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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tales from the Memory Bank: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: Flashpoint, Part 1

http://bit.ly/KOTORMarv1
In honor of the rerelease by Marvel of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic comics, I'm revising and updating my production notes here on what I hope will be a weekly basis. You can get Star Wars Legends Epic Collection: The Old Republic Vol. 1 from your local comic shop, from Things from Another World or from Amazon.

The Old Republic Epic Collections are in stock again at
my shop, and you can purchase signed copies directly while supplies last.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #7
"FLASHPOINT" PART 1

Art by Dustin Weaver
Lettered by Michael Heisler
Colored by Michael Atiyeh
Cover by Brian Ching
Edited by Jeremy Barlow and Dave Marshall
Released July 26, 2006 by Dark Horse Comics
Story licensed and © Lucasfilm Ltd. 
 
As with all my “production notes,” consider a “Spoiler Warning” attached. Please read the books first.

With "Flashpoint," the Knights of the Old Republic story advanced several weeks to follow the flight of Zayne and crew. We had established that the Republic and the Mandalorians had been bogged down in struggles over planets near Taris -- and how that exactly fits into the game-established history will finally be revealed later in this storyline -- so heading for the frontier might have seemed a logical move for a fugitive. Not so, as it turns out, since what Zayne (and, indeed, the whole Republic) thought was going on wasn't the whole picture.

Dustin Weaver, who had previously drawn KOTOR-era stories for Star Wars Tales, joined the team this issue, not as a fill-in artist but rather as the artist who would be alternating story arcs with Brian Ching, who drew the cover. There was communication between the two of them behind the scenes, just to get everything right.

This is the first issue without the Masters present -- apart from a mention of Lucien -- and it was absolutely my intention to shift gears immediately after "Commencement." The Mandalorian conflict was always sort of in the background of "Commencement" -- now, Zayne's problems on Taris sort of haunt the background here.

We got to do quite a bit with the Mandalorians of this era, of course -- how could we NOT do the giant double-page "Mandlorians Attack" spread? While it wasn't my intention to make broad statements about the Mandalorians (at least, not in this issue), we can notice a few things. We have a number of Mandalorians of different species popping up -- logical, due to the influx of new recruits following many years of battles against worlds outside the Republic.

That also poses certain issues for them, logistically. We generally expect a looser command structure with nomads -- and that is present here -- though the mixing of so many new recruits with veterans makes a certain amount of ad-hocracy desirable just to keep things functional. Note the "commander" term used with Rohlan here, relating to his role with the shock troopers. We'd probably actually figure out that he was the point man, whether we heard the name or not -- but when you're dealing with an invasion force of a certain size, there's a point at which too much operational autonomy becomes self-defeating. I recall the wonderful scene in The Longest Day with the shillelagh-wielding officer on Sword Beach, directing traffic because all the invading units are almost stumbling across each other!

And while we don't hear any phrases in #7 because none of them really say much, the intermingling of so many new troops, not all of which speak Basic, also suggests a logical role for phrases from the Mandalorian language. Apart from any cultural traditions, there could be some operational value in a variegated force having something like the "thieves' cant" from D&D -- if only to make sure that soldier from species X doesn't accidentally shoot the soldier from species Y.

I was pleased to give more time to Elbee, who I had hoped to develop further in "Commencement" (until I decided to commit more pages to the Masters' vision, which seems like the right call). It should be pretty clear from #7 what kind of a mess he actually is. The higher-order processing unit Camper grafted to his basic brain made him smarter than he was, but he's still emotionally a two-year-old -- and haunted by the vague notion that his former master did something to do him in. Of course, a two-year-old with the body of a tractor can throw a pretty big tantrum!

The "give it back when you're done" scene was my favorite to write in the issue. We see here that Jarael continues her transformation from the defensive, angry refugee we saw in #3. It's very much the case that the farther she gets from the Lower City of Taris, the more her outlook changes. (And, naturally, I had to immediately cut that happiness off. We can't have a bunch of happy characters running around!)

There are a lot of small touches you may not immediately notice. Michael Atiyeh and Dustin Weaver went back and added views of miners on the monitors in the control room. Many were covered by lettering, but it adds to the feel of the scene.

In all, this remains one of my favorite issues; it said everything you needed to know about the characters, and got the action rolling.

TRIVIA

• An unsettling bit of synchronicity: While I had actually plotted the sequence with the mining camp months before, when I got around to scripting the sequence, it was right during the Sago mining disaster. It was all I could do not to make the miners here seem more heroic.

• If "Commencement" recalled The Fugitive, "Flashpoint" suggests The Sting -- at least in its opening. Note that the scam to make the miners leave involves everyone -- Zayne, Camper, and Jarael to communicate the story of the bogus attack, and Gryph and Elbee to sell it (by starting the bonfire and battering the building, respectively). A fair day's pay for everyone...

• It is indeed Jarael's second time playing a Jedi -- in two issues, actually, and both times with Zayne's lightsaber. The kid has got to learn to stop loaning it out!

• Now it can be told: part of the inspiration for Elbee's name, beyond "loader-bulk," was that  it recalled to me the great old Herman Melville story of the recalcitrant worker, Bartleby the Scrivener. It's a very remote connection, but you might see something familiar in the character whose response to every request was "I would prefer not to..."

• The industrial mining charges look a bit like the ones Han Solo used on Endor. I guess a bomb is a bomb is a bomb!

• One of the things that impresses me most about Dustin Weaver's work is how he handles the setting and terrain. He includes little details like track-marks from the pallet-droid and the other mining vehicles. I didn't provide him with a map of the pursuit up the mountainside, but I feel like he gave me one in this issue!

• U.S. versions of this issue had a Science Fiction Book Club insert stapled in the centerspread; it's just as well the double-page spread wasn't there!

• Did you notice that, in his haste, Zayne gives the wrong command to Elbee? "Cargo: Human, to the loading ramp" might well have resulted in Elbee grabbing him, since he's the only human in immediate view. Of course, Elbee didn't carry out the instruction anyway, and even then we have to wonder whether Elbee's capable of distinguising between a human and an Arkanian (or, in fact, Camper's version of Arkanian, about which more is coming soon).

• I like the fact that General Motors decided to add a remote starter around the same time we learned that the Last Resort had one. Wonder if Camper can also turn off the car alarm from outside?

Next time: We continue the second story arc, "Flashpoint," with our first look at Demagol. Or you can skip ahead and read all the notes for the series, though they're only updated up through this issue.
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