SWNN Retro Reviews is a series of articles that covers stories across all media in what is now referred to as the Legends continuity, the non-canon pre-Disney era of the expanded universe, which includes all Star Wars media outside of the films themselves.
In Parts One and Two of our Tales of the Jedi Retro Review, we covered the first five chronological story arcs in the Tales of the Jedi series, written by Tom Veitch and Kevin J. Anderson. In Part Three, we will conclude the Tales of the Jedi review with a look at the final three story arcs in the series: Dark Lords of the Sith, The Sith War, & Redemption.
Dark Lords of the Sith, which takes place not long after The Freedon Nadd Uprising and about four thousand years before A New Hope, tells of the resurgence of the Sith and their rise to power following the fall of the golden age of the Sith centuries before.
The Sith’s rise to power gives way to The Sith War and Redemption, about a decade later, details the redemption of a key character in the series after his fall from grace during the Great Sith War. Check out the recap and review below.
(plot descriptions from Wookieepedia)
Dark Lords of the Sith by Tom Veitch (1994-1995)
About a year after the Freedon Nadd Uprising on Onderon, a violent coup is masterminded in the Empress Teta system—formerly known as the Koros system—by the cousins Aleema and Satal Keto, who manage to overthrow the Tetan Monarchy and establish their own rule over the seven worlds of that system. The two cousins utilize Sith magic that they had learned from the Sith tome they had stolen from Coruscant, thus effectively cementing their control and demonstrating that nothing would stand against them in their quest for absolute power.
Word of the Krath coup eventually reaches Master Arca Jeth, and he learns that the political uprising is in part related to the work which he, and the Jedi Knights under his command, had done on Onderon. Learning that the Krath leaders had received help from the Sith forces during the Freedon Nadd Uprising, Jeth believes that it is his responsibility to help quell the chaos that has engulfed the Empress Teta system. To this end, Jeth dispatches several of the Knights on Onderon around the galaxy in an effort to halt the growing threats he could feel in the Force.
Meanwhile, following orders from Master Jeth, Ulic Qel-Droma and Nomi Sunrider take control of a joint Republic-Jedi task force whose mission is to lend aid, if possible, to any worlds in the Empress Teta system who are still resisting the Krath takeover. Arriving in the system, they find a large Krath fleet in orbit around the namesake Empress Teta, which is the final planet to not be subdued during the coup.
The ensuing battle sees a Krath victory against the Republic and Jedi fleet, which retreats back into hyperspace after sustaining heavy casualties. During the retreat, a Krath fighter imbued with Sith magic crashes into the command deck of the capital ship Alliance I, that Jedi advisor Qel-Droma is on. Shrapnel from the ship embeds itself in his side and, unbeknown to him, the Sith magic releases his aggressive emotions, thus allowing him to use the dark side of the Force more freely.
With the defeat of the Republic-Jedi task force in the Empress Teta system, a Jedi convocation is organized on the planet Deneba to discuss a course of action to combat the rising threat of the Krath. However, the events of the conclave are interrupted when a force of Krath war droids attacks the assembly and wage a brief, but bitter, battle, which sees the death of Arca Jeth. Ulic Qel-Droma then decides to infiltrate the Krath leadership in an attempt to destroy the cult from within.
Qel-Droma’s infiltration, however, is soon discovered by Satal Keto, and a confrontation breaks out between the two which ended in Qel-Droma using the dark side to strike down and kill his opponent. Though several of his friends, including his lover Nomi Sunrider, attempt to rescue him when they realized that he was falling to the dark side, Qel-Droma shuns them and aligns himself with Satal’s cousin Aleema, who is aware of his mission but believes that they can both serve each other’s ends. Having lost sight of his original mission, Qel-Droma becomes warlord of all the Krath forces and prepares for war against the Republic and Jedi.
Nevertheless, Sunrider and the other Jedi refuse to give up on their old friend. Gaining the Jedi Masters’ blessing to attempt to rescue Qel-Droma again, the Jedi Knights organize a large force of Beast Riders and Jedi to attack the Krath palace on Koros Major. The proceeding battle witnesses a second confrontation between Qel-Droma and his former friends, though it too is unsuccessful in returning Qel-Droma to the light.
Following the retreat of the Jedi and Beast Rider forces, Exar Kun, a fallen Jedi who had gained significant Sith knowledge studying artifacts on Korriban and Yavin 4, arrives on Koros Major in an effort to destroy Qel-Droma and any other threat to the rise of his would-be Sith empire. However, during the duel, the ancient Sith spirit of Marka Ragnos appears and declares that both Kun and Qel-Droma are the heirs to the Sith legacy, and that they are now both anointed as Dark Lords of the Sith.
The Sith War by Kevin J. Anderson (1995-1996)
Six months after the joining of forces by Exar Kun and Ulic Qel-Droma, the two Sith Lords set out to begin their plans of galactic conquest. Kun arrives on the planet of Ossus intent on preaching his newfound beliefs with regards to the Force, hoping that he would be able to attract a large number of Jedi to his cause.
Speaking to a group of Jedi, many of whom, following the death of Arca Jeth, had begun to question their roles in the Jedi Order, Kun is able to convince a majority among them of what he was saying; believing that Kun possesses secrets which the Jedi Masters had so far withheld from them, this group of Jedi accompanies Kun to the moon of Yavin 4, where they believe that Kun would instruct them in the ways of the Force.
Meanwhile, after a brief confrontation with Mandalore the Indomitable in which he emerges the victor, Qel-Droma is able to gain the allegiance of the Mandalorian clans, thus adding their manpower to those of his Krath forces. With the clans of Mandalore combined with his already enormous army, and with Kun busy gaining Sith converts, Qel-Droma and Aleema Keto plan for a massive invasion of Coruscant with the intent of toppling the reigning galactic government.
Under the guidance of Kun, the Jedi defectors travel with him to Yavin 4 where he advises them that he needs their help in destroying an ancient Sith holocron, thus freeing the moon from the dark side’s grasp. Once on the ground, the Jedi watch as Kun makes a spectacle of destroying the holocron. In reality, however, Kun’s destruction of the device unleashes a strong wave of dark side magic which infects all those around him, excluding the Cathar Jedi Crado who has already sworn fealty to Kun.
Under the control of Kun’s Sith magic, the new Sith acolytes are dispatched from Yavin 4 with the mission of finding and killing their old Jedi Masters: the Brotherhood of the Sith is formed. Kun believes that such a blow against the Jedi Order would weaken it to the point where it can no longer resist his efforts at galactic domination.
Meanwhile, Qel-Droma and Keto launch their invasion of Coruscant, however due in a large part to treachery by Keto, who believes she could usurp Qel-Droma and claim his power, the invasion is stalled by the Jedi and Republic. Under orders from Keto, the Krath and Mandalorian soldiers retreat from the surface, leaving Qel-Droma to face capture by the Republic Inquisition.
Though Qel-Droma is captured and placed on trial for his war-crimes, he steadfastly denies the charges brought against him, claiming the Republic is a weak and corrupt government. During the proceedings, Exar Kun and a party of Massassi warriors, arrive to help free the captured Sith Lord. Mandalore the Indomitable, who has learned of Keto’s treachery against Qel-Droma during the attack on Coruscant, traveled to Yavin 4 to seek out Kun in the hopes that he would help rescue Qel-Droma from the Inquisition.
After a dramatic entrance, in which he uses Sith magic to paralyze all those non-Jedi present, Kun kills the Republic Supreme Chancellor and confronts his former Master Vodo-Siosk Baas. While other Jedi battle Kun’s Massassi warriors, Baas duels with Kun, but is soon bested by his former student. With the death of Master Baas, Kun and his remaining warriors collect Qel-Droma and depart Coruscant.
While Kun is busy on Coruscant rescuing Qel-Droma, the various Sith acolytes depart Yavin 4 and launch their pogrom against their former Masters. With great efficiency, almost all of the targeted Masters are assassinated, although at least one, Thon, is able to best his assassin and survive the attack. Nevertheless, the deaths of so many Jedi Masters garners worry among the remaining Jedi, and when word of a Sith attack against Kemplex IX arrived, a team of Jedi is hastily dispatched to deal with it.
The ensuing battle at Kemplex IX witnesses the deaths of all participants on both sides, as the Sith, under Aleema Keto, use Sith magic to set off a chain reaction of stellar explosions in the nearby Cron Cluster. The resulting supernova cannot be controlled, and utterly destroys everything surrounding it; the supernova is on a collision course with the Jedi library-planet of Ossus, and Kun and Qel-Droma believe that once the Jedi evacuate the world, they can then swoop in and plunder the remaining Jedi secrets.
Though the Jedi were caught unaware by the catastrophe, they rushed to gather what artifacts they could and flee. However, the Sith arrived on the planet before the Jedi could leave, and Cay Qel-Droma confronts his brother. After a duel, Ulic kills Cay. However, this act horrifies Ulic, and he abandons the dark side. Nomi Sunrider, horrified by Ulic’s actions, finds herself overcome with grief and torment and strips him of his ability to use the Force.
Broken and unable to touch the Force, Qel-Droma agrees to help the Jedi end the war by leading them to Kun’s secret base on the moon of Yavin 4. The Jedi catch the Dark Lord of the Sith unprepared, and they are able to completely level the moon, causing an enormous firestorm to spread across the planet, thus effectively destroying Kun and his seat of power. However, Kun’s spirit lives on, as before his death he uses his powers to drain the life from his Massassi followers, binding his spirit to a Sith temple on the moon.
Redemption by Kevin J. Anderson (1998)
Ten years after the devastating defeat of Exar Kun on the moon of Yavin 4, the Jedi Order is called to its first convocation since the Great Sith War by its new leader, Jedi Master Nomi Sunrider. Since the end of the war, both the Jedi and the Republic have focused on helping to restore the damaged parts of the galaxy. The Jedi, however, lacked direction, and so Sunrider hopes that, through a conclave, the Jedi Order can begin to build a united front and start replenishing the numbers they had lost during the conflict. And so, heeding the call of their leader, masses of Jedi begin descending upon Exis Station, the location chosen for the conclave.
The conclave, however, is soon manipulated by one of the Jedi present: a Cathar by the name of Sylvar who had fought during the Sith War, and who lost her mate, Crado, due to Ulic Qel-Droma. Angry that Qel-Droma has not been apprehended and brought to trial for the crimes he had committed during the war, Sylvar manages to successfully turn the focus of the conclave away from rebuilding the Order, to the question of “What should be done to Ulic Qel-Droma?”
During the proceedings, a teenage Vima Sunrider, daughter to Nomi Sunrider, grows bored with the assembly’s banter and decides to steal a spacecraft from Exis Station and go for a joy ride. However, Vima soon finds herself in trouble when she loses control of her ship, and is in danger of being pulled into a nearby sun. Nevertheless, Tott Doneeta, a Twi’lek Jedi who arrives late to the conclave, appears in system at that very moment and manages to save young Vima from death.
Following her rescue by Doneeta, Vima feels that her Jedi training cannot continue under the guidance of her mother, who she believes cares more about leading the Jedi Order than she does about the future of her own daughter. Vima then makes the decision to seek out the only person whom she thinks can help her: Ulic Qel-Droma. Eventually making her way to Rhen Var, the frozen planet which some believed Qel-Droma had exiled himself to, Vima begins her search for the former Dark Lord of the Sith.
Vima makes her way to what appears to be an abandoned fortress in the middle of the desolate frozen wastes of Rhen Var, and upon finding a way inside, Vima is finally confronted by Qel-Droma. The fallen Jedi initially refuses to train Vima in the ways of the Force, believing that since he can no longer touch the Force he cannot adequately train her. Qel-Droma, though, soon changes his mind and takes the young Jedi as his apprentice.
Meanwhile, Sylvar’s anger at Qel-Droma and his war crimes, specifically his involvement with her mate’s death, drives her close to the dark side of the Force. In an effort to find solace for her anger, Sylvar travels to the planet of Ryloth with fellow Jedi Tott Doneeta, but allows her anger to control her actions there. With her anger clamoring to claim her, Sylvar believes that she could only find peace on her home planet of Cathar through a ritual called a “blood hunt.”
Nevertheless, Sylvar’s anger doesn’t leave her, and she concludes that she must find Qel-Droma and confront him about everything he has done. During this time, Nomi discovers what her daughter had done and who she is with, and departs Exis Station in an effort to bring Vima home. Arriving on the frozen planet, Nomi makes her way to the fortress where Qel-Droma and Vima are, and proceeds to meet with her former lover for the first time since the end of the Great Sith War.
Initially angry that Vima has chosen to seek out Qel-Droma, Nomi is able to realize both the reasons behind her daughter’s choices and also what Qel-Droma has been able to teach her thus far. Qel-Droma, believing that he would finally be able to find peace now through the efforts of both Vima and Nomi, is soon confronted by the angry Sylvar, who has also arrived on Rhen Var. A fierce lightsaber duel ensues, but Sylvar is unable to continue fighting when Qel-Droma makes her realize that she was slowly walking down the same road that he had walked during the Sith War.
Finally releasing her anger, Sylvar admits how close she has come to falling. However, at that moment the pilot Hoggon, who had transported Sylvar to the planet, shoots Qel-Droma from behind, proudly proclaiming that he is the one to kill Ulic Qel-Droma. In the arms of Nomi Sunrider, and despite his inability to touch the Force and his fall to the dark side, Qel-Droma dies and becomes one with the Force, showing those present that he has at last been redeemed.
As with all of the other story arcs in the Tales of the Jedi series, the Great Sith War arcs give readers a glimpse into the ancient history of the Jedi and the Sith. Anderson really took the opportunity here in the series’ conclusion to tie up some loose ends and provide added backstory to Veitch’s Dark Empire trilogy and especially to his own trilogy of Jedi Academy novels. This entire series is a must read for fans of these two properties. The Sith War arcs are probably my favorite of the entire series, and although it takes the familiar route with the redemption angle, it is nicely executed. Anderson’s choice to use two opposing character arc conclusions for the two fallen Jedi, Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun, is also commendable. Whereas Ulic is redeemed and set free of the darkness that once ensnared him, Kun is forever lost and becomes trapped in his own darkness for what would be millennia to come.
I really don’t have many complaints in this area. I didn’t love Vima’s character in Redemption, but most of her shortcomings as a character can be chalked up to her maturity level and no small amount of that typical rebellious attitude prevalent in all teenagers. She is still young and hasn’t yet learned how to express her frustrations in a sensible adult manner, causing her to act in rash stupidity which gets her into trouble. But my eye-rolling at the teenage angst aside, I enjoyed this series quite a bit.
So, is any of it Canon?
The Tales of the Jedi brought many cool things to the table of the Star Wars expanded universe, but perhaps one of the coolest things it did was to give fans our first real glimpse into ancient Mandalorian culture, the proud warrior culture that became a staple in the Old Republic era as a third party in the conflict between the Sith Empire and the Old Republic.
At one time, the Mandalorians were allied with the Sith, but were always looking out primarily for the interests of Mandalore. They played a very important role in the ancient wars and continue to be a fan-favorite aspect of the Legends continuity.
In recent years, the Mandalorians were featured in The Clone Wars series and most recently have made appearances in Star Wars Rebels where a lot of the culture’s history and ideals, originally established in the Tales of the Jedi series and other Old Republic era Legends material, seems to have remained intact. Sabine Wren, one of the main characters on the show, is a Mandalorian.
It has also been recently revealed in the season 2 episode “The Protectors of Concord Dawn” that Mandalore was absorbed into the Empire following the fall of the Old Republic. But is this, much like the former alliance with the Sith Empire of old, merely an alliance of convenience for the Mandalorians?
A possible shift in allegiance to the Rebellion could have a massive effect on the Galactic Civil War moving forward in the series. Regardless, they are an important culture, and we owe a lot to this comic series for establishing some of the ideals behind this warrior society.
After a healthy five year run with 35 issues across seven mini-series, the Tales of the Jedi comic series came to an end in November of 1998, shortly before the release of The Phantom Menace. To this day, the background provided by this series on the history of the Old Republic, the ancient Sith, and the Jedi of yesteryear is still held in high regard as the backbone of Star Wars history.
Although the material as a whole is considered non-canon, this series is certainly not without merit, and I suspect that fans of the series will continue to be delighted for years to come as elements of these stories are pulled into the official Star Wars canon.
Fans of Bioware’s The Old Republic MMORPG, the only product in the Legends continuity whose ongoing production was not halted by the Disney buyout, would also benefit from giving this series a go. Since the game itself is non-canon, and is set within the pre-Disney timeline of the Star Wars universe, the events of the Tales of the Jedi comic series are still relevant to that game specifically.
Although not the best Star Wars comic series or story ever written,Tales of the Jedi takes place in an era of the saga’s history that is still largely unexplored. There are only a handful of Legends novels and comics in this era and virtually none in the official canon. The series may not be great, but it is certainly good and all die-hard fans should at least try to get their hands on it – if only for the historical background of the Jedi and the Sith.
This entire series is out of print but can still be purchased second hand, though the price may be steeper than what many would want to pay. These three series, along with The Freedon Nadd Uprising were collected in Vol. 2 of the Tales of the Jedi omnibus published by Dark Horse which is currently available through vendors on Amazon, along with the individual volumes in the series.
Marvel has recently released a few omnibus collections of their own, collecting different comics in the Legends continuity originally published by Dark Horse. It stands to reason that they will eventually release this series as well, so keep an eye out for that. The entire Tales of the Jedi series, along with over a hundred other Star Wars series, can also be read digitally by Marvel Unlimited subscribers, which may be the most economical option at the moment.
If you’ve read this series, sound off in the comments below on what elements that you hope will or will not pop up in future of Star Wars media. Do you want to see future stories set in this era, or would you rather move forward in the timeline?