Review by Ian Keogh
Knights of the Old Republic would later spawn an entire series set thousands of years before the Luke Skywalker era, but this Tales of the Jedi graphic novel is among the earliest stories published by Dark Horse where they began adding to the Star Wars continuity. Writer Tom Veitch had just finished the first part of his enormously successful and influential Dark Empire trilogy, and over two separate stories here introduces Ulic Qel-Droma and Nomi Sunrider, whose destiny plays out over four following Tales of the Jedi graphic novels.
Over both stories Veitch takes several pages to build backgrounds, hyperspace, Jedi vulnerability and the war with the dark side in the second, and the history of a world conflict during Ulic’s introduction. While these are recognisable info-dumps, Veitch’s world building is also fascinating. Ulic is first seen in one of the many Jedi training schools, undeniably brave, but also reckless, yet deemed ready to be sent along to a new world with a couple of other Jedi, tasked to preserve peace. In a twisting script, that proves impossible. Nomi’s story is very different. She’s attuned to the Force, but has a timidity and uncertainty, and in her case it’s the circumstances that release the Jedi.
Chris Gossett loves drawing monsters and spacecraft, both of which are finely detailed and imaginative, and his most imposing page is a stirring depiction of an invasion force approaching a towering city. Gossett’s not as interested in people, who have a classical style about them, but little depth or background unless, like the sample page, there’s an opportunity for technical noodling, and while many single images are fine, there’s some confusion about his storytelling. Some key scenes aren’t clear without the dialogue explaining them. Janine Johnson’s art is more traditional, but two-dimensional, leaving David Roach as best of the artists. Classical references abound in his art, the spirit of Al Williamson visible in the sample page, and his spread of an insectoid spacecraft is a real star turn.
Both of Veitch’s stories echo the conflicts in the original Star Wars film trilogy, a little too closely in the case of Ulic being a combined Luke and Han, but that’s a deliberate reference point designed to induce expectations. The way the characters develop over the series is very different. That doesn’t entirely excuse some one note personalities, or the generic nature of the conflicts, but there’s enough adventure and danger to disguise that in the short term. Both characters are next seen in The Freedon Nadd Uprising. Knights of the Old Republic is also found in the first Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi Omnibus.