Knights of the Old Republic #40
Dueling Ambitions Part 2
Script: John Jackson Miller
Art: Brian Ching
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Daryl Mandryk
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (09/29/2009)
Zayne and Rohlan qualify for the Tandem finals, along with Franchise player and well-known champion Goethar Kleej and his young son Aubin. But the owner of Jervo's World arrives and he is not happy to learn that associates of his nemesis Marn Hierogryph are on his station. With the Franchise's leader Bardron, Jervo Thalien plans to get rid of both the Snivvian con artist and the swoopduelist who tried to reveal their dark secrets to the galaxy. Meanwhile aboard the Hot Prospect, Jarael has a dream perhaps prophetic that shows her Zayne as a slave.
Last issue, Zayne signed up for the Tandem Open at the swoopdueling arena/racetrack station Jervo's World. He qualified and now he is racing in the semifinal round. But he has another goal than just winning the game: he also has to ensure that the son of the famous swoopduelist Goethar Kleej, Aubin, makes it to the finals as well. After the opening racing sequence in a cold environment subarena, Zayne and Aubin manage to make it out alive by escaping from a horrible crash. Meanwhile on the other side of the station, "Spikes" (Rohlan's stage name) is participating in his own semifinal round against several competitors including Aubin's father. At first they appear to fight each other but then they shoot down the other participants together, this qualifying for the finals.
Zayne then goes back to their ship Hot Prospect where he confides with the droid Elbee. The conversation wakes Jarael up from a weird sleep-induced vision. In it, she relives the time when she jumped through the roof of the Jedi Tower on Taris (from issue #6 but this time finds herself face-to-face with some significant characters from her past and present. Squint/Malak, Rohlan, Demagol and Lord Adasca are all confronting her about not revealing her secrets about her abilities and who she was before Camper found her. Then Zayne shows up all bruised and in shackles, and his chain is held by a woman in the shadows who tells Jarael that Zayne is hers now. Pretty creepy stuff. Just as hands are grabbing at her, she wakes up and goes to see Zayne in the cargo hold. She shows him a holographic broadcast that Gryph got his hands on.
It's the unedited retirement speech by Goethar Kleej in which he reveals that the Franchise gets their fighters as slaves. The speech was replaced in the actual broadcast by the Franchise (as seen last issue), a league of Krish who control everything going in or out of Jervo's World. Because of that speech, Bardron, who is the head of the Franchise, blackmailed Goethar into the Tandem Open with his son's life in the balance. Zayne goes back to the lockers to see Goethar and Aubin. The Gotal confirms that slavers supply all of the swoopduelists, the best of which, like himself, rise to the top and are then snatched up by the Franchise who make money off them. He also reveals that the slaves are a pretty heartless bunch led by a woman whose name he forgot (can this tie-in to the woman of Jarael's dream?) who cut off his horns one time when she was displeased with him. That horrible act rendered Goethar incapable of teaching his son how to deal with all the sensations he receives through his horns. Rohlan joins them after the conversation is over, and they all retire for the next days' big competition.
Meanwhile, Bardron is conferring with Jervo Thalien, chairman of Lhosan Industries and owner of the station (thus the name Jervo's World, get it?). Thalien just arrived to watch the finals and he's very displeased when he learns that Zayne Carrick is on the station. Not because of the "cleared Padawan-killer" himself but because of his companion Marn Hirogryph. Thalien has a deep hatred of the Snivvian and orders all his associates be taken care of. Then he chides Bardron about letting Goethar back in the competition after what he tried to pull. Bardron then says he can take care of the problem by arranging a tragic "accident" during the finals. But unbeknownst to them, Gryph is listening in on their conversation and is formulating plans of his own.
I really love where this is going. The story is becoming more about the shady organization behind the swoopduels, and especially the mysterious woman who is the slave gangleader. I can't wait to learn more about that, and I'm pretty sure that after the racing is done Zayne will want to investigate whats going on behind the scenes. Goethar Kreej is a pretty tragic figure, a Franchise player who spent most of his life as a slave to someone or another. And now his own son is also involved in the same tragedy. At least they are together, and now they have Zayne, Jarael, Rohlan and Gryph on their side. But Gryph also has more on his mind: he wants not only revenge on Jervo Thalien but also to ruin the whole Franchise. It all meshes together perfectly, and once again Miller creates a compelling story and adorable characters.
The amazing cover by Daryl Mandryk represents Jarael's dream very well, on top of being poster-worthy. The interior art by Ching is kind of meh as usual in my opinion. The highlight is always the action sequences and the beautiful coloring. I was surprised to catch a glimpse of a familiar alien among Rohlan and Goethar's competitors in the duels: a Tyluun Night-Soarer! The only other time one was seen was in issues #22-23 of the old Marvel series as part of the "Wheel" saga (which this story arc is obviously inspired by), and that one was also a gladiator. Jarael's dream/vision sequence is pretty cool too. But at this point the series is so good and Ching is so much associated with it that I really don't mind that he's not my favorite artist. As long as he can illustrate Miller's script with style, I'll be very happy and so far he's doing a great job.
Things are getting darker on Jervo's World, so read all about it.
Rating: 8 / 10 Highly Recommended