is able to do this, or any insight into the afterlife of the Force, is never discussed. There is also a point in the story where the narration mentions that there are space ships that have been created from the exoskeletons of enormous insects, a throwaway line and impressive accompanying image that was actually one of the most intriguing parts of the entire story. Alas, the colossus wasps of Ithull are never mentioned again.
The real trouble with The Saga of Nomi Sunrider is that this is clearly an introduction piece for the character. Rather than let the reader decide if Nomi Sunrider will become a force to be reckoned with in the near future, the characters tell the reader that Nomi will one day be an important Jedi. There are also countless references to Arca, the Qel-Dromas and even Freedon Nadd to be found. It seems odd, at first, that such attention would be placed on events that have already occurred prior to the story, except that The Saga of Nomi Sunrider also sets the stage for The Freedon Nadd Uprising, the sequel that kicks off Omnibus: Tales of the Jedi: Volume 2. In fact, that is exactly where the fault of The Saga of Nomi Sunrider lies. This introduction piece offers a flimsy story that is designed solely to position Nomi’s character for her eventual role in the next story.
Make no mistake; the purchase of a Dark Horse omnibus collection should only ever come down to the content that is inside of it. In terms of format, the omnibus is unparalleled. It’s a sturdy paperback that is slightly smaller than a hardback novel. It’s very portable, with enough pages (averaging around 400 pages per omnibus) to make it feel like you’re really getting the maximum value for your hard-earned money. This isn’t a skinny, flimsy trade paperback. This is truly a graphic novel. Our omnibus reviews are meant only to inform potential readers of the content they will be experiencing in any given graphic novel, and to guide readers to the content that they will enjoy the most.
Reviewed by Chris Carey
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