Omnibus: Tales of the Jedi: Volume 2
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release date: April 9, 2008
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 2 picks up right where Volume 1 ended, making it imperative that one reads these omnibus collections in order for full enjoyment. Unlike the first collection, though, these collected stories are all lumped together very close in the Expanded Universe timeline and share the same familiar characters through each story. While omnibus collections are heralded as being able to bring novel-sized stories to life, it has never been more apparent than with this massive collection.
The Freedon Nadd Uprising:
The Freedon Nadd Uprising kicks this volume off, and it is a direct sequel to the Ulic Qel-Droma and Nomi Sunrider stories from Volume 1 – right down to having the same art style. If readers of those stories were disappointed in the large amount of loose ends that each of those stories had, they will be happy to know that The Freedon Nadd Uprising wraps virtually all them all up.
The story jumps right into the action, with the newfound peace on Onderon quickly shattered by attacks from the followers of Freedon Nadd. The enemies are led by Ommin, who was once king of Onderon and really serves the exact same role that Amanoa did. The major difference between the two lies in Ommin being a visually terrifying character, the perfect example of what happens when dark side corruption is left to run through a person unchecked. When Ommin captures Jedi Master Arca, Ulic and the other Jedi are forced into hiding until they can be rescued by a Jedi strike force led by Nomi Sunrider.
For a story that is unabashedly straightforward, The Freedon Nadd Uprising really has a lot to offer readers when it comes to small reveals and moments of foreshadowing. Characters mull over the “great destiny” of Ulic Qel-Droma, creating a mystery that will drive fans to continue reading without ever coming across as cheap. But some of the best moments in this story feature Nomi Sunrider. Nomi’s prowess with the Force is showcased to great effect, as is the start of a possible romantic interest with Ulic. These are moments that hold no real weight in the story at hand, but they serve to show the readers what they can expect in future stories. Some Expanded Universe fans will also be tickled to know that the Miraluka, although made famous in BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic game, were first introduced in this story. When it comes to the introduction of new characters that will serve larger roles in future stories, though, The Freedon Nadd Uprising really drops the ball. Readers are likely to completely forget Master Vodo Siosk-Baas’s introduction by the time this story finishes. But perhaps that is better reaction than to be left scratching their heads at the purpose of including Satal Keto and Aleema, a pair of bored, spoiled rich kids that dabble in magic and want to learn more about the Sith. As short as their overall storyline is, it defies all sense of logic and believability. It is clear from their introduction that this appearance is simply meant to establish them for their next appearance, and that should never be the reason to include characters into a story.
The real problem, though, lies in the simple fact that The Freedon Nadd Uprising is a two-part comic that really has a thankless role to play. It has to wrap up loose ends, serve as a lead-in to Dark Lords of the Sith, introduce important characters… and it still has to tell a good story. Because of the limited amount of pages to accomplish so much, the pace of the story is rushed. It is frenetic and chaotic, causing important revelations to be glossed over quickly and giving the ending a rather anticlimactic, depressing vibe. It also means that poor plot decisions are utilized to tell the story faster. It will come as no surprise to readers that the reason the Sith remains and artifacts from this story are placed in a tomb instead of simply being jettisoned into a star is because they have a role yet to play. There is no room for subtlety in such a short story, unfortunately.
Dark Lords of the Sith:
Dark Lords of the Sith marks the start of the next chapter in the Tales of the Jedi series, combining the storytelling talents of Kevin J. Anderson and Tom Veitch. Although the artwork looks significantly less dated than in the previous Nomi Sunrider/Ulic Qel-Droma tales, it leaves plenty to be desired. The background artwork is wonderfully detailed, but the characters are unfortunately much blander in comparison to their previous appearances. Dark Lords of the Sith is also riddled with spelling errors, something one would have hoped could have been fixed when collecting this story in this omnibus. As the title suggests, this story is about the reemergence of the Sith, which come in two different forms in this story. It is intriguing at first, to look at different sets of characters that approach the dark side differently, but it quickly becomes tiresome when the narrative constantly switches between the two. For fans intrigued with the Sith and their relationship to alchemy and amulets, this is definitely a story to read. The Sith Force powers and lore remain one of the better nuggets found in this story.
The biggest addition to this story is Exar Kun, a character that will be familiar to those who have read Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy. Unfortunately, he is an incredibly one-note character here. Within the first few pages of his introduction, it is clear that his character is destined for a dark path. He is overwhelmingly arrogant and angry, with an interest for Sith lore that drives him from his master. It drives him to easily lie, steal and kill with darkness in his heart, all for personal gain. He is never portrayed as a tragic character, but more as an annoyance to the reader. Even as he gives into temptation and the dark side, he still deludes himself into believing that he is a Jedi. This is laughable, when most readers will have questioned that right from the opening pages of this story. Exar is often told that he is a promising student with great potential, but this is always spoken. Never, through the story, is this shown.
Unlike their appearance in The Freedon Nadd Uprising, Satal and Aleema return with a much meatier, and evil, role this time around. They serve as a catalyst for much of the action in this story, and while their roles are every bit as annoying here, they serve a purpose. Ulic and Nomi also return, though their roles are somewhat diminished with so many other plot threads in play. The two Jedi play off each other very well, and the budding romance between the two serves as a poignant calm in an otherwise hectic story. It is a relationship that fans can enjoy, especially as it adds a greater dimension to the story as it continues.
One very frustrating point to this story is that it ruins the element of surprise. It is no secret that Ulic Qel-Droma has been foreseen to have a great destiny before him. This surprise, however, is utterly ruined early in the story. In both dialogue with a Sith spirit and in the narration, Ulic’s ultimate destiny is spoiled in a way that robs the climax of the story of any emotional payoff. By the time the ending is reached, readers will likely be confused. Not only is the ending abrupt, it utilizes a last-minute deus ex machina that is an insult to the readers and comes across sloppy.
The biggest problem with Dark Lords of the Sith, though, lies in the inability of the Jedi to handle the threat of the Sith logically. The same Jedi Masters that work so tirelessly to eliminate a Sith presence as soon as there is even an inkling of its existence will speak with Exar, acknowledge the darkness inside of him, and then go about their business as though they simply do not care. The same Jedi leadership that has never shown an inability to meet the Sith threat head-on is suddenly shown to be ineffective and bureaucratic, holding large conferences where masters can pontificate the best course of action. When a character openly announces the intention to delve into the study of the dark side to bring conflict to an end, the Jedi leadership simply stands by and watches. In fact, the Jedi argue that it is unwise to attempt to coerce anyone to hold the light against their will. In this story, they argue that allowing a Jedi to reap the consequences of turning to the dark side without further action or intervention from the Jedi is punishment enough. As any Star Wars fan will know, that is simply not true. This argument flies in the face of what the Jedi believe in: that the light can overcome the dark, and that redemption is possible.
Dark Lords of the Sith is a competent story, and there are plenty of great moments to be found throughout it. There are also some great twists and surprises throughout the story, including a death scene that is very well-written. Unfortunately, this is all hampered by a ludicrous and logic-defying handling of the dark side menace, making the conflict between Jedi and Sith feel more forced than ever.
The Sith War:
To compare The Sith War to The Empire Strikes Back is actually very accurate, especially in terms of tone. Writing alone, Kevin J. Anderson is near the top of his game with this story. Unlike Dark Lords of the Sith, which managed to never truly feel urgent, The Sith War is almost overwhelming in the amount of power and emotion that hits the reader with each turn of the page. It is an effect that even transfers to the artwork, which is more detailed and crisp than anything that has come before.
There really is something for everyone in The Sith Wars, and the diehard fans will surely get great enjoyment in watching the Sith and Mandalorians work together in an effort to destroy the Republic and Jedi forces. For the first time in this omnibus, The Sith Wars showcases battles on an epic scale. Both land warfare and intricate space battles are displayed in all their glory, and they will leave even the most hardened reader breathless. Not to be outdone by the warfare, there are also several lightsaber battles throughout the story. This is worth noting because The Sith Wars also marks the first introduction of the double-bladed lightsaber, which Exar Kun wields expertly. In a nod to Tom Veitch’s Dark Empire II, for the more well-read fans of the Expanded Universe, there is even a scene that explains the backstory of Master Ood. The story also showcases some of the most intriguing, and perhaps the most controversial, Force powers. It seems that nothing was off-limits in these older times. The Sith utilize dark side possession for their fiendish means, while the Jedi use a technique that can actually strip a Force user from being able to feel the Force. These are powers that are cause for much debate, but they are used in the story to perfectly raise tension and emotion.
From the start, it is clear that The Sith Wars is going to tug some heartstrings. All of the characters get a great amount of page time, but they are not all guaranteed to make it out alive. Not only are Nomi Sunrider and Ulic Qel-Droma superbly written, but even Exar Kun finally manages to become an intriguing character in his own right. It can sometimes be hard to read, when the Jedi suffer blow after blow (some of them personal) from an enemy that is steadfast in its convictions while easily crossing the line into brutality, but this is a sign of how well-crafted the story is. It is a story that makes it hard for readers to root for either the Jedi or the Sith, because both sides are so well portrayed.
Of particular note is the ending to The Sith Wars. Simply put, the final pages of this story are masterfully written. It will likely send shivers down the spines of countless readers. It is a haunting way to end a story, and although it lacks a sense of closure or cheerful attitude, it never feels rushed. The Sith Wars has exactly what every Star Wars comics should strive to include: characters with an incredible emotional depth, breathtaking battles, and poignant philosophical questions that do not necessarily have a single right or wrong answer. There was really no other way that this story could have ended, and even then, this story manages to overcome expectations and deliver an experience that few will be able to predict.
To be blunt, Redemption might be one of the best Star Wars comics ever produced. It essentially serves as an epilogue to all the stories from the Tales of the Jedi omnibus collections that come before it, but to write it off as simply a story that ties up loose ends would be ludicrous. Readers will be happy to know that when The Sith War ends, it will feel like a good ending. But when it comes to Star Wars fans, readers always want to know what happens next. With that in mind, Redemption takes place 10 years after the events of The Sith War, offering an emotional glimpse into the lives of Nomi Sunrider, Ulic Qel-Droma and all the other characters that orbit these two titans of storytelling.
Although the title is a clear reference to several characters in the story that are all searching for a sort of redemption, it is worth considering that perhaps the title refers to the author. Redemption is written by Kevin J. Anderson, an author that is often an easy target for ridicule among Star Wars fans for his novels. With Redemption, Anderson crafts one of the most memorable, and emotionally-charged stories within the entire Expanded Universe. Without a doubt, it is his best work. Paralleling the writing, the artwork for Redemption is phenomenal. It is a style that is decidedly less focused, bringing out a more sketch-like quality to the illustrations. Despite the vastly different artwork, it works for Redemption and is easily the best artwork to be found in this omnibus.
Although Ulic and Nomi are the bedrock for the story, as they are with all of their stories, it is Vima Sunrider that steals every scene that she appears in. Readers may remember Vima as the baby that Nomi constantly clutches to her in the stories prior to Redemption. But now, Vima is old enough to be a Jedi apprentice, and she is every bit as rebellious as a teenager should be. It would have been nice enough to see the character actually serve a purpose, so to have her role play a central part to the storyline was an unexpected touch. She is an adorable character, with the bluntness of a child and the wisdom of an old soul.
The emotional is palpable throughout the story, and builds to a fever pitch at the climax. There is so much philosophical undertones to this story that are barely addressed by the narrative, as if to allow fans to debate them unchallenged by constraints placed by the Expanded Universe. The whole notion of how the Force is perceived, and what makes someone a Jedi, is questioned in Redemption and are answered in ways that will surely shock some readers. Built as an ending to this era, Redemption does not waver in its ability to deliver an ending that will act like a gut punch to readers. It is one of the most shocking endings in the Expanded Universe, delivered with the utmost care and respect to the story as well as to readers. Redemption is an example of a perfect epilogue. It is the kind of story that a reader would never have thought to want to read, and yet could not imagine living without it once the last page is turned.
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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