Knights of the Old Republic #38
Story: John Jackson Miller
Art: Dean Zachary
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Brian Ching, Michael Atiyeh
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (08/29/2009)
The crew of the Hot Prospect (minus Gryph) inspect a derelict luxury liner that's been missing for weeks. They find a survivor and lots of dead bodies. The mystery is revealed rather quickly when Zayne and his friends discover the meaning of "size matters not".
The story starts out pretty normal: the Hot Prospect encounters the lost luxury ship Chancellor Fillorean, adrift and with no apparent signs of life. The ship has been missing for weeks and even though there is a slim chance anyone is still alive in there, Zayne, Rohlan, Jarael and Slyssk with his new-found self-confidence (but no Gryph, more on that later) go investigate in case there is. They do find about 20 bodies floating in the zero-gravity, and then are ambushed by a protocol droid. Right away, suspicions fall on him, but then the droid's master reveals himself to be the last survivor. He is a Bimm named Toki Tollivar, and his droid is K-OB7 or Kayo. The story of his survival seems plausible, until Rohlan identifies the passengers' cause of death as strangulation.
When Slyssk is found with his throat crushed (but saved thanks to a tracheotomy performed by Rohlan), suspicion falls again on Kayo and Zayne goes to confront the droid. By that time, Kayo has befriended Elbee and brought the loading droid out of his self-induced lethargy so when Zayne slices off the suspect's weapons, his hands, Elbee reacts to protect his new friend. He stops Zayne and Rohlan long enough so Kayo can explain his function to protect his master by helping covering Toki's actions and his "identities". The protocol droid then reveals that his master is always found near dead bodies, and their latest port of call was Corellia.
There used to be a backup feature during the first couple of years of this series (they are sadly missed), and one of those recurring articles used to be the HoloNews reports "The Adjudicator". Among those, there were frequent news about the serial killer Kelven Garnatrope, AKA "The Corellian Strangler". Well, now we know who he was. At this point, Zayne and Rohlan quickly realize who the real culprit is and that Jarael, whom they left to protect "Toki" and Slyssk, is in mortal danger. When they arrive, they discover Toki's secret: the Bimm is a Sith adept left without a mission after the Sith War ended, but continuing to destroy the Republic from within on his own. He has been using the Force to choke citizens of the Republic, including the passengers and crew of the Chancellor Fillorean, an act which left him stranded. The confrontation turns into a lightsaber duel and the more experienced Toki gains the upper hand until his faithful droid protects his Master one last time... from himself.
Rohlan finishes them off pretty coldly, which reflects a change in his personality. The same thing happened earlier when he didn't rush to rescue a suffocating Slyssk. And the Mandalorian even threatens to get rid of Zayne if he is unable to help him protect Jarael. Zayne is puzzled by this change, and this seeming obsession with Jarael. As for her, Zayne wonders how he will deal with her apparent Force sensitivity (as used last issue) and what did Toki mean in his last words "I'll destroy them all! The Jedi... The woman... especially the woman! Wherever they go, I'll find them!" (thus prompting Rohlan to finish him off). And Zaybe has a secret of his own: apparently the vacation he was on (as mentioned in issue #36) was a cover story for something else that he doesn't look forward to Gryph finding out.
All this, Zayne muses aloud to Elbee, who is a better listener than talker. The droid hasn't been seen much since issue #21 and I always thought he was an under-used character, but this story maybe hints that we'll see more of him. The element of Elbee just brings a level of familiarity and works perfectly for this story. With Gryph absent from this issue (off preparing the events for next issue), and Slyssk losing his courage again after his trauma, Elbee seems to be the character with the least secrets. Miller is masterful at planning his story arcs and pacing himself. The advantage of having one writer writing every issue is that he can plant hints here and there of what he plans to do and pique the interest of his readers. His stength also lies in his characters who become so familiar and lovable, and yet keep susprising us once in a while.
It's nice to have a guest artist (if that's what newcomer Zachary is) once in a while to bring a fresh vision to things. He seems to ink lightly over very detailed rough sketches, which makes for a rugged, dark look to the pages. It is also pretty realistic, and the new characters seem pretty sinister (which is fitting given the tone of the story). K-OB7 has a mantis-like appearance, and Toki suspicious expressions hint at his motives even before he reveals his true nature.
Regarding Toki's species: I was never a fan of the dual-Bimm-species retcon because it was hardly necessary. Bimms have always been described as Human-looking in Timothy Zahn's books, and depicted as such in the West End Games Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook. A Human-looking character in the Mos Eisley cantina scene of A New Hope was even made a Bimm in the Customizable Card Game. But because of Heir to the Empire's comic adaptation (by French artists Olivier Vatine and Fred Blanchard who were given total free reign on their interpretations), now we had furry Bimms with Yoda ears. Much like what happened with their Noghri and Bothans, this became the accepted depiction of their appearance. But unlike with the Noghri and Bothans, the Bimms were now two species inhabiting the same planet thanks to an attempted fix in The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons and later sources. This could have all easily been relegated to artist interpretation like the other two species, without the need to create a completely separate species (with the same name no-less). The same thing happened with the Annoo-Dat, among others.
This brings me to this issue. Here, the artist (probably through no fault of his own and working with what reference he was given) creates another different look for the character of Toki Tollivar, to the point that I was completely taken by susprise when he reveals his species. Toki has more of a dog-faced appearance and looks a lot like a short Farghul. This doesn't detract from the story in any way, and the art is beautifully rendered. Zachary totally controls the character in his very expressive face. I especially love Toki's evil look after he pulls out his lightsaber to fight Zayne, complete with orange pupils. And it's not hard to believe Zayne has a hard time fighting the diminutive Sith, with the savageness Zachary depicts, and also remembering the Yoda vs. Dooku fight in Attack of the Clones. I hope Mr. Zachary comes back to this series pretty soon.
This "standalone" story contains more than its share of mystery. Not only is the story an unraveling mystery, but also it is filled with possible clues about past and future stories in this series.
Rating: 8.5 / 10 Highly Recommended