*Okay, so here we go. Next one on the block takes up three issues of the series and follows right on the heels of Labor Pains.
*So, as this begins some sort of surveillance picks up Camper where he and the rest of the group are hanging out on some backwater planet. A guy watching the camera feeds radios to a “Lord Adasca” that they’ve found what they’ve been looking for. This would be Adasca of Adascorp, I would guess.
*So, Zayne & Jareal have a lightsaber/some sort of lightsaber repelling battle staff duel that’s pretty cool.
*So, the group is splitting up. Camper, Jarael & Elbee are heading off on their own. Zayne, for God only knows what reason, is staying with Gryph instead of finding a way to go with Jarael. Moron.
*More great art. As they’re saying goodbye, there’s a series of three panels focused on Jarael’s face and she goes through some great expressions.
*Gryph & Zayne, best duo in Star Wars, more evidence, etc. “People get scared, they get stupid. And wherever stupid people are, I want to be there.” *Zayne looks directly at the ‘camera’” “I’m going to let that one go.”
*I really do love the small moments here, like Zayne just giving us a real Oliver Hardy look. I thought either Del or Dob did it in Reunion; now that Zayne’s done it, the fourth-wall breaking is confirmed.
*Oh, jeez, there’s a quick shot of a box in Camper’s hatch cracking open! I had completely forgotten about “Rohlan”/Demagol being stowed away with them! I had literally forgotten about it.
*So, Gryph has hired someone to steal a ship for them. He’s a Trandoshan, which we discover when Gryph & Zayne approach the stolen ship and he looks out the door, blurts “YEEP!” and slams the door. I had been given a heads up about “YEEP.”
*It doesn’t disappoint, I tell you.
*There’s this four panel series of Gryph pounding on the door of the ship while Zayne glares at him. It’s just brilliant. Gryph’s increasing desperation and Zayn e’s unchanging angry stare are both perfect.
*BAM BAM BAM “It’s me, the Gryph! Come on, Slyssk, open up!” BAM BAM“Umm…they say he’s the best. Well, he’s the best on Ralltir. At the moment. It’s a seller’s market, Zayne. What do you want?”
*Gryph’s abashed grin in the third panel is particularly wonderful. I mean, this is just more hilarious brilliance.
*So, Slyssk decides he wants a lot more money from Gryph, leading to a shouting match between the two. Zayne, hilariously, just doubles over and starts laughing hysterically.
*I. Love. This.
*Slyssk, it turns out, is a Trandoshan that’s always been looked down on because violence makes him nauseous so he can’t be a bounty hunter or a mercenary like most Trandoshans. He’s got a complex: “Don’t try to talk me out of it. This is my big chance to make something happen. I’ve heard it all my life. ‘How did YOUR egg get in the nest, Slyssk?’” “I understand. Kids can be cruel.” “What kids? That was my mother!”
*There’s a great moment where Gryph tells Zayne he needs his help with Slysk and Zayne makes a hilarious face, waves two fingers and says, “You want me to do my thing?”
*So, Zayne ends up making a light fall in such a way that Gryph has to push Slyssk out of the way. So now Gryph has saved Slyssk’s life. Gryph tries to use this to get Slyssk to cut him a deal, but unfortunately, Gryph wasn’t quite up on the whole “lifedebt” thing.
* “I don’t suppose there’s a way we can get the ship without you?” “You can’t bargain away a debt to your Ghrakhowsk with a mere ship! While he breathes, my service is his! Where Gryph goes, I go!” “Figures. Well, cheap helps is cheap help, I guess.”
*Again, it’s the expressions. Slyssk has this incredibly funny look of pure determination on his face and Gryph is just scowling in fury. Again, great work on the non-human characters; this is the first time I’ve seen a Trandoshan character actually be expressive.
*So, Zayne flies the ship off planet, but he runs into a Republic task force and the ship Slyssk stole just happens to be a Republic military mess ship. So, Zayne and crew get grabbed up by the task force and it seems the task force is headed where our friends don’t want to go: the front lines.
*See, this is the kind of great plotting that I love. Irony. Zayne’s weird “luck.”
*So , the little extra we get with this first issue is The Admiral’s List, an official Republic military communique. I only mention this because we get our first mention here of Admiral Karath and I know that he’s from the video game.
*Oh, wait, he had a cameo before actually. Never mind.
*Most people would edit that out. I have more integrity than that.
*So, an HK droid has somehow stowed away on Camper’s ship as well. The assassin droid attacks Camper and knocks him out. Jarael & Elbee attack the droid, but things are going poorly when suddenly who should appear but “Rohlan,” blasting the assassin droid from behind.
*Rohlan is Demagol, Confirmation One: “That thing was after my friend – and he nearly got him. I don’t suppose they train you guys in first aid?” “Certainly, I -- -- well, I have seen the medics work.”
*WHAT WAS THAT CERTAINLY YOU ARE WHAT A DOCTOR PERHAPS?!
*So, Gryph, never one to miss an opportunity, just sets up the mess ship on the front lines and ends up doing a booming business, thanks to, of all people, Slyssk. “I know you wouldn’t think a Trandoshan could cook, but apparently no one ever asked them!”
*Gryph goes into the kitchen when he realizes that they’re running low on plates. He finds Zayne, sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, in front of a massive sink full of dirty plates. “Oh, I see the holdup. More labor problems. What’s the deal, Zayne?” “I’m using the Force to keep from losing my mind.”
*This is so damn good.
*So, Zayne literally bumps into Admiral Karath, but Karath fails to recognize him.
*Oh, Carth Onasi shows up. He was in TOR timeline video about the Mandalorian Wars. Presumably he’s from the game.
*Zayne has a vision of the Mandos arriving and essentially just doing a massive orbital bombardment and essentially killing everyone on the planet. Time to go. According to Zayne’s vision, the planet will be toast by sunset tomorrow, ie. about one standard day.
*For once, Gryph actually listens and prepares to ship out first thing in the morning. But it seems Slyssk hasn’t got the memo and he’s made Trandoshan pancakes. Gryph decides to stick around a bit longer.
*Meanwhile, Zayne stows away on Carth Onasi’s ship in order to get to Admiral Karath. He’s going to try to tell Karath about Mandalore’s plan.
*Onasi is reasonablysuspicious. “I saw the future. It was all in a vision I had.” “You’re a cook.”
*Admiral Karath isn’t that open either. He recognizes Zayne as the guy wanted for killing those Padawans and he makes a pretty good case against Zayne. He murdered several Jedi Padawans, escaped, headed for the Mandalorian lines, infiltrated the Republic forces and is now attempting to get the Republic to move their defenses on the eve of a huge battle. Obviously Zayne’s both a murderer and a Mandalorian spy. I mean, it makes sense.
*Zayne does, to his credit, attempt to bring up the whole Flashpoint thing where he rescued a ton of Jedi, but unfortunately, he neglected to get Squint’s real name, so he has no way to prove what he did.
*Squint’s real name, eh? WE KNOW IT THO AMIRITE GUYS FORESHADOWING
*So, the Mandalorians arrive and fire missiles. At the planet, as Zayne said.
*Meanwhile, Gryph and Slyssk are finally attempting to pull out, only for Slyssk to recall that he forgot to refill the fuel tanks and they probably won’t even make orbit.
*I have to say, this guy is as bad at life debts as anybody I’ve ever seen. The guy’s on the front lines of a war zone and he forgets to keep the gas tank filled up? Aw, who am I kidding? I can’t stay mad at this guy! He’s adorable!
*There’s a great page here with panels of the missile bombardment just raking across the planet’s surface, devastating cities. Interspersed are two other really great panels. Revan, along with Malak, doubling over in pain, “I feel it! I feel it!” And Q’anilia in the other panel, also in great distress. “That was what it feels like when a vision starts to come true.”
*Yeah, this is dark stuff. I love this.
*Hmm, basically twenty-seven civilian cities destroyed and only eight Republic ships managed to escape the planet. Zayne is crumpled on the deck. “The Little Bivoli. Was it one of them?” “Looks like it tried to make a getaway. It was just too late.” Devestating panel of Zayne, tears streaming down his face. “Why wouldn’t you leave, Gryph? Why--?”
*Of course, he’s not really dead. This series can have no intention of killing off a character as great as Gryph so early in the series. But what this mean is that our little rag-tag group has fractured even more. First Camper, Jarael & Elbee split off into their own group. Now, Zayne’s in Republic custody and Gryph and Slyssk are on their own. I like this. The series sets up a great group that has great chemistry together and now its splitting them up to explore them even more as they have to function on their own. I dig it.
*If I’m wrong, and Gryph is actually dead, I will be both mad as all hell and yet also extremely impressed at the size of the balls on Miller. And the rest of the series will genuinely be more terrifying. But, like I say, I seriously doubt.
*So, a slight moment of respite at the end. It seems Onasi trust Zayne enough to sneak off to the comm center and pull a little prank on the civilian cities down below. He called in massive storm warnings that he knew would send them scurrying to their bunkers below the cities. He managed to call seventeen cities before the bombardment began.
*I like that the series gives us the moment of a sort of success and eases the blow to Zayne. But the series is also smart enough not to give us exactly a happy ending. The people in ten cities still got fried; and as Onasi says, he can’t be sure his warnings actually did any good. But it was a damn fine try and maybe Zayne can rest just a bit easier. Or, as Onasi says in the final line of the story, “Hang in there, Zayne.”
*Nice. I really liked this one a lot. Again, this series is just super good. I love that the series is able to be both super funny (“It’s a buyer’s market, Zayne! What do you want?!”) and also really dark in the very same story. That’s one of Miller’s biggest gifts and part of what makes his stuff feel so genuinely part of the Star Wars universe. The films manage that as well, both hysterically funny and dark and sad. About the only other author good at that in the GFFA was Allston. RIP, Aaron, by the way. Just because it’s never a bad time to remember just how ******* great that guy was.
*Good times, the series just continues to really impress me with its storytelling and I can’t wait for the next one.
*CANONICAL STATUS: This work is of exceptional accuracy and is RECOMMENDED as a historical resource.
*Highly recommended. 4 out of 4 stars.
John Jackson Miller
*Next time, obviously, it’s Nights of Anger. Can’t wait.