Some tales get told quickly. In part, that’s because the quality or the interest is perhaps so high that the writer can’t wait to get it all out, to put it in front of an audience, and to make an imprint. Others – tales like DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS – take a bit more time to simmer. Why? There’s no way to know until the sound and the fury of it have been completed, but I’d like to think it’s more likely because the team isn’t interested in rushing to the point of it all. Rather, they want to take the time necessary to fully craft their characters – to fully flesh out their premise – before releasing the hounds to do their dirty work in those final, fitful panels.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Clone Trooper CT-5539 – better known as Hock Malsuum – has already seen some miserable things in his short, cloned life, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing to serve the Empire. However, when he sees a crushing military defeat in the offing, he quickly continues as the dutiful soldier and tries to make command aware of it. They won’t listen, and he ends up being hauled before Emperor Palpatine himself to explain why the battle turned the way it did. In doing so, he may’ve earned the ultimate respect of Lord Vader himself!
Could it be that Darth Vader – the towering menace most in the galaxy know as the true might of the Galactic Empire – could it be that he’s made mistakes?
From a narrative point, all of us know (spoilers!) that Anakin Skywalker made one. In fact, he made a huge mistake. Galaxy-spanning mistake. The kind of mistake you really can’t take back. That’s why some of us take issue with George Lucas’s re-imagined ‘Special Edition’ ending to RETURN OF THE JEDI; after all of the evil Anakin trafficked in, can he truly be so easily forgiven and embraced by the Light Side of the Force? It isn’t about forgiveness as some might have you believe; rather, it’s about what’s “right” in the universe, and I’m off that mindset that says Vader only deserves forgiveness from his family, not from the greater galaxy-at-large or whatever lies waiting beyond this world in this Force-friendly afterlife.
But I digress …
What makes CRY OF SHADOWS such a compelling story worth following this issue is the fact that the audience learns that Vader isn’t above it all much the way he appears at the onset of A NEW HOPE. This Vader – the one unfolding in these pages specifically in front of the eyes of a clone designated CT-5539 or ‘Hock’ – is fallible. He can choose poorly. He can make a downright wrong decision. Not a bad decision. But a W-R-O-N-G decision.
As this story continues to unfold, perhaps Hock and the readers will learn otherwise. Maybe the Dark Lord had something greater in his mind when he made this fateful choice? Perhaps he’d seen something in his various meditations with the Dark Side that instructed him to deliberately choose poorly, to intentionally bring about such a public, humiliating defeat? Until we do, what scribe Tim Siedell and his crew have done here is served up a small moment that redefines Vader as we’ve come to know him. He isn’t all machine after all. There’s a man beneath all of those components and that armor. And that man – like any of us – might make a boneheaded decision that’ll cost him dearly some day … despite the fact that Anakin Skywalker already did.
Excellent issue. Not perfect. But it certainly gives readers something to think about.
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS #3 is published by Dark Horse Comics, and – only for those of you who may’ve grown up on an island – STAR WARS was created by George Lucas. The story is written by Tim Siedell; the art is by Gabriel Guzman; the colors are by Michael Atiyeh; and the lettering is by Michael Heisler. The story is set during “The Rise of the Empire” era of history, which (for movie fans) is the period after the Prequel Trilogy and before the Original Trilogy. The issue comes with the cover price of $3.50, payable in Old Republic credits.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. As one who has been reading comic books for over forty years, let me tell you that it’s the little things that make a big story work. You can have a high-concept idea or even high-profile guest stars all you like, but if the creative crew doesn’t know beans about putting them together in such a way as to make the good, the bad, and the ugly of the tale work, then you fundamentally have nothing. While some might dismiss this third installment of DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS for taking too much time to make its central point, I’d point out that those critics are missing all of the stellar smaller moments – an opening panel of utter decimation; a lone, imperious Vader standing on an Imperial bridge; and how that moment gets contrasted with Vader (near the tale’s end) standing somewhat powerlessly before the Emperor and other cronies at his side. The devil is in the details, and this third issue has some terrific detail worth notice.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS (#3) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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