*So, as this story opens, Zayne and his little group of misfits have made for the front lines of the Mandalorian War. The thinking is that this is the best place they can lose themselves and evade the murderous Jedi that are after them. Anyway, the story opens with them conning their way into a Republic outpost. They manage to convince the soldiers there that the Mandalorians are attacking and all the soldiers beat it out of there, leaving the outpost in the hands of Zayne’s group.
*So, they set about loading all the supplies and such into their ship when the downside of their “let’s go to the front lines” plan reveals itself, namely the Mandalorians attack for real.
*Great, great two page spread of the attacking Mandalorian horde just thundering down on our heroes.
*The Mandies capture Jarael because she was, and I am not making this up, playing with Zayne’s lightsaber and pretending to be Jedi Master Q’anilia instead of helping load the ship.
*In a moment that really underlines just how perfect the art is here, a panel captures Jarael realizing she is surrounded by Mandalorians. She is frozen in mid-movement, hilariously lifting up her Miraluka-esque blindfold with one finger. It’s the little moments that make the characters.
*Anyway, frigging great action sequence here as the Mandies capture Jarael and Zayne, Gryph, Elbee & Camper desperately flee through the forest, fighting Mandies as they go.
*More proof that Zayne & Gryph add up to one of the best duos in the Star Wars galaxy: Zayne throws a blaster to Gryph. “Take this. You may need it.” “What am I going to do, sell it to them? I think they’re covered when it comes to blasters.” “I mean use that trigger thing there. You’ve sold enough – you must have heard about it.” “I talk my way out of jams, henchman. You’re the muscle. Now muscle.”
*Oh this little sequence has a fantastic punchline. Just as Zayne and co. get to the ship, a Mandalorian Berserker cuts them off. It appears that he’s about to take Zayne out when suddenly . . . he turns and leaps into their ship and starts trying to steal it! That was a twist I didn’t see coming.
*Brief scene of Mandalore the Ultimate (right? All these Mandalores get me confused) discussing their assault with his second in command. I really hope this series isn’t just set against the backdrop of the war; I hope it is actually ABOUT the war, which scenes like this seem to make me think it will be. I mean, here’s hoping Mandalore the Ultimate is actually a character in the series.
*So, Zayne & crew get on the ship and Camper, surprisingly, takes out the Mandalorian.
*There’s this amazing panel of Gryph. In the fracas with the Mandie, he drops a ton of explosive charges and there’s this amazing shot of him screaming in panic and waving his arms. See, this is what I love about Miller’s work (and, of course, the artist Dustin Weaver who seems to be right on Miller’s wavelength). It’s his willingness to just go into full on comedy in the middle of a serious story. The humor was one of the reasons I loved the Lost Tribe stories.
*Admiral Karath gets an introduction. So, this guy is a hawk to make hawks seem like doves, if you get me.
*They spot Zayne’s ship leaving planet and heading for Mandalorian territory. This gives Karath the wrong idea and he’s pissed about it: “That’s it, then. Our Jedi killer was a Mandie operative . . . I’ll deal with Zayne Carrick personally.”
*So, the Mandie Berserker turns out to be a fellow name of Rohlan Dyre. He’s been getting suspicious about the Mandalorian assault on the Republic. He thinks there’s something odd about the tactics and the strategy. He thinks the Mandalorian leadership is up to something they’re not telling the troops. So, he’s trying to get away from the attacking forces so that he can figure out what’s really going on.
*Also, Mandie Berserker would be a great porn name.
*Anyway, he tells Zayne that Jarael’s been taken to a research station named Flashpoint. Because she had Zayne’s lightsaber, the Mandies think she’s a Jedi and all captured Jedi are delivered to a mad scientist called Demagol who runs Flashpoint and spends his time experimenting on Jedi to try to figure out what the deal is with this whole Force thing.
*God, shades of Jenna Zen Arbor. Let’s hope this turns out a little better than those books.
*Zen Arbor? Or Zan Arbor? Eh, I don’t care enough.
*Aha, time to check back in with a character introduced in Crossroads. Seems Squint is one of the captured Jedi at Flashpoint. Had a feeling he’d be back.
*Nice bit here. Demagol arrives to take Jarael to be experimented on. “Demagol, wait! Leave her. I’ll go.” “Squint, you know you’re my favorite, but this is rude to our new guest.” “Take me. I insist. I must have some ability you haven’t discovered yet.” “What are you doing? You can barely stand.” “These are trials only a Jedi can survive, Jarael. And I think we both know I’m the only Jedi in this conversation.” “How did you know--?” “Because we DO have abilities they have yet to discover. Maybe that’ll be their undoing.”
*I kind of wish that last sentence had been replaced with the bleaker, “And that’s our last hope.” But I like that exchange a lot.
*So, Rohlan brings Zayne into Flashpoint as a “prisoner.” More great stuff between Squint & Jarael. “Zayne? Zayne Carrick?” “You know him?” “We met on Taris a few weeks ago just before we set out. Our masters knew each other. You know him?” “You’re not up on current events, are you?”
*So Crossroads was “a few weeks ago.” I forget if there are any time markers in Commencement. I think it probably begins just right after Crossroads, like just a few days, if that. But some small amount of time has clearly passed between Commencement and Flashpoint; Zayne’s group is working together to some degree and they’ve been making plans.
*So, Demagol takes Zayne back to start vivisecting him. Rohlan & Zayne overpower Demagol and lock him in a closet. In a really humorous bit, Zayne and Rohlan pass through the prison area with Zayne wearing Demagol’s armor and Jarael manages to break free of her guards and leap on Zayne, thinking he’s Demagol. Pretty funny stuff.
*There’s a really cool sequence, played entirely without dialogue, of Zayne standing in plain sight of the Mandalorian guards (dressed as Demagol, of course) and coolly using the Force to plant charges all around the ships. He’s motioning with his hands, but it appears to the guards that he’s simply standing with his hands clasped behind his back. It takes a minute to explain, but visually, in a series of dialogue-free panels, it just really works.
*So, Zayne sets off the explosive charges while Gryph calls in on a Mandalorian channel pretending to be a Republic Admiral bombing the base. The Mandalorians retreat in a big hurry, leaving Flashpoint in the hands of Zayne’s group.
*It’s really clever actually. This is essentially the very same plan our little group used to make the Republic forces retreat from their bunker at the beginning of this story. I quite liked the reusing of the plan, with some very minor tweaks. These guys have some smarts and some good plans . . . just, you know, not a lot of them.
*So, Rohlan turns Demagol, back in his suit and unconscious, over to the Jedi who are headed back to Republic space. I’m pretty sure that when Rohlan went into the base to get Demagol that Demagol turned the tables on him and pulled a switcheroo. I think Demagol, in Rohlan’s armor, just handed off the unconscious Rohlan, in Demagol’s armor, to the Republic. There’s a shot of “Rohlan’s” impassive helmet with Jarael reflected in the visor. Demagol had earlier evinced a fascination with Arkanians, so, yeah, I’m thinking “Rohlan” is really Demagol.
*Squint tries to get Zayne to join him. Squint’s headed back to find his master who has a plan to stop the Mandies. Zayne tells him he still has something he needs to do.
*So, Squint says goodbye to Jarael: “I don’t know what your plans are, but they sound pretty dangerous. Good luck out there, Squint.” “Oh, that’s just a name the guys made up. My last name is a bit of a mouthful. Next time we meet, Jarael . . . just call me Alek.”
*OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH SSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII . . . .
*Okay, Miller, you got me. This was a genuinely jaw dropping moment. Squint had hair in Crossroads, but when he shows up here, as a prisoner, his head has been shaved, so he’s bald. And all this talk about his mysterious master, who is never actually seen and never referred to by name . . . and the way this series is working in characters from the games . . . and yet I still didn’t get it. Squint is Malek; this mysterious off-screen master . . . God, it’s Revan.
*Okay, I am seriously pumped as **** right now. Like I said, I know only the vague outlines of the stories of Revan & Malek, namely that at some point in the Mandalorian Wars they fall to the Dark Side in order to defeat the Mandies. Then Malek betrays Revan and takes over and Revan loses his memory somehow.
*Now, it appears that these characters will be part of this series (unless Miller just gave Malek a cameo here and they’re not in the rest of the series, in which case, what a case of blue balls I’ve got coming). I really hope so. They’re characters I’m interested in and fascinated by and know very little about. Seeing Malek here and then pulling up that picture of him in KOTOR . . . what a difference a few years can make
*I really want to feel the tragedy of this, you know. I mean, we’re around six to seven years out from the KOTOR video game, but looking at the timeline, it appears the war basically stretches over more or less the whole period. The battle of Malachor takes place in 3,960 (we’re currently in 3,963, though right at the beginning of the year), which I think is when the Mandalorians kind of get stomped in a big way, but we’ve got the Republic engaging with Sith forces as early as 3,959, in Czerka 431 & Permanent Demotion, so the war with Revan’s Sith group must start immediately; Revan essentially defeats the Mandalorians and declares war on the Republic at the same time or something like that.
*The Betrayal of Darth Revan is dated 3,957 with the video game taking place the following year, 3,956. So, it looks like Revan & Malek are basically at war for the next six years or so. Yeah, that changes a guy; I hope we spend some time here on Malek’s fall. Like I said, tragedy is what I want.
*Yeah, so I’m super excited right now. Can’t wait to keep going on this series, looks like a blast. Commencement was intriguing, but I’m well and truly hooked right now.
*Oh, wow, that was such a long detour I thought I was done there for a second. Anyway, one last note; the last scene is of “Rohlan” stowing away on Zayne’s ship instead of going back to the Republic as he said he was going to. Yeah, this is definitely Demagol. The ship takes off and Zayne, unaware that he has one in his hold right now, muses, “I’ve seen enough Mandalorians for a while.”
*Yeah, this is great and one of the things that is most interesting to me is that this series doesn’t hew to the traditional six issues to a trade = one story to a trade or whatever. This trade contains three different stories. And yet I look at Flashpoint and I see a story with a tremendous amount of energy and wit and action and, even more surprising, great character development. I think about some of the six issue stories from earlier in the timeline: The Sith War, The Golden Age of the Sith, Dark Lords of the Sith, Sith of the Sithy Sithing Sith (that one may not be a real one, but it sure could be). This story is so much better in only three issues.
*Anyway, what can I say? I liked Commencement a lot. I LOVED Flashpoint. Bring the rest of the series on!
*CANONICAL STATUS: The records of Zayne Carrick’s adventures during the Mandalorian War are of extreme accuracy. This work is RECOMMENDED as a historical resource.
*Highly recommended. 4 stars.
John Jackson Miller
*Well, next time, we’ll check in with Zayne’s enemies with Knights of the Old Republic 9: Flashpoint Interlude: Homecoming.