The Fate of the Jedi novel series saw the revival of an ancient breed of Sith, from the days of the Lord Naga Sadow. This Lost Tribe of the Sith controlled the natives on the planet Kesh for centuries, until they finally found their way off planet, and into their old galaxy to face the Jedi Knights head on. Yet while the concept of the Lost Tribe of the Sith unfastens numerous possibilities for new stories set on the planet Kesh, the new Spiral trade paperback from Dark Horse instead delivers very little of unique value to the Expanded Universe.
It has been a few generations since the Sith Lords crash landed on Kesh, and the Tribe of the Sith have control of the main continent on the planet, populated by the native Keshiri. While the rulers work slowly and tediously for their eventual return to the stars and revenge on the galaxy, their underlings in this relatively new society strive for control and power of the Tribe itself.
One such member, Spinner, descended from a Sith lineage that was punished into enslavement, seeks revenge on the ruling families; while Takara Hilt, daughter of the Grand Lord of the Sith, seeks to prevent Spinner’s crimes, which are mostly misguided, anemic, and prank-like in nature. A sequence of events sets both individuals on a Keshiri sailing ship, set to explore the continents closest to the south pole of the planet.
In their exploration, Takara and Spinner find a hidden society of multiple alien races (including Rodians and Wookiees) calling themselves The Doomed. The society originated from an earlier mix of ancient Sith Lords and Dark Jedi, who at first had wrought havoc on the planet in their ongoing conflicts – establishing many of the myths of the Keshiri that would eventually trigger them to worship the Sith Tribe; but also nearly destroy the planet.
As their ancient battle lingered onwards, the Sith and Dark Jedi became further enlightened about the consequences of their actions. The result caused them not to abandon the Force, but instead revert back to the philosophy of the prehistory Je’daii, in which the sought to keep the balance between the light side and dark side of the Force, essentially concealing themselves from meddling with the natives of the planet. They pledged themselves as The Doomed, and concealed their greatest weapon for eternity inside an Oubliette, essentially a Sith Coffin keeping its occupant in suspended animation.
Hungry for power and revenge, Spinner seeks out the weapon and frees it only to uncover that it is an ancient Sith Lord of great power named Lord Dreypa. Takara and the Doomed seek to stop Dreypa before he destroys the Sith Tribe – but his ancient sorcery dredges up gigantic Leviathan beasts, that soak Force and life energies from their living targets. Everything the Lost Tribe of the Sith has worked for seems threatened by ancient Dreypa, unless Takara and Spinner join forces to face their fate together.
Although John Jackson Miller‘s plots for the mini e-book publications of the Lost Tribe of the Sith series were quite interesting, his script for Spiral lacks the impact and significance of the original prose series. While he explores the destiny myths the Keshiri embrace, that was first raised in his novellas, for the most part, the writing is fairly stock; and some of the dialogue from Lord Dreypa may well have been lines for Doctor Claw in the Inspector Gadget cartoon. It’s oafish, and it’s been done millions of times in the past.
Moreover, Miller brings in a whole bunch of elements from other Expanded Universe stories that, while cool to the hardcore fans, will completely lose the attention and comprehension of casual fans reading. Leviathans are brought back, after not been used since the 1990s Dark Horse mini-series called Star Wars: Leviathan – an obscure reference that will be lost on many casual fans. The oubliette is a direct reference to the Star Wars: Vector crossover from a few years ago, and a great deal of stuff from the Golden Age of the Sith gets tossed in their too (such as the sorcery and the amulets).
It’s completely possible that Miller’s focus on this story was predominantly for the long term hardcore Star Wars EU fans – and to some degree, it’s cool to have some of these questions answered. But the problem is that stuffing all of these elements from a whole bunch of previously released Star Wars stories results in messy storytelling, less time for character development, and a whole bunch of missed opportunities to bring some actual new stuff to the table. It feels misdirected and forced, and to be honest, I started losing interest a quarter of the way through. Spiral is full of missed opportunities, and it’s disappointing, especially considering the caliber of his work in the novellas.
The artwork is generally good, though at times also feels misdirected and lacking. There are some elements that remind me of the old Tales Of The Jedi series, to which the Lost Tribe series owes much of its origins; so it felt like a reasonable artistic tribute in that respect. Admittedly, the introductory and concluding artwork looks to be the more powerful of the graphic novel, particularly as the two main characters start working together.
It’s in the center where Dreypa is revived where things take an odd turn. Some frames and panels come across as poorly represented, and actions are sometimes not very clear, sometimes feeling somewhat abstract. Dreypa’s resurrection scenes are odd, and rather than following the oubliette cues provided in the Vector series, are supplanted by a lazy flash of light complete with "DOOOMM!!" captioning, which indicates to me that it is more of a "Holy Phoned In Effort, Batman!"
Bam, Zap, and Boom, indeed…
Still, from a hardcore SW nerd standpoint, not all is bad. There are many questions answered that have been raised in numerous series previously, and some elements have now been explained and given reason. The conclusion does set up the likelihood for further tales involving Takara and Spinner, which actually provides further potential for further Lost Tribe stories.
The biggest problem, unfortunately, is that casual comic readers are going to be totally lost on this one. Lost Tribe Of The Sith: Spiral provides only some pleasure to mainly Expanded Universe enthusiasts, and even the casual Star Wars fan may find this reading experience off-putting. Spiral is a disheartening result, and a disappointing read.
If you’re a Star Wars EU fan, consider giving it a look. If not, you may be better served by looking into reading something else.