(Part 1 / Part 2)
Force War is the third and final part of Dawn of the Jedi. It takes place a year after Prisoner of Bogan. The Rakata have attacked. They have cut a bloody swathe through the system’s planets, and even attacked Tython itself. The allied forces – the Je’daii and all remaining non-Force sensitives have joined forces against this common enemy – have blunted the Rakatan attack on Tython, and the bloodthirsty dark siders have fallen back. Daegen Lok has been asked by the Je’daii to lead their forces, and Xesh now fights alongside them.
The Rakatan ground forces are mutated lower caste Rakata, Flesh Raiders, little more than beasts. They do not wield the Force, but they do fight with forcepikes (basically forcesabers, but with more hilt). They are strong and incredibly bloodthirsty. They are joined by a number of Force Hounds. Shae Koda’s presence and bond with Xesh is the only thing keeping him from being overwhelmed by the dark side. He has begun to learn the balance of the Force, but knows that only the dark side will serve him in battle.
After a tough battle, we see that tension is running high. It’s not only the strain of war, but the forcesabers. The weapons require the dark side to operate, and the Je’daii are finding it increasingly difficult to keep balance within themselves while wielding one. We also see that something more is developing between Xesh and Shae, which isn’t exactly surprising. Xesh seems willing to allow these feelings, while Shae is more reluctant, leaving with a weak excuse when things are getting too intimate.
It seems the Rakata are losing their connection to the Force. They have been commanding slaves more than they have been commanding the Force, and it is slowly leaving them. This is why Tython is so important to them. Not only will the planet restore their connection to Force, but it is also the location of the galaxy’s last remaining infinity gate (those Kwa Stargate things from part 2). This gate was the main one, and requires no connecting gate in order for the Rakata to travel wherever they want in the galaxy. As powerful as they are now, they will be unstoppable if they take Tython.
Remember the final revelation of Prisoner of Bogan? That Xesh has had memory blocks put in place by the Predor? He is beginning to have dreams about this. The blocks are perhaps beginning to fail. Drawn by the distress she feels through the Force, Shae wakes Xesh from his nightmares. Knowing that they could both die, she decides there no reason not to keep her ‘secret’ any longer: she’s in love with him. But Xesh doesn’t know what love is. The best he can do is tell her that she’s about the only person he doesn’t hate, and that she calms his anger. What a romantic. He also tells her that his name is not Xesh. He gave himself a name from the only word he remembers of his native language: Tau. Shae is now the only person to know it. Which is nice.
Now comes a bit that kind of confused me. Tasha Ryo, one of the three journeyers who were, I thought, meant to be main characters, took a backseat after part one. She is now a Seer, a Je’daii who basically sleeps all day to get visions. These visions are not clear and must be deciphered, much like normal dreams, I suppose. The reason I was kind of confused was that for some reason, I thought this was Tasha’s mother the whole time. So even though they keep calling her Tasha, I kept thinking “I wonder where Tasha is”. So, I’m an idiot. Anyway, Tasha sees a vision that leads Xesh to locate, through his old Force Hound astral travelling tricks, the location of the high Predor. They attack this planet.
Unfortunately, Trill is still about, and still a spy for the Predor. She tells him that the Je’daii are coming, and he has an ambush waiting for them. Sek’nos Rath is taken down in the battle, and taken prisoner. He becomes one of the many Force sensitives powering the Predor’s ship. Xesh, his memory block still keeping him from recognising Trill, is tricked into entering the ship, and she knocks him unconscious.
Shae feels that Xesh has been lost to the darkness, and resolves to save him, despite her master’s scolding at the emotional bond they now have. Said master also tells her that he must take command of the Je’daii troops, as Lok has disappeared.
This is where my complaint at the start of part two comes in. Predor Skal’nas is removing the memory blocks from Xesh’s mind, and we see that he ordered Xesh to kill his own master and sabotage the ship over Thython, so that Skal’nas would be the one to take the planet. However, if you recall the beginning of Prisoner of Bogan, Skal’nas is angry that Xesh and his master have not contacted him. This doesn’t make sense, leading me to believe that this was a twist the writer came up with quite late on, perhaps even after part two had been printed.
With the memory blocks gone, Xesh remembers some of the more terrible things he has done, and how he actually quite enjoyed it. It is easy for Skal’nas to bring Xesh back under his command. He is a Force Hound once more. Not only that, but he quite happily tortures Daegen Lok who, we find, has been taken prisoner. Xesh uses Lok’s own mind twist against him. Lok’s madness is sanity and truth to Skal’nas: he has found the infinity gate. Remember that chasm under the Anil Kesh temple, that drives people mad if they try to descend? That is where the infinity gate is located.
Next, Skal’nas uses Xesh and Trill to draw the power he needs to find all the Je’daii Seers through the Force, and blind them. The Je’daii’s only advantage is taken away, and the Seers are blinded both physically, and to the Force. The Je’daii are forced to retreat.
Now all they can do is wait on Tython for the Rakatan assault. The only up side is that, because Skal’nas wants the infinity gate, they cannot bombard the planet from space. Skal’nas launches the attack, but takes Lok and Xesh in a shuttle craft to the Anil Kesh chasm undetected. Almost undetected. Shae’s bond means that she senses them break through the atmosphere, and goes after them.
Meanwhile, Sek’nos Rath isn’t about to become a minor character. He gathers all of his pain, rage and hate and unleashes it, freeing himself and all the other Force sensitive slaves powering the ship. They kill their guards and join the fight. But Sek’nos is more interested in taking revenge on Xesh.
While the battle rages, the blinded Tasha Ryo once again activates the ancient holocron, hoping for guidance. It seems not all is lost. The Rakata arriving on Tython fulfills the true purpose of the holocron. “It is time,” A’nang says, “for Tython to awaken.”
Down in the chasm, Predor Skal’nas reveals that he knows how to reach the bottom without being driven mad by the infinite gate’s defenses. It is a simple symbol that he and Xesh must hold in their minds: the symbol of the Tho Yor that brought the Je’daii to Tython all those years ago. They leave Lok chained up and descend. It isn’t long before Sek’nos and Shae arrive. She and Lok follow their quarry. And so begins the final issue.
Sek’nos, left behind and thinking there is no way Shae and Lok could survive the chasm, is confronted by Trill. He hates her almost as much as Xesh now, and in an impressive but very short battle, he defeats her. His rage nearly overpowers him, but at the last moment, he spares her. The last we see of either of them is Sek’nos walking away, carrying the unconscious Trill.
Below, Lok is in battle with Predor Skal’nas, while Shae fights Xesh. She will not kill him, but he doesn’t seem to be interested in anything she has to say. They fight is interrupted when Lok tries his mind twist on Skal’nas. The pure evil in the Predor’s mind is too much for Lok, and Skal’nas strikes him down, and activates the infinity gate.
Above, at the core of Anil Kesh, Tasha has been guided by the holocron. A’nang tells her that it is time to awaken the Tho Yor. But he needs a Je’daii seer. Blinded is not severed; she can be reunited with the Force, but it will cost her ‘mortal shell’. This is quite a sad scene, but I can’t entirely put my finger on why. Tasha hasn’t been a prominent character to get attached to, yet she is likable. Perhaps it’s because she’s so young, or already been through a lot, or…who knows. But it’s a good, sad scene. This is on reflection, of course, as the first time round I didn’t realise it was Tasha. Again: idiot.
Said scene shares alternate pages with the battle below. Shae, in one speech bubble explains to Xesh/Tau what most of the world doesn’t understand: what love is. It seems enough to bring him back to the light. But if he needed any more encouragement, it comes in the form of Skal’nas striking Shae down with Force lightning. Xesh attacks in rage.
Above, Tasha’s final moments are filled with selflessness. To protect the remaining worlds from the Rakata, she falls into the stream of energy flowing through the centre of Anil Kesh. In her last moments of life, her sight is restored, as is her connection to the Force. She finally understands the purpose of the Tho Yor.
And so do we. All nine of the Tho Yor awaken with a bright yellow energy. With immense power, they strike out and destroy each and every Rakatan ship. And the infinity gate below.
Skal’nas’s rage at this doesn’t help him. Xesh still slices him open and he falls into the weird…flesh-eating water.
Apparently, Lok is still alive, as is Shae’s trusty flying rancor, who swoops in to save them as the place falls apart…naturally. It wouldn’t be a climactic finish if the walls weren’t crumbling around their escape.
The penultimate scene shows Lok refusing to hand over his forcesaber. All the other Je’daii have done so, because of the way the weapon skews the balance of the Force. But it has served Lok too well to give it up. Nor will he submit to being sent back to Bogan, apparently. Instead, he sets out to hunt down the Flesh Raiders who escaped into the wilds after the battle.
Xesh – or rather, Tau – and Shae are heading through a forest. Even after everything, the Je’daii masters have put their trust in Tau, and in the Force, and allowed him to remain on Tython. The two are setting off to explore the planet, and the balance of the Force itself. With a kiss, they walk off into the…moonset.
Force War was, unsurprisingly, packed full of little but action. I enjoyed it, and I certainly liked the idea of the forcesabers corrupting the Je’daii. In the end, even the most powerful masters were beginning to feel themselves tipping more towards the dark side. Even enjoying the killing. That issue with Skal’nas and the memory block remains the only real issue I had. Although, Xesh going back and forth between good and bad got a little bit annoying. He’s evil; he’s ok; he’s bad; he’s good; he’s evil; he’s good again.
I was disappointed to see Lok was still alive. I’d hoped that Skal’nas had killed him, but sadly not. As far as I’m concerned, he’s still a villain. Not the main villain of this story, but he was driven mad in the chasm, even if his vision was true. He wants nothing but power, and the forcesaber will probably only make things worse. If they are working on another graphic novel, dealing with this, then that’s okay. Otherwise, I would have preferred that he die.
I was a little disappointed that Hawk Ryo was barely in this one, as he was probably my favourite character. He was a bit like a tougher, more gritty Han solo, but with Force powers. The little tin star denoting his rank as Ranger helps make his look pretty good too.
The story between Xesh and Trill was left unresolved, which was a bit of a shame. Xesh’s actions caused her to become the hate-filled dark sider that she is, and she is taken prisoner by the Je’daii for it, while Xesh goes free with his new love. I would have been perfectly okay with Trill turning out to be the hero at the end, turning to the light side and stopping Skal’nas, while Xesh just…died. Although he was a good enough character, I never really gave much of a damn about him, whereas I felt sorry for poor Trill.
Lastly, I would ideally have liked to have the typical hero gathering to end things. All of the surviving main characters gathered together in one scene to have some kind of closure for all of them. But never mind.
So, overall, this was the second very good graphic novel that I’ve read, and has made me want to find more, particularly with the same artist. Although in places the art wasn’t what it could be, there are some very good images, and you can feel the tension and the heat of battle, and hear the forcesabers and the music.
I’d probably give Dawn of the Jedi a 7 or 8/10 So in short, I highly recommend this for anyone, whether you normally read graphic novels or not. Remember: I don’t.