VINDICATION: Miller talks "Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic"

For 30 issues of Dark Horse's "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" series, Jedi Padawan Zayne Carrick has been on the run, falsely accused of murdering his fellow students at the Jedi Academy on Taris. "Knights of the Old Republic" #31 paves the way for a the pivotal "Vindication" storyline, in which Zayne, on the verge of shedding light on the conspiracy, finally comes face to face with the real killers. CBR News caught up with writer John Jackson Miller, who brought us up to speed on what's happened so far, and hinted at things to come.

"Knights of the Old Republic" kicks off with Zayne Carrick arriving late to his own graduation ceremony, and discovering that his fellow students have been murdered by their masters. Zayne flees the scene and is framed for the crime. Over the course of the series, we learn that Zayne's former masters belong to a secret society within the Jedi Order known as the Covenant, a group of seers obsessed with eliminating potential Sith threats. After a disturbing vision seemed to indicate that one of their students would turn to the Dark Side and obliterate the Jedi Order, the Covenant members decided to nip that future in the bud by eliminating their young padawans.

"[The Covenant pursues Zayne], using their authority, Republic law, and a web of bounty hunters to close the noose around him," Miller told CBR News. "But their plans to capture him -- and his to clear his name -- crash headlong into the Mandalorian invasion of the Republic, complicating matters for everyone!"

For all its pitch and moment, the Covenant's fateful vision is anything but clear cut. "There are a lot of way to interpret the vision that his Masters had," Miller said. "They agree that a single figure -- possibly one of their students -- will bring about their own deaths and the collapse of the Jedi Order. As the series has developed, some things have come true -- but not exactly in the way they imagined it." This uncertainty troubles all of the Covenant members save one: Lucien Draay, a Jedi enforcer, and Zayne's former master, who plans to deal with this threat like he would any other.

Over the course of the series, Zayne has amassed an eclectic entourage. "There's Jarael, the mysterious ivory-skinned woman who's beautiful and brave -- and a better fighter than her opponents imagine," Miller said. "She's caught the imagination of quite a few people, who suspect there's more to her and her mysterious past than meets the eye.

"One of those interested in Jarael is Rohlan, a Mandalorian deserter who's been traveling with Zayne and company since escaping his army during an invasion," Miller continued. "He's suspicious about the origins of the Mandalorian War, but lately he's seemed more interested in Jarael than in finding answers."

Rounding out the bunch is the "sawed-off con-artist" Gryph and his entourage of criminals: a kleptomaniac pilot named Slyssk, and Dob and Del Moomo, a pair vying for the title of "stupidest bounty hunters ever."

"Knights of the Old Republic" #31 is a done-in-one called "Turnabout," which bridges the gap between the "Exalted" arc and the upcoming "Vindication" storyline In "Turnabout," Zayne finds the Republic fleet in between him and his goals. "Zayne's last encounter with the Navy resulted in him rotting in the brig of a battleship, so this is not a reunion he's looking forward to," Miller said. "There's a lot of space action in 'Turnabout,' and the return of some familiar faces, to boot."

Does the title of the upcoming "Vindication" story arc imply that Zayne will finally succeed in clearing his name? Miller says that fans should expect the unexpected. "It could suggest Zayne's vindication," Miller said. "But it could also suggest the vindication of the views of the Covenant, the people chasing Zayne. Or it might mean something else entirely."

The one thing that is certain is "Vindication" will be a pivotal moment for the series. "'Vindication' brings together a lot of faces we haven't seen in a while in a sequence in which many of the threads we've developed converge on one important spot at one pivotal time," Miller said. "Is it the right place at the right time, finally? We'll see -- but we know Zayne's track record at that!"

"Knights of the Old Republic" is set some 4,000 years before the events of "Star Wars: A New Hope," and eight years before the video games of the same name. Miller has played both "KOTOR" games, and says though the comic series is completely independent from the games, many of the issues facing the galaxy remain the same. And readers who are familiar with the games get to see a few familiar faces along the way. "Saul Karath and Carth Onasi have an important ongoing role in the life of our protagonist," Miller said. "Just as there are figures from the game underworld that have been a big part of the life of our swindler, Gryph." The first game also introduced a Sith bioweapon that transforms its victims into mindless mutants known as Rakghouls, and Miller said the "Rakghoul menace" has played a large part in "KOTOR's" 2008 "Vector" storyline (a crossover event that spanned all four comics in the Dark Horse "Star Wars" line and 4,000 years of "Star Wars" history).

A longtime fan of the franchise, Miller was reading "Star Wars" comics even before he saw the films that inspired them. "My first 'grown-up' comic book was Marvel's 'Star Wars' #1," Miller said. For the young writer, this was the perfect gateway to the "Star Wars" films and to other comics. Miller amassed an impressive collection of "Star Wars" action figures, and has been reading the "Star Wars" expanded universe since the first original "Star Wars" novel, "Splinter of the Mind's Eye," was published when he was in the fourth grade. Miller was excited when Timothy Zahn's "Heir to the Empire" novel trilogy and Dark Horse's "Dark Empire" comic series revitalized the "Star Wars" expanded universe in the early '90s, a resurgence which paved the way for Dark Horse's current line of "Star Wars" comics.

After a stint writing "Iron Man" in the early '90s, Miller inquired with Dark Horse editor Randy Stradley about "Star Wars" writing opportunities. "[Stradley] suggested they might need fill-in issues on 'Empire,' the title set between Episodes IV and V," Miller said. "A few months later, I proposed a story which would become 'Model Officer' in 'Empire' #35." Shortly thereafter, "Empire," and its companion comic, "Republic," were discontinued in advance of a planned re-launch of the Dark Horse "Star Wars" line coinciding with the publisher's 20th anniversary. Stradley encouraged Miller to develop a story set in the Old Republic era, set in between Dark Horse's "Tales of the Jedi" comic series and the events in the "Knights of the Old Republic" video games. "I cooked up what I thought would be an exciting yarn in the space opera tradition, and the result was the 'Knights of the Old Republic' comics series, which started monthly back in January 2006. It was the first of the new line, to be followed (timeline-wise) by 'Dark Times,' 'Rebellion,' and 'Legacy.' We're in our third year now, and going strong."

For such a pivotal story arc as "Vindication," Miller was thrilled to welcome back Brian Ching into the fold, who provided the art for "KOTOR's" first storyline, "Commencement." "[Ching] created the look for a lot of these characters," Miller said. "Now, let's see which ones survive -- if any!" For readers who want to get caught up on "KOTOR," three trade paperbacks compiling the first two years of the series are available now, with a fourth volume, "Daze of Hate, Knights of Suffering," scheduled for release later this year. "It's a good time to catch up on 'KOTOR!"

More information about the "KOTOR" era can be found in the 'Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide," a sourcebook that Miller co-wrote for Wizards of the Coast's 'Star Wars Roleplaying Game.' "Gamer or not, it's fun reading," Miller said.

"Knights of the Old Republic" #31 hits stands on July 23rd, and issue #32, part 1 "Vindication," is scheduled for release on August 20.

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