Knights of the Old Republic #14
Days of Fear Part 2
Story: John Jackson Miller
Art: Brian Ching
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Brian Ching, Michael Atiyeh
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (08/19/2007)
On the backwater planet Serocco, the fringe commissary ship Little Bivoli, run by an undercover Marn Hierogryph, has become a popular eating spot for Republic soldiers on the front of the Mandalorian War. Zayne Carrick, posing as dishwasher/cleaner "Shad Camper", has encounters with high-profile customers Admiral Saul Karath and Lt. Carth Onasi. Then, when Zayne has a vision of the future where Serocco will be bombed by the Mandalorians, he strongly suggests to Gryph to leave with Slyssk the cook and the Little Bivoli while they can. But Zayne is not planning to go with them.
The story opens with a continuation of the last scene where the assassin droid HK-24 had knocked out his objective Camper and was about to attack Jarael. I kind of expected that T1-LB would get involved somehow, but when HK makes mince meat of the loader droid, it's Rohlan to the rescue. We all knew that he sneaked aboard the ship in issue #10, which is probably not long before in story-time as the renegade Mandalorian managed to stay in full armor inside one of Camper's Special smuggling compartments and not die of heat or thirst. But then we leave those three until next issue.
Last issue also had Gryph and his crew on their newly "acquired" ship finding themselves right in the midst of the Republic fleet. With their faces all over the Holonet being wanted for various crimes, I was expecting them to be in some deep trouble. Who expected that one of Gryph's scam would not only succeed but exceed expectiations? Aparently, not only have they stayed with the fleet, they are apparently doing a pretty good job of keeping the troops' bellies full. And from the various comments from various characters the food is pretty decent, making the place a popular eating place. We are still right on the frontlines of the war, at Republic staging camp 3 on a planet called Serocco. The planet was mentionned in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords as being ravaged during the Mandalorian Wars. Here we find out that the humanoid native Sterebs live in cities with buildings that look like Massassi Temples, and also that some Human setlers live on one of the "nicer" continents. This planet is on the border where the Republic plan to stop the Mandalorians' advance by setting up defenses in space and on the ground. When the Little Bivoli arrived, they were part of the Republic Navy that was sent to reinforce and organize the Army.
One of the Navy's "hottest spacelift jockeys" makes a spectacular entrance by landing his hauler in a tight spot. He is called "Fleet" by newly-promoted Admiral Karath, but we know him from the video game as Carth Onasi. Also recently promoted (to lieutenant, as mentioned in the last issue), Carth is not only a cool cameo by a video game character, he has a very well-written conversation with Zayne who is posing as a kitchen boy. The way they meet is when Zayne accidentally spills some food at dinner on the admiral's uniform, which is kind of ironic since the Karath vowed to capture Zayne back when he was a captain in issue #8. But he doesn't recognize him, and Zayne doesn't know the Admiral has a personal vendetta against him. Carth then reassures Zayne, who introduces himself as "Shad Camper" and he kind of feels for this seemingly-struggling-with-life young man. As they are talking, Carth offers him a lot of information (and a good tip). While there is definitely some exposition happening in these dialogues, mostly about Serocco and the Republic/Mandalorian War, it is delivered with such skill that it feels like a very natural process and makes for a memorable moment in the series.
After that, Gryph informs Zayne that for once one of his scams actually turns out a lot of profit and he even plans on being open during night shift. Which makes it even harder for Zayne to convince him to close shop the next morning after he's had his vision of the Mandalorians destroying the cities on Serocco. But Zayne values his life more that profit, and says that they will leave right away, but Zayne announces he wants to stay and talk with Admiral Karath. Will this encounter happen, and will the wanted fugitive Zayne's presence amongst the Republic fleet be uncovered?
The issue is rounded out by a one-page excerpt from The Adjudicator, an in-universe bounty hunters' newsnet. This special "Outer Rim" report has a funny report by editor Krav Noblis featuring the most wanted bounties currently, which of course are our heroes Zayne, Gryphs and Camper (and some dude named Kelven Garnatrope). This part two of "Days of Fear" (which is the first in a planned 4 three-issue arcs) has more story than action, but as usual Jackson Miller has a masterful command of his characters, creating very intelligent dialogue which drew me into the story and made it entertaining to follow. It also had some of Miller's humorous moments, mostly about the Trandoshan Slyssk being a looser at everything but being a very good chef. The story hints several times to the Mandalorians being expected the next day, and this is enough to keep readers in suspense until the final part of the story arc next issue.
I'm kind of disappointed that the entire 3-part story would not be illustrated by Justin Weaver. It is unknown to me why Brian Ching had to take over for the middle part, but I hope it was a good reason. I always disliked mini-series handled by different artists from one issue to the next, especially a short one like this. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the fill-in artist was as good or better than the regular guy, but Ching is not one of my favs. I guess having the whole arc being colored by the very talented Michael Atiyeh helps smooth out the edges and offers some continuity to the art. Other than that, I don't think Ching's style is anything comparable to Weaver's. Again, those eyes he puts on characters' faces are the oddest-looking I've ever seen. And I really don't like the way he draws HK-24, or even Elbee for that matter. On the other hand, his Jarael and Rohlan are not bad, and of course Ching created Gryph's look so he handles him well. But overall, it's only passable in my opinion.
The story is so good, it doesn't matter who draws it.
Rating: 7.5 / 10 Highly Recommended