*So, this book starts a couple of months after Force Storm. Maybe more than a couple. But some weeks have passed.
*So, Predor Skal’nas dispatches his Force Hound, creepy, grey-eyed female Trill to try to track down Xesh and, by extension, find Tython. Seems the reason Xesh killed Predor Tul’kas is because he was being paid by Predor Skal’nas. But that didn’t really do Skal’nas any good since Xesh lost his memory in the crash and has no way to get in touch with Skal’nas.
*Xesh has a kind of cool moment on Bogan. He’s musing about his past and the fact that he’s been a slave as long as he can remember. Now, he’s imprisoned on Bogan, but he has no master. “If he is no longer a slave, what is he?”
*Xesh also demonstrates Anakin Skywalker level Force skills here. He uses the Force to float a pear across the room.
*So, just as expected, Daegon Lok tracks down Xesh, blah blah, they fight, come to a truce, Lok tells Xesh he thinks they’ve met for a reason, etc.
*Anyway, Lok has a ship that has crashed on Bogan years ago. Unfortunately, he has no way to power it. Luckily, Xesh has that particular Force ability. Yes, using the Dark Side to power engines. I mean, sure.
*Daegon Lok has a conversation with a skull in this scene. He appears to be actually moving the skull’s mouth like a puppet. This guy is going to be awesome.
*So, we get some really interesting information here. Daegon Lok finally explains what his vision in the Chasm was. He saw an armored figure that was clearly Xesh, leading a huge army to destroy the Jedi.
*That’s pretty standard issue. I mean, a good drinking game for the GFFA would be to take a shot every time someone has a vision of a great army marching to destroy the Jedi.
*What is interesting is the reveal that Daegon Lok wasn’t alone in the Chasm when he had the vision. He had convinced his friend, Hawk Ryo, to explore the Chasm with him.
*And I’m going to, at this point, jump ahead to spoil another bit from later in the comic just because I want to talk about both bits of info at the same time. Hawk will later admit that, not only was he with Lok when he had the vision, but he himself had it also. So, why has Daegon Lok been imprisoned on Bogan for decades and Hawk is now a respected Jedi Master? Because Hawk recanted his vision to the Council.
*This really makes Hawk into an interesting character in some really compelling ways. Just the fact that he accompanied Lok into the Chasm, facilitated the exploration that led to the vision, is enough to haunt Hawk. By allowing Lok to convince him to go into the Chasm, Hawk failed his friend.
*But now we discover that not only did Hawk indirectly fail his friend by accompanying him into the Chasm, he also just flat out betrayed him by recanting the vision. This feels like a genuinely cowardly thing to do. Hawk surely did it to avoid punishment; there’s no other possible reason that I can see. And to do such a selfish thing and also leave your friend twisting in the wind is just brutal. I imagine that Hawk must hold himself, on some level, responsible for Lok’s situation. And well he should.
*And consider Lok’s side of this. Lok hates the Jedi for what they’ve done to him. But he must certainly hate Hawk above all. I think we’re heading for a clash of epic proportions here. A fight scene with genuine emotional resonance, right? I can’t wait.
*Anyway, this revelation really genuinely shocked me. When Hawk reveals that he saw the vision too, I literally gasped. That’s great.
*So, anyway, Lok and Xesh get the ship up and running. They head off to Krev Coeur where Xesh can collect the necessary crystals to fashion a new lightsaber for himself. And one, of course, for Lok.
*Speaking of the saber, the Jedi are still trying to figure out how to make it work. Even Shae Koda can’t ignite it anymore. She figures that when she turned it on before, it was because she was deep into the Dark Side. Hawk’s able to turn it on eventually because he has a greater facility than the others for leaning into the Dark Side.
*You remember the whole thing where these Jedi are way more comfortable with the Dark Side? Well, they are, but it seems that Hawk is even more extreme in that direction than most. He and Rori Fenn, his ex, have a brief conversation when she warns him that he’s getting a little too comfortable with the Dark Side and that it might be dangerous for him to use the saber. He “famous last words” her: “I’m in balance – and I intend to stay that way.”
*Backstory on Trill and Xesh. Trill took Xesh under her wing when they were children in the slave pits and during their Force Hound training. Later, however, when Predor Tul’kas forced them to fight, Xesh bested her. She asked him to kill her so she would have an honorable death, but he refused and instead convinced Tul’kas to give her as a gift to Skal’nas.
*I loved this bit. “My Predor . . . you could make Trill a gift to Predor Skal’nas – A new Force Hound.” “Why? Would she make a better Force Hound than you, slave?” “No. No. She is inferior to me. I will be the best.” “You suggest both respect and insolence to my superior in one bold gesture.”
*That’s pretty clever.
*So, we get a scene introducing Kora Ryo. That’s Hawk’s sister, Tasha’s mother and Ox’s wife. There’s a scene of her and Ox arguing about Tasha. Ox, of course, wants Tasha back, but he’s a crime lord and all, so Kora refuses to send her back to him.
*Meanwhile, Tasha herself is trying to figure out what the deal is with a Rakatan skull. Wait, how did she get that again? I dunno. Well, anyway, she has a Rakatan skull, but can’t find any information about what it is in the Jedi Archives.
*Master Tars Sendon shows her this ancient holocron type thing and the guide in the holocron is A’nang, a Kwa Jedi master.
*I really, really loved this bit. They scan the skull with the holocron and ask what it is. And A’nang just blurts, “Rakata!” and flees back into the holocron. I frigging loved that. Very compelling and really helps with making you feel the Rakata’s power and evil. This ancient Jedi in the holocron just shuts down when he sees one of their skulls.
*Meanwhile, a security bot on Bogan finally reports that Xesh isn’t in his cell anymore. So, Hawk, Seknos and Shae head up to Bogan, accompanied by Rori Fenn & her brother Jake. And another Jedi, a tracker named Bel Zana. They quickly figure out that Xesh and Lok managed to escape in a ship and they head out in pursuit.
*Anyway, the major players converge on Krev Coeur. Lok and Xesh have crashed there and are searching for crystals for the lightsabers they’re going to make. Trill arrives. Hawk’s group has split up with Jake, Bel Zana and Seknos arriving on Krev Coeur while Hawk, Shae and Rori head for Nox.
*So, there’s a big kerfuffle, of course.
*At one point, Jake Fenn attacks Lok and Lok has a great bit: “Is the master of the arts temple going to dance me into submission?”
*Anyway, Lok has this ability to probe someone’s mind and find their greatest fear and then use that against them. So he puts Bel Zana out of the fight by throwing a mind trick on her that makes her think she’s on fire. Xesh offers to let Seknos leave because Seknos tried to help him before, but Seknos refuses to back down. Lok figures out that Jake is in love with Bel, so he throws her over a cliff. Seknos saves her, but goes over the cliff himself and plummets into the abyss. Xesh and Lok get away in all the confusion at the cliff.
*So, Trill finds the wounded Seknos and takes him on board her ship. She feeds him a line about being a “fortune hunter” that just happened to be passing by.
*I liked seeing the way the characters got split up in this story. The writers keep mixing and matching in interesting ways. Trill and Seknos are two characters I wouldn’t have expected to be working as a team (albeit one with some secrets on Trill’s side), so that’s cool.
*So, Xesh and Lok make it to Nox and create a lightsaber for Lok to use. “Concentrate on your anger to ignite the blade. It may take some practice for a Je’daii to draw forth such darkness.” *blade ignites* “Oh, I don’t think so.”
*So, Daegon Lok sets up a meeting with some . . . well, I’ll just call them warlords. Anyway, they’re survivors who once fought on the side of Queen Hadiya in the Despot War.
*Some great character art here. I particularly like Bakko, a Twi’lek with multiple facial scars.
*So, Lok gets them on his side. He’ll use them and all the troops they can muster to attack Tython and . . . hmm, interesting twist here, NOT destroy the Jedi.
*I confess that I thought that Lok had essentially decided that HE was supposed to be the one leading the dark army he saw in his vision and that he was going to create that army and march against the Jedi to destroy them. But, actually, no: “I want to save the Je’daii and the system. But the Je’daii are stubborn and won’t listen to reason. They must be made to listen. We need the Je’daii to save the Tythan system from the dark army I saw in my vision.”
*Wow, cool, so Lok is, essentially, way less of a villain than I was thinking he would be. I figured he’d be on this righteous crusade to get vengeance on the Jedi for stranding him on Bogan. But, no, he’s still genuinely convinced of the truth of his vision and still seeks only to make the Jedi understand the threat contained in that vision. I like this development. It makes Lok a deeper character than he might have been.
*Not that I would have minded at all if Lok had been a madman out for revenge. That would have been cool too. But the way his character is actually going here is an interesting and unforeseen twist, so good on Ostrander for this.
*So, just as the warlords are agreeing to Lok’s offer, Hawk, Shae and Rori locate them and move in. This leads to the much anticipated face-off between Hawk and Lok.
*They do have this really great exchange that kind of gets into Hawk’s character a bit more: “Admit it – the vision is coming true! You had the same vision, Hawk!” “There was no vision! Something in the Chasm drove us both mad – but I worked through it . . . as you should have done. You’ve let your ego shape what you saw. I don’t share your madness!” “Your lie cuts me deeply, old friend. We were brothers! Many times we’ve fought back to back against common enemies, defending one another. You can lie to yourself, brother. But you know the truth of what we both saw.”
*See, I’m really digging this. Both Lok and Hawk are really interesting characters and their relationship is fascinating. I mean, there’s a real moment of regret here from Lok. When he says “your lie cuts me deeply,” he isn’t faking or being melodramatic. He’s genuinely hurt by Hawk’s betrayal. And Hawk’s character gets more complicated too. We see that he has managed to, most likely genuinely, convince himself of the Jedi party line.
*Anyway, after he says the above, Lok turns off his weapon and offers Hawk the opportunity to strike. Hawk doesn’t do so, instead letting Lok escape. Rori arrives a few moments later and Hawk lies about what happened. Yeah, see, this is great character stuff.
*Meanwhile, Xesh and Shae are fighting when suddenly a giant squid . . .
*Go with me here.
*Suddenly, a giant squid-monster arrives and grabs Shae, dragging her down into the water. Xesh faces another momentary dilemma, but he once against decides to act against his best interests. He dives into the water, kills the beast and saves her.
*This stuff often comes across as really cheesy, but somehow Ostrander has given Xesh genuine depth. Moments like this, where the “evil” character discovers selflessness, actually work here, whereas they simply don’t lots of other places.
*Meanwhile back on Tython, A’nang of the Kwa has finally decided to reveal the history of the Rakata. It’s about what you’d expect. The Kwa attempted to teach the Rakata the way of the Force, but the Rakata loved the Dark Side most of all. Great war was fought, massive casualties, etc. A’nang closes with a devastating bit: “The Rakata are powerful, brutal. And if they are coming to your world, you are doomed. I am sorry.”
*So, Lok and Xesh, with Shae Koda as their captive, try to make a deal with Ox Ryo. Lok wants Ox to rally all the Hadiya loyalists and get them to join Lok’s army.
*We get some backstory here. It seems that Ox was supposedly loyal to Hadiya, but he sent Daegon Lok into her army as a double agent. Lok ended up seducing Hadiya and then murdering her in cold blood as she slept. Interesting.
*Oh, man, awesome, awesome moment here. Ox Ryo offhandedly says something to Xesh and he calls Lok, “the man you serve.” We get a close-up of Xesh’s eyes as he says a single word: “Serve?” Next thing, we know, Xesh is making the claw hand and Ox is gasping for breath. I loved that moment. Xesh is still kind of sensitive about that whole, entire life lived in brutal slavery thing apparently. And he feels genuinely dangerous and unhinged in that moment.
*So, Hawk and Rori meet up at Ox’s headquarters with Trill and Seknos. They charge in and we get some nice action stuff.
*Holy crap! There’s a GREAT panel here that is absolutely shocking of Lok lopping off Hawk’s leg. Wasn’t expecting that.
*Shae gives Xesh a little talking to about how he can choose his own path and all that. Lok arrives and flings her against the wall. And then Lok makes his first big mistake in this book: “Enough! You follow me, Xesh! I am your master!”
*And this is the kind of thing I love about this series so far. The series has done so much work building characters that I didn’t need to wait for Xesh’s reaction. I knew what was about to happen. I made a kind of little “Oh, man,” noise BEFORE Xesh turned on Lok. Because I knew the characters well enough to know that mistake when it happened.
*And a wonderful panel at the bottom of this page as Lok makes another mistake. Lok grabs Xesh by the face. “You will be what I say you will be. What do you fear, Xesh?” “You have made a terrible mistake, Lok. My mind is not a place that you want to go.” And then a panel of Lok’s face twisting into bewilderment, then horror and then he just flies backwards and passes out. I particularly love the way Lok’s eyes glow purple in this panel. Really atmospheric and striking. And, again, a climactic moment based entirely in character.
*So, the Jedi send Lok back to Bogan, which I found kind of disturbing.
*I don’t know, maybe this is stretching things too far. But I saw a parallel with Lok and the Jedi to our current situation with global terrorism. I mean, the Jedi essentially stranded Lok on Bogan decades ago FOR NO REASON. At the end of the day, they said that he was insane because he believed he had this vision that he hadn’t actually had and so they stranded him on Bogan. But he DID have the vision. He WAS innocent when he was sent to Bogan. Now, of course, he’s unstable, violent and ultimately extremely dangerous; but it was the Jedi themselves that made him that way. By all moral rules, he should be freed, since his imprisonment was a miscarriage of justice from the beginning. But the Jedi apparently believe that he’s too dangerous to be allowed free.
*Do you see the parallels? Think about the Guantanamo detainees, kept in extralegal detention and subjected to extralegal tortures. In many cases, these people were innocent of any crimes when they went into Guantanamo. And yet one of the arguments made against releasing them was that they had been radicalized BY THEIR TREATMENT IN GUANTANAMO. Ethically, legally, they had the right to be freed. But some argued that they were too dangerous now to be freed. An odd argument to make when it was the government itself that had made them that way.
*I don’t say this is intentional by the authors. And I may be seeing moral complexity where there is none. No one seems troubled by Lok’s being returned to Bogan (except Lok, of course) in the story. But still, I found it troubling and it definitely called up some real world things in my head.
*So, Hawk and his master discuss the vision. And Hawk finally admits it: “I convinced myself that what I saw . . . was a hallucination . . . I was wrong.”
*Meanwhile, Xesh is beginning Jedi training, the Jedi are beginning manufacturing lightsabers to replace their metal weapons and Trill . . . Trill is sending a message to Predor Skal’nas. Predor Skal’nas closes The Prisoner of Bogan with an ominous order: “Prepare the fleet. Prepare for war.”
*Damn. That was good. That was really, really good actually.
*I wasn’t entirely sold on the comics after Force Storm. I thought Force Storm was definitely better than the average Star Wars comic story. It had interesting characters, mainly. The story was a bit clichéd and such, but I enjoyed it.
*Well, The Prisoner of Bogan is a huge step up in quality from Force Storm. The characters just keep getting deeper and more complicated. Just for the Hawk/Lok stuff this one’s worth reading. This is great character stuff. And then Xesh got more development as well. And the other characters still come across as interesting, if not as complex as those main three.
*And the story, as noted above, actually raised some real emotions and some genuinely thought-provoking moral issues. This is a real story, with some surprising twists, and everything in it flows out of the very real characters and their relationships.
*Now, I did have problems with one element, namely the awful narration. I’m not a fan of these narration heavy comics. I find the narration to be overly florid and usually only used to hammer points home that the story itself is already making in subtle and more interesting ways. It’s most obnoxious when the narration is recapping. I suppose that’s a necessary evil for a comic series, but there are a couple of bits here where the narration spent like two whole pages just recapping prior events. That definitely gets tiresome.
*This wouldn’t be an issue, of course, in my dream film version of this story. There would be no narration and, with that narration trimmed, there’s essentially nothing wrong with the story at all.
*In short, I found The Prisoner of Bogan to be emotional, exciting, thought-provoking, suspenseful, genuinely surprising and all around excellent. Wow. There’s a twist for you.
*CANONICAL STATUS: This historical work is, as near as can be determined, entirely accurate. The events depicted here can be believed to have happened exactly as recorded. This work is RECOMMENDED as a historical resource.
*Next time . . . let’s wrap this era up and see if I actually end up recommending every single work from this era. Join me next time for Dawn of the Jedi: Force War!