Before we return to Star Wars novels, we have one more comic series to take on, one which goes to the furthest reaches of the Star Wars universe – the Tales of the Jedi.
Writer: Tom Veitch
(For Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon): Chris Gossett & Mike Barreiro
(For the Saga of Nomi Sunrider): Janine Johnston & Mike Barreiro, and David Roach.
Lettering: Willie Schubert
Colors: Pamela Rambo
Covers: Dave Dorman
Publication dates: October 1st, 1993 – February 1st, 1994
Four Millennia before the Battle of Yavin, the Jedi stand as the guardians of peace and justice throughout the galaxy. In this framework we receive two stories of inexperienced Jedi.
Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beast Wars of Onderon
Young Ulic Qel-Droma, his brother Cay, and the Twi’lek Tott Doneeta are taught about the history of the planet Onderon by their master, Arca Jeth. Onderon has a sibling world, Dxun, which is inhabited by vicious beasts, and their orbits, every so often, get close enough that some of the beasts are able to travel from Dxun to Onderon. This has forced Onderon’s inhabitants to live in one massive walled city, Iziz, besieged by ravenous, heartless man-eating monsters.
Actually, this is more likely a reference to Harry Harrison’s Deathworld and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. Considering that Lucas has occasionally said that Tatooine was inspired by Arrakis, drawing from other classic works of SF is fair game.
Jeth has been asked to mediate a conflict between the world’s city dwellers, and the beast-riders who live outside the city. The beast-riders are made up of criminals and dissidents who were exiled from the city. This would normally be a death sentence, but the Beast Riders have learned to tame and ride some of the beasts, allowing their survival. That, combined with trade with smugglers has provided them with the necessities they need to survive, and to fight back against those who sought to kill them.
Jeth decides to send his three apprentices to Onderon to investigate and handle this situation, as a test. On their arrival, they end up caught in the middle of an attack by the beast men. On landing, Ulic and Cay are welcomed, but Tott is arrested on sight, as the city dwellers don’t allow aliens – however, the government relents after Ulic and Cay politely inform them that they are Jedi, they were invited, and if Tott is not released they’ll throw down right now.
The city-dwellers relent, and the Jedi are brought before Queen Amanoa. She informs the Jedi that during the Beast Rider attack they just witnessed, her daughter, Princess Galia, has been kidnapped by the Beast Riders. The Jedi set out to rescue Galia, only to be shot down and brought before the Beast Riders… just in time for the wedding of Galia and Oron, the son and heir of the Beast Rider leader, Modon Kira. However, this isn’t a Ming the Merciless-esque death-ray wedding. Instead, this is a clear case of star-crossed lovers. Further, many years in the past, a Dark Jedi named Freedon Nadd took the throne, and his heirs followed in his footsteps, and followed the dark side of the force. Galia rejected those teachings.
The Jedi return to Iziz with the couple, in the hopes of persuading Amanoa of the truth, since they did call for the Jedi. Instead, Amanoa calls upon ancient Sith force techniques to push them away, and in the course of the fight, Cay loses his arm. As the beast riders launch an attack against the city, Cay quickly throws together an impromptu prosthetic using a disabled droid. Meanwhile, Master Jeth, sensing something is up, has arrived, and uses his Battle Meditation to help the Beast Riders obtain victory. Amanoa flees into the crypt of Freedon Nadd, Jeth follows, and the power of the Light Side emanating from him is enough to cut Amanoa off from the dark side, killing her.
The Saga of Nomi Sunrider
Jedi Knight Andur Sunrider, his wife Nomi, and their infant daughter Vima have set out to see Jedi Master Thon, bringing with them a gift of Adegan crystals, which make for potent lightsabers. On a stopover in a spaceport, the three are mugged, and Andur is killed, though the thieves do not get the crystals, as Nomi kills the thieves in anger with her husband’s lightsaber. With his dying words, Andur asks his wife to continue the journey to Master Thon. Nomi and Vima reach Ambria, the world where Thon resides, and they meet another Jedi, Oss Wilum, riding a large beast somewhat visually similar to a Triceratops. Oss invites them into his home, and talks about taking her to meet Master Thon just as cryptically as Yoda talked to Luke about taking him to meet Yoda.
Meanwhile, Bogga the Hutt, the gangster the muggers were looking for, sends some goons to hunt down Nomi to get those crystals. They show up at Wilum’s house, only to be overcome by Wilum, and Wilum’s mount, who reveals himself as being Master Thon. Thon tells Nomi that she is Force-Sensitive, as is her daughter, and offers to teach her the ways of the force. She agrees. However, over her teachings, she refuses to build or use a lightsaber, after her first experience using the weapon. Instead, Nomi develops the ability of Battle Meditation, and she uses it on several situations to help protect her daughter from the wildlife on Ambria.
During Nomi’s training, and during one of Thon’s attempts to persuade her to build a lightsaber, he explains the lightsaber’s importance to the Jedi’s connection to the force. They aren’t just weapons, they are also spiritual foci, strengthening a Jedi’s connection to the force through the lightsaber crystal. During Nomi’s training, some followers of Freedon Nadd begin an uprising on Onderon, and Tott Doneeta shows up to pick up Oss to come help, leaving Thon, Nomi, and Vima alone. Bogga sends more goons to get the crystals, and ultimately, Nomi decides to pick up a lightsaber to fend them off, not through just direct combat, but with the Force as her guide.
- First mention of the Sith, outside of Darth Vader’s title (which is never actually spoken in the original trilogy)
- We see the binary star system of Onderon and Dxun.
- We also see Ambira, a world tainted by the dark side, but which Master Thon is working to free of its influence.
- Not only do we see our first non-human Jedi, but we also see our first non-humanoid Jedi, in Master Thon.
- We see some very early versions of Lightsabers here, and a discussion of the purpose of crystals not only as a focus of energy, but of the Force. Adegan crystals are described as being “the best” for making lightsabers, but it’s entirely possible that (if this was to remain canon in the new EU, and there’s really nothing that keeps it out of canon) Kyber crystals could have been discovered later.
- The introduction of Jedi Battle Meditation. It’s implied that Palpatine used this at the Battle of Endor (and Joruus C’Baoth used it with Thrawn’s forces), but it’s not explicitly named here.
Ulic Qel-Droma: Brash, young, idealistic but somewhat naive.
Cay Qel-Droma: More mature than his brother, in spite of being younger. Incredibly mechanically adept.
Tott Doneeta: Twi’Lek, a little more pragmatic – not in terms of solutions, but in terms of viewing the wider scope of problems.
Master Arca Jeth: Proficient in battle meditation, kinda a jerk.
Nomi Sunrider: Mother to infant Vima Sunrider, Jedi Apprentice who developed Battle Meditation very early in her training. Is reluctant to use violence almost to a fault.
Vima Sunrider: Infant. Has the potential to be a powerful Jedi someday. However, for now, I’m assuming she hasn’t been potty trained yet.
Master Thon: A Jedi of a unknown race that resembles a triceratops. Is very similar to Yoda in many respects.
While Tales of the Jedi, could potentially have worked as Dark Horse’s first Star Wars ongoing, particularly with the volume containing two, tenuously connected storylines, the series instead sticks with Dark Horse’s trend of short miniseries comics.
Additionally, Ulic Qel-Droma and Nomi (and Vima) Sunrider were first introduced in the worldbuilding epilogues in Dark Empire I.
Props to Tom Veitch for pulling off the Master Yoda reveal when we, as Star Wars fans, have already seen it once before and are looking to see it happen again.
The first installment of Tales of the Jedi (later released with the subtitle “Knights of the Old Republic” which would retroactively become confusing following the release of the video game) is more of a sword & planet series than the space opera that the main Star Wars series would become. The Jedi Knights here feel much more like knights errant (albeit ones with a bit more direction), than the warrior monks of the prequel trilogy, and this take on the Jedi is one that really shaped my view on them up until the prequel films came out.
I think as well, the story of Nomi Sunrider really clinches on why I didn’t like the “No attachments” rule for the Jedi in the prequels – it takes away the narrative opportunities for characters like Nomi Sunrider, who are strengthened by her attachments, to her husband and (as we’ll see in later comics) her daughter. Now, from a retcon logic standpoint, we can reasonably make the case that this rule was instituted later by the Jedi order (the same way the Sith would later adopt the Rule of Two), but there’s a difference between the two. The Rule of Two creates narrative opportunities, through the tension between Master, Apprentice, and Secret Apprentice (sometimes plural – if the Master has another Apprentice on the side). No Attachments takes away narrative potential.
Next time, we go back to the novels with The Truce At Bakura.