If the shock of Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beastriders of Onderon was the presence of more than one Jedi one place, The Saga of Nomi Sunrider introduces another strange element, something that would remain out of place for film Jedi for years to come, that would to this day seem unusual for casual audiences to witness in a Jedi: a wife and child. Fans of the Expanded Universe would of course be familiar with this concept, but only in small cults or in post-Jedi orders.
I’ve gotta say, if I like the art of the other Tales stories so far, I’m not as much of a fan here. The differences are subtle, but the delicate balance that allowed the other stories to teeter on the edge and become perfect flashback material is broken. The inking is slightly more restrained, the coloring less dynamic, and the colors themselves more earthy and restrained. The result is a visual style that feels as though all of the energy has been sapped out of it.
Another new mark this story hits (for its time) is the way it opens: this is what would have happened if Luke wasn’t as powerful as he was confident in Return of the Jedi. Jedi Knight Andur Sunrider is attacked by a gang of pirates in order to steal the valuable Adegan crystals he is delivering to Jedi Master Thon. He’s killed, and when his wife and mother of his daughter protects herself and the cargo, he comes to her as a Force spirit and sends her to Thon.
Like Yoda, Thon originally comes as a surprise. Nomi first meets his student, Oss Willum. It’s not until the group is attacked by Bogga the Hutt and his minions that the seeming beast of burden reveals himself to be a powerful Jedi Master. It’s not until months later that Thon decides that Nomi is emotionally ready to get past the death of her husband and begin her own training – and that of her daughter, Vima. They begin to train in Thon’s greatest strength: Jedi Battle Meditation, something that was introduced in Saga of Nomi Sunrider and went on to become a hallmark of the Tales of the Jedi series (as would be seen in Golden Age of the Sith and Fall of the Sith Empire). Similarly, Vima’s final test (her Approach to the Inmost Cave, as it were) is to get past her emotional blocks and use both Battle Meditation and her lightsaber to defend herself when Bogga returns for revenge.
The Saga of Nomi Sunrider is a short story, only three issues long. Ulic Qel-Droma and the Beastriders of Onderon was shorter, with only two issues, but it had more characters, more locales, and higher stakes, causing it to feel like a tightly delivered epic. Nomi Sunrider, on the other hand, tells the first half of the Hero’s Journey – the Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call and the Crossing of the First Threshold, with the climax of the story being the step alternately known as Approach to the Inmost Cave or Belly of the Whale. Nomi Sunrider is ready to go into the world as a Jedi, but she has not actually gone out and done good yet. She is a work in progress, and as a result, it feels like less is done in this story.
There’s much more to this story than all of that, of course, as it deals with Nomi’s loss and reconciliation, but as a