Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quinlan Vos – How the Chump Won Me Over

I’ve been reading a lot of comic books lately.

To be specific, I’ve been picking up a lot of graphic novels (“trade paperbacks”) because I can’t be bothered to shell out cash on individual comics and I don’t have time to wait for new issues to come out…plus I’m kind of an “immediate gratification” guy…I want the whole story right up front.

The comics are, of course, all of the Star Wars EU (“expanded universe”); non-film comics that make use of the film characters.

I’ll be the first to admit the EU is a mixed bag…not only is the artwork hit-or-miss (I have my personal preference as to aesthetic styles just like everyone) the stories, too, often leave something to be desired, especially with their treatment of characters.

For example, I like the portrayals of Boba Fett in the Dark Empire comics…yes, yes, he was toast at the end of Episode VI and that will probably stay “canon” in my mind (even if it’s not anymore), but at least he’s portrayed the way I imagine him: a semi-slick, money-grubbing bounty hunter. Not even that fantastic of a shot/pilot. All that later stuff with being King of the Mandalorians or having some sort of honor or being the most fantastic commando that ever lived or whatever…total bogus crap in my mind. The guy had a cool outfit…why can’t folks just be content to let THAT be his claim to fame? Why go all Wolverine/Weapon X with the guy?

Likewise with other “favorite” characters: Aayla Secura, the twilek Jedi…who came up with the idea that she’s some sort of badass? I’ve watched Episode III many times (as my wife will unhappily verify) and if any Jedi comes off as a chump, it’s that chick. Even the kid that gets gunned down at the Jedi Temple takes out a couple clone troopers before he bites it…the blue girl isn’t even aware enough to fire up her ‘saber before she's gunned down. “Master Jedi” my ass!

The same holds true for Ki-Adi Mundi…ALMOST as big a chump as Aayla, this guy even loses his lightsaber in the battle on Geonosis. What a schmuck! And he’s some sort of badass warrior? Don’t think so.

On the other hand, some of the non-film characters are fun to read about. Why? Well, a couple reasons:

- Having no factual (in film) basis, there’s no disappointed expectations/presumptions
- The writers tend to keep them a bit under-powered compared to the film protagonists

Even when they’re the heroes of the story!

Case in point is Quinlan Vos, a character I sooooo wanted to hate. Ugh.

Jedi Master Quinlan Vos is apparently based on an extra from one of the Tatooine sequences (though one I’ve still missed in every watching). That is, his IMAGE is. His story is completely cut from whole cloth. Basically, he’s a Jedi that had a bit of a mean streak in him, works as a spy infiltrating the Separatists during the Clone Wars, but ends up turning to the Dark Side.

According to wookiepedia he eventually gets redeemed…but I haven’t managed to score that particular comic yet.

Why did I want to hate this guy? Um…pastiche? ClichĂ©? The whole “guy on the inside that gets too deep and goes bad” has been done many times over the years (see Rush or The Departed for some examples). But even more than that, THIS particular story (Jedi going bad/coming back) was done in Dark Empire years ago.

What’s more, I detest anti-heroes with dreadlocks. Period. Bob Marley: ok, it’s his religion. Rob Zombie: sure, it’s his persona/character. Everyone else: nope. Football players (especially running backs) should cut that shit out…they want to look like a walking violation of the League drug policy or something? Come on.

So badass Jedi with dreads…no. Not liking it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to hating: the character won me over. Let me count the ways.

A) Rather than be a “badass” with a heart of gold (c.f. Vin Diesel as Riddick), Quinlan is a Jedi trying to be good that has a fatal flaw/bad streak in him. And it’s not arrogance/hubris (which has been overdone…"he fell to the Dark because he was too badass...blah, blah,blah") AND it’s not whiny/pathetic (Anakin).

B) The guy spends most of the comics NOT wearing Jedi robes. Instead he wears some sort of light body armor, and carries a blaster sidearm in addition to the lightsaber. Now THAT’s my kind of space opera hero!

C) The story itself is pretty good…you can see the guy going bad even though he continues to try to justify his actions to himself (he never “surrenders” and says, yeah, ok, I’m bad now). Love the delusional hero.

D) He’s got a hot girlfriend with purple hair and seems to not give a shit about any Jedi prohibition against romantic ties. This is, of course, right in line with the pre-prequel version of Jedi, but it’s still nice to see. Oh, yeah…and she’s a competent criminal herself, though not some super-badass (i.e. not a Jedi, or hardcase…but not a damsel in distress either).

E) He is badass against your average guy but still gets his ass handed to him by the film badasses (Dooku, for example). The fact that he doesn’t give up in the face of defeat (time and time again) just makes him endearing.

So, yeah, Quinlan won me over (I can’t say the same for Aura Singh…pick a side chica!). The fact that his story has a definitive beginning and ending (as opposed to say, Boba Fett showing up in some way, shape, or form throughout multiple series) just makes me appreciate him the more.

[what is it with Boba Fett anyway? Now he’s an f’ing clone? The guy went from a cool little bounty hunter to friggin’ Duncan Idaho!]

Now some may be wondering why I’m even bothering to collect/read these EU comics when I have so many gripes. Two words: research and inspiration.

“Research” of course refers to my own space game project, and even if it’s not an actual Star Wars RPG, the research I’m doing isn’t Star Wars based anyway. For example, I’m not cataloguing NPCs or planets or “force powers.” Instead, I’m looking at the KINDS of stories being told, the TYPES of conflict and antagonist being used, the SCENARIOS that the drama is based on. These are, after all “adventure” comics, and I want to know what kind of adventures are these characters having…what kind of situations are they finding themselves in? And how are they getting themselves into these adventures? Adventure crafting is what I’m doing.

“Inspiration” is also a form of research: research into the feel of the space opera genre. Unfortunately, few of these stories feel like true space opera…the scale of the conflict isn’t grand enough. Even Quinlan Vos, nice little story that he is, is kind of “gritty” or “down-and-dirty” SciFi. This is NOT the Lensmen series, or even Star Wars…it’s just “fantasy adventures” on other planets.

But even with THAT, there’s still something to be said for entertaining and beautiful artwork. Yes, the stories are only so-so, often disjointed or only semi-coherent plus rife with tired pastiche. But unlike the EU novels (which I find just as trite and contrived) the comic books have pretty pictures that make up for sooo much. Star Wars as a PRODUCT is a visual one; it is not “depth of character” but swashbuckling laser blades and exploding starships. The comics are much truer to the product identity in this regard than the novels ever could be.

And certainly some of the comics are closer to real grandiose space opera in tone. The Dark Empire series has gi-normous “world devastator” ships that wreck whole ecosystems faster than you can say “galactic space bypass” and Dark Empire II has some sort of “galaxy gun” that launches giant missiles through hyperspace capable of destroying entire planets (now THIS is very similar to a Lensman-style weapon, like Nth-Space Planet launcher). While the comics aren’t nearly as well-paced as the film sequences (they feel more stilted than “action-packed”) the stories, can be adapted to the space opera RPG…even the “grittier” stories, so long as one “ups” the scale of the conflict.

Of course, the trick is (in writing the game) to make sure the characters can keep pace with the conflict scale. You don’t want your first level characters getting kacked by a single goblin arrow when there’s a Death Star that needs dismantling.
; )

3 comments:

  1. I really don't know what I should pick up anymore. I pretty much had my buddy who works at a comic shop $100 and tell him to pick something out for me. Seems to work well, it's how I first got into Scott Pilgrim.

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  2. While Seahawks Diehard was languishing in a slump, you were in the zone, posting prolifically.

    People overlook Aayla Secura's ignominious demise and express interest in the character simply because she's attractive.

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  3. @ Lone: Good luck with it, man...I don't have the money to actually collect comics myself, so I generally buy stuff that contributes to my "research" or that has pretty pictures. Lately, it's been the former.

    @ Brian: I see you've made up for your light posting...and glad I am!

    Aayla Secura may be a "hot blue chick," but she's still a chump. I don't mind reading her pre-demise adventures, I just don't like that she's ret-conned to be some kind of badass.

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