“War is no place for children.” – Toor Snapit, Jedi Scout
Locked in a deadly, all-or-nothing battle with the Sith Brotherhood of Darkness, the Jedi Army of Light is in need of soldiers to keep the fight going and is willing to recruit children into its ranks to do just that. This is the backdrop of Jedi vs. Sith, an Expanded Universe graphic novel written by Darko Macan which begins with young cousins embarking on an “adventure” that ends in tragedy. Hailing from the world Somov Rit, the cousins – Tomcat and Bug – are the first to be identified by the Jedi Scout Toor Snapit, himself sent to recruit force-sensitive children for the war effort. In turn, a third cousin – a young girl named Rain – is also taken by Snapit even though she has (seemingly) minimal Force-abilities.
That Toor Snapit has his doubts about taking children to war is obvious, commenting that “war is no place for children.” And yet, this doesn’t stop the elderly Jedi from taking the cousins from their home-world to battle the Sith on the planet Ruusan. Nor, for that matter, did it stop him from taking the siblings Sladak and Slatva, twins whom the cousins meet on Snapit’s ship. The cousins (and the reader) only have but a moment with these twins, and as their vessel flies above the Ruusan landsccape, and the siblings express their excitement about their adventure, the ship is struck by Sith weaponry which kills Sladak and Slatva. Stunned, the cousins look on in horror, the excitement about their journey immediately giving way to the reality that has struck. In turn, as she screams that she “does not want to die,” the ship pivots and Rain falls through the hole in the side of the ship where the Sith had struck…
…and all Tomcat and Bug can do is look out the gaping hole with tears streaming down their eyes.
Excitement and adventure are certainly themes in Jedi vs. Sith, but they are themes that highlight the naivete of children and a juvenile belief that war offers a thrilling escape from quotidian life. One can hardly fault children for this naivete, or even for the actions that they are forced to take as the story progresses, killing included. In fact, it is not long after Rain’s fall (spoiler: she survives) that Tomcat and Bug engage in their first skirmish, a skirmish which forces the children to kill a number of Sith soldiers. Neither are trained to fight, neither wears any protective armor, but they must never-the-less kill in order to survive.
Why they are killing – or rather, why they are killing Sith soldiers – is not clearly defined, though. While there is an obvious necessity in the moment to protect themselves, on a larger scale the reason the Jedi and Sith are fighting is never clearly defined. That is, it is not defined in any overarching ethical, moral, or political sense. Rather, the Army of Light commanded by Jedi Lord Hoth and the Sith Lord Kaan’s Brotherhood of Darkness are fighting because, quite frankly, that is what the Jedi and Sith do. And, in this sense, it really does not matter who holds the moral or ethical high-ground in this struggle. The Battle of Ruusan is about the Jedi vs. Sith, but which side one fights for is utterly pointless. Jedi or Sith, both sides are in the wrong because both sides are hellbent on one goal: destroying the other.
Although one could argue that the Sith do hold a sliver of ideological superiority to the Jedi. At the very least, dealing out death and destruction are what the Sith do best. After all, one can hardly fault a Sith for acting like a Sith. Then again, there is one Sith in the story who rises above all others, finding fault with his counterparts: Darth Bane. Scheming throughout the entire story, Bane is hellbent on one goal himself – not the destruction of the Jedi but the destruction of the Sith. Only after the Sith have been purged of their impurities – naemly, everyone but himself – will the Sith truly triump over their hated Jedi enemy. And, as Bane pushes Lord Kaan and the other Sith Lords towards a suicidal end, Bane will also happen upon a child on the battlefield: the girl Rain.
That Rain is allowed to join the adventure of her cousins is shocking, a fact that is punctuated by her seemingly feeble connection to the Force but even more so by her youth. While all three cousins are still children, Rain is the youngest and seeks to accompany Tomcat and Bug because of her childish desire to be part of the group. The Jedi Tor Snapit, having reservations about bringing children into a war zone, never-the-less acquiesces…and Rain pays the price when she falls from the transport ship.
But thankfully for her, she survives thanks to intervention of Laa, one of Ruusan’s native and sentient Bouncers. While her cousins continue on their journey guilt ridden and believing Rain fell to her death, the girl finds shelter and protection with Laa, traveling the planet with her new friend. Unaware of the deadly struggle unfolding on the world, Rain is once again saved by Laa when the Sith unleash a Force storm across the planet, burning the landscape and immolating other Bouncers in the process. Going crazy with feral rage, Bouncers which survived the destruction begin to attack Sith and Jedi alike, spreading panic among the combatants.
Following the devastation, as the battle on the world grows more intense, Laa – having foreknowledge of the future – tells Rain that she will become a Dark Jedi. Distraught, the child attempts suicide by jumping from a cliff, a shocking act and one that the reader can interpret as a continuation of her fall from the Jedi transport. Before her fall from the transport, Rain cries that she does not want to die. Now, confronted by Laa’s foreknowledge, Rain tells her friend that she wanted to die but changed her mind, realizing that she is incredibly strong in the Force and can destroy the Dark Jedi within her without killing herself.
Riding on Laa’s back as they seek out the Jedi, tragedy strikes when a Jedi arrow pierces her Bouncer friend, killing Laa and sending Rain toppling to the ground (Rain’s fall is finally complete). Grief-stricken and angered by the loss of her friend, Rain unleashes her fury on the Jedi who fired the arrow, using the Force to snap his neck (and the neck of his accomplice). It is immediately after this stunning moment when Darth Bane will come across the child. Intrigued by the powerful girl who killed two Jedi, Bane will question Rain and, in turn, allows her to stay with him.
Seeds of Destruction
While Rain joins Darth Bane on his quest to destroy and reconstitute the Sith Order in his own image – imago Bane – her cousin Tomcat also joins the Sith, albeit earlier in the story. Disenfranchised by the Jedi and believing them weak, Tomcat murders the Jedi General Kiel Charny and agrees to become the apprentice of the Sith Lord Githany. In turn, this decision to join the Sith will set the stage for Tomcat’s fatal showdown with his cousin Bug.
Thus, the story comes full-circle. In the opening of the graphic novel, the adolescent rivalry of Bug and Tomcat is on display, the two engaging in normal behavior of youth jockeying to one-up the other. Now, the innocent cousin-rivalry gives way to an all-out battle of Cousin vs. Cousin – Bug vs. Tomcat – Jedi vs. Sith.
It should never have come to this point, to a fatal moment where these opponents, once bound together in kinship, are now locked in a climactic struggle of survival and destruction. Rooted to the belief that they alone are right, the final battle between the rivals begins and ends in the only way possible: suffering and death.
Bug will die, crushed by a rock that falls upon him.
Tomcat will suffer, recognizing his errors when it is already too late to save Bug or Rain.
Rain will survive, not as an innocent young girl but as Zannah, Sith apprentice to Bane.
The cousins should have never been there to begin with. After all, the Jedi Toor Snappit was right, war is no place for children.