Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Last Jedi!

The Last Jedi! is one of the very best Star Wars comics, with memorable characters and an exciting, intricate plot. The plot succeeds where The Third Law failed by fitting seamlessly into the Star Wars setting, even enhancing it in a way that very few other comic stories could.

It begins simply enough, with Luke, Princess Leia, C3PO and R2D2 on a mission to rescue "Prince Denid of Velmor" who has crashed his spaceship on a planet, and they hope they can make friends with him.

They meet him and Princess Leia is immediately smitten with him, as shown quickly in two small panels and a line of dialogue. Princess Leia has a happy face as she says:
...We've come a long way to find you -- and it was worth the trip!
To which Luke adds:

However, the really interesting character they meet is Prince Denid's friend Jedidiah.

Jedidiah is dressed like a Jedi and has a stick instead of a laser blade, so Luke at first thinks he is "a JEDI KNIGHT?!" but then Denid explains Jedidiah's - or "Jedi" for short - tragic backstory where he turned down the chance to become a Jedi so he could save Denid, but "his injuries robbed him of his reason" and he began acting like he thought a Jedi should act.

Jedidiah has a unique look, and his madness is effectively conveyed by the wobbly speech bubbles and uneven text. It is easy to feel sorry for Jedidiah, but Luke takes against him and a caption reveals his thoughts and feelings on the matter.
The thing is a walking parody of Luke Skywalker's highest, most revered goal... and it makes his blood boil!

Later on, he says to C3PO:
Keep this crazy old guy away from me, will you, Threepio? I'm gonna have enough trouble without baby-sitting him!

Considering that Luke is one of the main characters and the hero of Star Wars, it is a strange and bold move that we the readers are not supposed to side with him when he thinks and says these things. He is being presented as definitely being in the wrong here.

They fly to the planet Velmor, and are just in time to interrupt the coronation of Denid's usurping brother Prince Anod.

Luke and Princess Leia are in disguise, which for her means a "gold" wig and for him a wig, a hat, an eyepatch and a moustache - Luke taking no chances that somebody from the Empire might recognise him.

Luke takes the fake name "The Bounty Hunter Korl Marcus" while Princess Leia pretends to be Denid's betrothed Loren. The real Loren is dead and does not appear in the story, but this is an excuse for Denid to spend time with Princess Leia.

The baddys of the story are introduced as Regent Zelor and his friend from the Empire, Captain Traal. So that Jedidiah does not have a monopoly on unusual speech balloons, Captain Traal's bubble drips with icicles when she says "Delighted" upon being introduced to Denid.

After Denid is confirmed to be the prince he says he is, Captain Traal wastes no time in trying to seduce Luke to her side.
I want you...
... to kill Prince Denid and his little queen at the ceremonial games tomorrow!

They kiff and Luke pretends to go along with it. Of course as soon as he leaves it is revealed that the baddys plot to kill him too, and then Zelor goes off to plot against Traal and Anod as well. Luke goes to tell Princess Leia about the baddy's sceheme - the part he knows about at least - but he finds she is with Denid and they are also having kiffs!
I love you Leia! Marry me, and rule with me, as my queen!
Denid, I...
Hush, my love... ...Don't say another word!

Luke only gets to speak to Leia the next day, and he is sarcastic and abrupt to her even when warning about a plot to kill her.
But Luke, if you knew about this last night, why didn't you--
Because you were too busy playing spin-the-bottle with Denid, that's why! May I be the first to congratulate you?

Meanwhile, in a sub-plot that seems to have diverged completely from the main plotline, C3PO is still looking after poor Jedidiah, but cannot find a droid to repair his brain.

The storylines begin to converge as it heads for the conclusion, when Luke double-crosses Captain Traal and then they are both double-crossed by Zelor and Anod. Luke gives himself away when he calls Princess Leia "Leia" (she's still in disguise, after all) and uses his "light-saber" (as Jedidiah called the Jedi laser blade earlier on, and Captain Traal calls it now when she recognises it).

Anod shoots Princess Leia and Denid, and Luke runs away as Traal, Anod and Zelor betray and shoot at each other, and Anod is the first to go

Luke is hunted by the other two, and thinks to himself that he is in trouble.
Both Traal and Zelor know the terrain--
"I don't.
"They both have blasters--
"I don't."
But I have something going for me they don't...
... The best ally in the universe...
"... The Force!"

A great picture representing Luke reaching out with the Force. The moment he does so Jedidiah, miles away with C3PO and R2D2, looks up and reacts, and his speech becomes lucid and normal and he leaps into action:

What? The young one -- he is in danger! I must help him!

Luke uses a clever trick to defeat Zelor, but then he is about to be shot by Captain Traal. Jedidiah races up and saves him...

... but Jedidiah is shot instead.
There is a burst from Traal's blaster, then, in a twinkling, it is over...
... and silence reigns...

Zelor and Traal have one more go each at Luke, but he defeats them both. Princess Leia and Denid wake up and meet Luke, who is grieving over the body of Jedidiah, his opinion completely turned around. Luke makes a speech:
... Somehow, this valiant old man found the strength and the wits to save my life... but lost his...
... He did that for me... though I scorned him and derided him in my heart! He lost his life, and I lost him!

After that it is all over bar the wrapping up of the Princess Leia/Prince Denid romance sub-plot, which ends as it inevitably must with Princess Leia turning Denid down to go on being a main character while Denid will not be in it again. Ever the diplomat, Princess Leia says
I'm honored, Denid... more than I can say... but my place is with the rebellion!

In the final panels Luke sends Jedidiah's body into space in a "rocket-powered coffin" as he salutes him as "the last Jedi".

What truly sets The Last Jedi! head and shoulders above other Star Wars stories is the emotional impact of Jedidiah's sacrifice. Although he has only a pawful of lines of dialogue, his distinctive appearance and unique form of speech make him stand out immediately, and his tragic backstory is conveyed quickly and simply for an instant effect.

And not just on the reader - by having the opposite effect on Luke Skywalker, the hero, than on the reader, he becomes even more sympathetic. Cleverly, Luke returns to being the hero again at the moment he recognises Jedidiah's true worth and seeks to atone for wronging him.

This story also achieves the rare accomplishment of having Jedidiah both being  a Jedi and not being a Jedi. Jedi by name and nature, but not by training or title. The Star Wars setting had already set in stone that there could be no 'real' Jedi Knights beyond the characters we had already met, but Jedidiah was a clever way of working around that restriction. It is a trick that could really only ever work once, but it certainly works here.

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