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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Review: Star Wars: Knight Errant (Comic book series)

A while back, I reviewed a Star Wars novel called Star Wars: Knight Errant. I thought that it was a rather exceptional novel, with the writer John Jackson Miller doing a phenomenal job of writing a female heroine and giving us an interesting cast of characters. It made me want to explore the comic book series of the same name that he authored for Dark Horse Comics. You see, Dark Horse has had a monopoly on Star Wars comics for the past 20-plus years, though what with Marvel Comics and LucasFilm now both being owned by Disney, Marvel naturally has the rights to this cash cow franchise now. Anyhow, this comic series ran for exactly fifteen issues, consisting of three five issue story arcs, the book Star Wars: Knight Errant being sandwiched in between the first two. To get to the point, there's a reason that this series didn't last very long.

The basic premise of this series is that about 1,000 years prior to the films, known to you Star Wars buffs (like me) as the Republic Dark Age, there's this Jedi gal named Kerra Holt who's going on random adventures around Sith controlled space. In this particular area of the galaxy, Kerra has to deal with warring rival Sith Lords such as Daiman and Odion, not to mention wildcards like this random Hutt guy who's a huge jerkhole. After her Jedi posse gets wasted right of the bat in the first issue, Kerra goes on a one-woman crusade to save as many innocents as she can while the Odion and Daiman and their ilk try to grab all the power they can. Sounds simple enough, right? Could be awesome, right? Eh... yeah, no.

I'll admit, I wanted to like this series, because I loved the book. There's just not much to like about it. The art is only okay, the writing is hackneyed and trite, the dialogue made me wince (heavily), and the villains, while having lots of potential, were poorly handled. What really kills it, however, is the fact that Miller didn't think to bring any of his strong supporting cast from the book into the comics. Sure, Arkadia shows up in a hologram, but only has one line and doesn't come up again. The only two characters from the book which show up in the comics, aside from Kerra, are Daiman and Odion. This, of course, brings us to the series's central problem.

A walking the galaxy story is all well and good, but it only works if you have a strong, interesting, dynamic central character. Just look at MacGyver. Failing that, you need a lead protagonist with a strong supporting cast, who, ideally, will all balance each other out to achieve narrative harmony in characterization. Knight Errant suffers from having neither of these. Where we need a strong, central protagonist, we get Kerra Holt, whose motivation isn't given very much detail in the comic series other than, "I hate Sith, yay good guys, yarrrrrrg." She has minimal charisma or personality, being little more than a face with a name slapped on it. Kerra does have a personality, it's just not the most interesting one. Is she likeable? Yes. Is she compelling? No. I'll admit, it wasn't like that way in the book, but it's immensely dumbed down here.

Of course, this problem could easily be fixed by giving her a strong supporting cast to bounce off of. After all, where would Tintin be without Haddock and Calculus, or even Snowy and the Thompsons? Or what would become of Batman without Alfred, Robin, and Commissioner Gordon? Even MacGyver had Pete Thornton for most of his series. Being a science fantasy travelogue (technically), this would be hard, but not impossible, to achieve, as demonstrated by Avatar: The Last Airbender. I would love to see a changed of heart Jarrow Rusher turn around to help Kerra in her fight against evil, which would have opened up all sorts of interesting story possibilities. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

One final problem with the series is that it's epic in scale, but with no epic story to fuel it. Avatar: The Last Airbender, for example, was a epic story set against an personal plot presented in an episodic format. Knight Errant is an personal story set against a epic plot presented in an episodic format. This might seem like a mere switching around in semantics, and with good writing, could even be a good thing, but it turns this tale right on its head. It all boils down to too little plot spread over too much story. Kerra can have all the adventures she wants, but there's not overarching plot, no central, driving conflict which is going to get her to anything remotely resembling an ending. It's just her randomly fighting cartoonishly evil murderers, while occasionally stopping to mope about her parents. Airbender has Aang having to master all four elements and defeat the Firelord, and even Star Wars, which Knight Errant is based off of, had Luke having to master the ways of the Force and defeat the Empire, while saving his father from the Dark Side too. Knight Errant fails in this regard as well. It's epically episodic, but not in a good way.

On the whole, Knight Errant was something I wanted to like, but regretted wasting my time reading. It's mediocre at best, not at all noteworthy, and so far hasn't spawned any sequels to tell us just what happened to dear old Kerra. I liked Kerra, and I liked the book, but I did not like the comic book series. It is yet another Star Wars property with plenty of potential wasted on poor execution. Sad, really. I honestly expected better from John Jackson Miller.

RATING: 6/10

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