Friday, July 24, 2015

Recommended Reading for 7/24: Star Wars: Dark Disciple

I've written a lot about Star Wars on here since the blog's inception, and I've mostly stuck to the comics, with the occasional diversion into animation. But today is the first time I'm writing up a novel for a recommended reading. This is partially because it's now in my favorite of all time (and as I've read every Star Wars novel written for adults, there's a lot of competition for those top spots), and partially because one of the two main characters is Quinlan Vos, Vos is a character I've mentioned on here before, a creation of the inimitable John Ostrander, and is my favorite Star Wars character created for the comics. And so, with those high expectations in mind, I picked up Star Wars: Dark Disciple, and I was absolutely floored.

For those of you who might be familiar with Quin, let me start out by saying this isn't the same Quin from the comics. The new continuity that is being crafted by Lucasfilm has replaced the Ostrander stories, for good and ill. Ill because they are some of the best Star Wars comics ever written, a story of a man struggling with both the Light and Dark Sides of the Force, and his choice to be and remain a Jedi. The good is that we are offered this novel, with a Quin who lines up more with his one appearance on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated series, where instead of a haunted and introspective man he's a brash and foolhardy Jedi. leaping before he looks.

Our other main character is Asajj Ventress, the Sith assassin turned Nightsister turned bounty hunter, one of the central figures to all versions of The Clone Wars. This novel, written by Christie Golden, is based on unproduced scripts of the animated series written by Katie Lucas, and so the book picks up some time after the events of the final episodes produced. We see Ventress as the capable bounty hunter, having moved beyond her time as Count Dooku's assassin. But Quin appears, sent by the Jedi Council to recruit her in an attempt to assassinate the count, and the sparks start to fly immediately.

I've seen some complaints about building a romance between these two characters, but I don't see the problem. While this might be a different Quin, one with a different background, he's still enough of the same character to violate the Council's rules of attachment. The original Quin planned to abandon the Order for Khaleen, his lover, and their child, Korto. As for Ventress, well, if you look at her history, Ventress is a character who was always looking to fit somewhere. For her, given into slavery as a child, her Jedi Master lost, she was easy pickings for Count Dooku, and when she left him, she immediately sought out Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters. Ventress wanted to be somewhere where she was part of something bigger, and when she meets someone who treats her as an equal, and she feels the same way about, it makes sense to me that they would fall for each other.

The romance is built subtly and mostly off panel, and it never interferes with the action of the story. The first half of the book follows Ventress and Vos as they meet and prepare to defeat Dooku. We get some exciting bounty hunting adventures, and the Dark Side training sequence on Dathomir is excellent. I'm a sucker for different Force disciplines, and so seeing Ventress train Quin not as a Sith, but with the different style and abilities of a Nightsister made for an interesting scene. We also watch Quin's descent into the Dark Side slowly. It's not just one decision that leads him down the dark path, and I can think of few other examples as good as this for how the road to the Dark Side is paved with good intentions.

After their initial confrontation with Dooku, we get a series of events that might be familiar to those of you familiar with Quin's arc in the comic. Captured by Dooku, it's unclear whether or not Quin has fallen to the Dark Side. Is he working for Dooku? Is he infiltrating Dooku's organization for the Jedi? Is he infiltrating the Jedi for Dooku? Is it some combination of all of them. It's not the same arc as in the comic, and the circumstances are different, but it's clear that Lucas and/or Golden knew those original stories and put their own spin on Vos's dance with the Dark Side.

One of the things that weighs heavily for me when reading a Star Wars story is also the use of the existing universe and what it adds to it. The settings of this book include established worlds like Pantora and Christophsis, and the latter crystal world for the Clone Wars animated series is used to good effect. The book also introduced a new race, the Mahran, a canine race with a particularly interesting coup de grace they could use in a battle to the death. Finding a way to introduce something new and interesting to a universe so packed with alien species is something I can applaud. I also really enjoyed how Obi-Wan and Yoda were written; as the two greatest Jedi in the current canon, it's nice to see them both written with wisdom and humor.

I don't know if Dark Disciple is for everyone. I know some people won't be able to get past the changes to Quinlan Vos. And I know some people will be bothered by the ending; I don't want to spoil the end here, but if you want to talk about it, please shoot me an e-mail as, as I'd love to hear your thoughts. But if you haven't read the Star Wars comics, or can think of this as a different version of a beloved character, you'll get a whirlwind of action and romance that does it's Star Wars roots proud.

Oh, and on a somewhat unrelated note if you are a fan of John Ostrander's Quinlan Vos, you should head over to Kickstarter and back his new graphic novel, Kros: Hallowed Ground. There's less than a week left, and it looks like it's going to be right down to the wire on whether or not it will be backed. I think if you like Ostrander's work, it will be worth your time and money.

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