What's next for the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Sith death cults gone wild!

This June, author John Jackson Miller returns to the Star Wars universe with Escape, the next chapter of his Knight Errant comic book and prose series. In this upcoming five-issue comic miniseries — which is set 1,000 years before Episode 1 — Jedi heroine Kerra Holt must clean out an entire galaxy full of Sith, including a nasty band of Force-drunk cultists.

io9 recently chatted with Miller about this new storyline (and we also got to see some exclusive artwork to boot). Here's what we learned.

First off, what's the lay of the land when Escape begins?

Escape is the third Knight Errant miniseries, and it is by far our darkest, potentially impacting the entire galaxy. Kerra Holt fled Sith space as a child and returned as a Jedi, determined to save people from the warring would-be Sith Lords all around. In her previous comics and novel, she's had to contend with one bizarre Sith Lord after another, all with their own insane twist on Sith teachings. But none is more twisted — nor as dangerous — as Lord Odion, the man whose attack she fled from years before.

Odion, as we have seen, is a seriously damaged individual. The existence of other living beings actually causes him physical pain through the Force - and he's set out to end the pain through as much destruction as he can possibly cause. He's surrounded himself with his own death cult, eager to die in his service. How could such a movement exist? Kerra Holt is about to find out, as she enters the heart of darkness itself, infiltrating Odion's realm in an attempt to keep him from achieving his ultimate goal, destroying all that is.

It's a series that has major implications not just for the sector — Sith Lords Daiman and Malakite, introduced before, have major stakes in what happens — but for the galaxy. And it changes everything we think we know about Kerra Holt. She's been tested before - but this time we'll see exactly what she's willing to risk, and how far she's willing to go.

What's next for the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Sith death cults gone wild!

Lord Odion's Sith death cult sounds like some pretty nasty business. Does he use his Force powers in any sort of unique ways to intimidate opponents or keep his acolytes in check?

It's not that he keeps them in check, actually, he drives them over the edge! In his past appearances, we've seen that Odion has an unusual dark side Force power: the ability to drive others into a berserker rage, throwing their lives away in battle. This not only motivates his own troops, but it disrupts the strategies of the Sith Lords that he's fighting, too. Orderly advances become crazed suicidal charges. In the Star Wars: Knight Errant prose novel, we saw Kerra herself struggling to avoid Odion's powers of suggestion.

This time, it'll be much harder, especially as Odion seeks to enhance his powers. Odion sees himself as the destroyer of the universe — by contrast to his brother and enemy Daiman, who sees himself as the creator of the universe. This is one seriously messed-up family, and now, the feud is threatening to endanger billions.

What's been your favorite contribution to the GFFA (Galaxy Far, Far Away) throughout this story?

It's been really fun to delve into a period like this, a thousand years before the movies, when the Sith hadn't yet really settled on what it meant to be Sith. There's a battle of ideas going on, and in Knight Errant, we've seen a lot of different approaches to how one might rule the galaxy. It's a pretty challenging question. The Sith are all about the glorification of self and the subjugation of others, so it's hard to get anyone to want to work for you toward that goal. In Daiman's case, as we've seen in the comics, he's built himself up as this creator deity; in Odion's case, as we'll see in more detail, he strips people of all hope so everyone's working toward the release that death brings.

Kerra Holt has been the wild card in these internal Sith wars, but she's always managed to stay focused on her mission. This time, however, she's more deeply involved, and it poses a danger for her. This time, it's personal.

What's next for the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Sith death cults gone wild!

What can Star Wars fans who may be new to the Knight Errant universe expect from Escape?

It's a dark series, showing the role of the Jedi during one of the big dark ages for the galaxy — and often, Kerra has been the only ray of hope anyone has had. Escape in particular has some of our best art so far. I think the team has really captured the feel of Odion's realm.

And for fans who've read our previous comics, this really is one they've been waiting for. Kerra's managed to avoid showdowns with the major Sith lords whenever possible, so that she can keep fighting the good fight; as her master once told her, she's no good to anyone dead. But Kerra has also seen that there are things worth dying for - and when people realize what Odion actually intends to do to the galaxy, they may well wonder how far Kerra will go, and what she's willing to risk. They're right to wonder. Escape provides some surprising answers.

Escape raises the stakes for Knight Errant. Not only is everything we know about the sectors under Sith domination is about to change, but we're going to find out a lot more about Kerra's personal history. We thought we knew her origin story before, but in Sith space, things are never quite as they seem!

Top cover illustration for Star Wars: Knight Errant-Escape #1 by Benjamin Carré. Variant cover by Mike Hawthorne. You can read more about Miller's work at his website.