Review: Knights of the Old Republic Vol 1-Commencement

3,964 years before the Battle of Yavin, the Old Republic was embroiled in a galactic war.

It is a time of upheaval for the galaxy.  The Mandalorian Wars have strained the Old Republic’s resources to the breaking point.

With so many forces at the front, systems in the outer rim teeter on the edge of lawlessness – even the city-world of Taris, once a thriving commercial center. Here, as elsewhere, the Republic relies on the Jedi Knights and their students to help maintain order.

But some Knights, frustrated with the conduct of the Wars, argue for a more active Jedi role, appealing to others for support.  Even from those Jedi – and their untried students – who are struggling to help maintain order at home…

Thus begins Star Wars-Knights of the Old Republic Volume 1: Commencement

Commencement is a trade paperback / graphic novel that brings together issues 0 through 6 of the Dark Horse comic-book series Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Paperback: 152 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse (November 11, 2006)

When I was heavily collecting comics, the Dark Horse line of Star Wars books was on my list.  They were putting out some fantastic stuff. They continued after I was done, of course and with the convenience of the graphic novel, I can pick up a ‘complete’ story from the series in a single book, which rocks.

The Knights of the Old Republic series is great; it gives us a glimpse at the Star Wars universe long before any of the events we know and love have taken place and is chocked full of Jedi and Sith rocking the Force (yes, I just said that. Well, typed it) in ways Luke Skywalker never figured out.

In Commencement, we meet Zayne Carrick, a young Padawan struggling to become a Jedi Knight.  Zayne is clumsy, late all the time and seems to leave a trail of debris in his wake wherever he goes.  The story begins with his trying to arrest a Snivvian named Marn Hierogryph – Gryph for short, a con man selling everything under the sun to whoever can buy it.  Gryph is immune to Jedi mind tricks and, apparently, quite adept at escaping from Zayne whenever he manages to catch up to him.

On the day Zayne is to become a Jedi Knight, he manages to catch and hold Gryph.  Eager to show his Master his success, and running late for the Commencement ceremony, Zayne brings Gryph with him, in cuffs, to the Jedi Temple on Taris.  Rushing into the temple, an apology already spilling from his lips, he bursts into the ceremony to find…

…the Jedi Masters standing over their slaughtered Padawans.

“You’re late, young one,” says his Master, Lucien.

And if THAT doesn’t make you want to read this book, I don’t know what will.

Marn Hierogryph

From that point on, it’s a race as Zayne tries to first escape from the Jedi Masters who killed his friends, then figure out why they killed them in the first place and why they want him dead as well.  He and Gryph are thrown together as fugitives on the run with the Jedi, the Civil Authorities and Bounty Hunters all tracking them.  Gryph leads them into the Undercity and to the Junk Junction where they inadvertently draw Jarael & Camper, a strange pair with a ship who are hiding from the universe in general, into their adventure.

I have to say, this was an incredibly enjoyable book. It had all the elements of an excellent Star Wars story – heck, of -any- story; mystery, tragedy, adventure – you name it.  The artwork is awesome, the story compelling.  I also like the twist; The first few pages lead you to believe that you’re going to read a Master/Apprentice story.  We are introduced to Zayne who can’t seem to get things right and then to his friends, all Padawan’s who have faced the trials and are soon to be Jedi.  They sympathize with Zayne, who doesn’t think he’s going to make the cut and will have to watch them move on without him.  The ceremony is set, the cast set and then WHAM!  Twist.

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Volume 1: Commencement retails for $20 at your local book store, or you can get it online for $12 or so.