One of the most significant and personal reasons I read comic books is for the inherent escapism. I love to find myself lost in the pages of a good graphic read, being whisked away from reality into the realm of fantasy where not a care of the greater world around me intrudes my waking thoughts. Occasionally, storytellers like to make some greater comment on the world they live in; and while I don’t consider that a bad thing I do think that sort of personal ‘soapboxing’ should be kept to a minimum. Also, if it’s going to be tried, then I’d just appreciate that it not boil down to something – some message or moral – that I already knew.
(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 …)
From the product packaging: “Clone trooper Hock, left for dead by his Jedi leaders in the Clone Wars, now believes he has found a truly great warrior worthy of his loyalty – Darth Vader!”
I know full well that there’s a generation of men who grew up loving and practically worshipping monsters. By monsters, I’m not talking about the usual politicians; rather I mean those fascinating Universal Studios versions of Frankenstein and Count Dracula and the Wolfman, even the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. By the time I met my childhood, I had cut my teeth on monsters having watched those movies on television; and, sadly, it seemed like true cinema monsters had taken a backseat to the more scholarly exploits of thinking underdogs like Woodward and Bernstein. (Yes, you can thank the 1960’s for butchering films in favor of social consciousness.)
George Lucas’s STAR WARS thankfully brought back the monster in a big way, and – by ‘monster’ – I mean Darth fricking Vader. Tall. Menacing. Resolute. Could Force-choke the life out of you for just looking at him the wrong way. Not a shred of human decency was left under those layers of leathery black armor, and audiences had a legitimate reason to ‘hiss’ at the big screen once more.
That’s where DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS excels. It returns its audience to those fateful days when Vader was the ultimate bad-a$$ and deservedly so. After all, the Prequel Trilogy showed us that it was Anakin Skywalker (aka Vader-in-training) who showed up and the Jedi Temple and made mince-meat out of daycare Padawan class, wasn’t it? That’s a monster if ever there were, and scribe Tim Seidell gets great mileage out of showing us a galaxy far, far away in transition through the eyes of your average Clone Trooper. Throughout those first three issues, CRY OF SHADOWS is nothing short of the same kind of brilliance not unlike those Universal Studios monsters I mentioned above. It’s stark. It’s uncompromising. It’s determined. It’s unstoppable.
Then – around Issue Four – it veers markedly to the Left (as in Liberal/Progressive), kinda/sorta transforming the tale into a vastly more personal story about space-man and the nature of evil, trying to recast our narrator as some closeted peacenik who maybe really didn’t mean to do all that killing he did after all. It’s a stomach-churning moment for those of us who love great villains – not unlike learning that Hitler was a painter, though I’d still prefer lighting said canvas on fire and draping Mein Fuhrer in it.
Suddenly, the anti-hero Hock (our Trooper) decides maybe killing ain’t so grand. He begins questioning his orders and those of the man-in-black he follows, putting an all-too-human face on the manufactured soldier. While I can appreciate the sentiments, it just felt wildly out-of-place in a tale celebrating Star “Wars.”
CRY OF SHADOWS starts big, and it ends in one of those moments meant to be small and personable. Instead, it just made me want to cry … and not in a good way.
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Tim Siedell; the art is supplied by Gabriel Guzman; the colors are provided by Michael Atiyeh; the lettering is completed by Michael Heisler; and the cover art was done by Felipe Massafera. For anyone who just made landfall from whatever island they’ve been living on, STAR WARS was created by George Lucas. This volume collects a five-issue-series previously published in individual installments. Lastly, it all comes for the cover price of $24.99 in standard Republic credits, and that’s still a bargain so far as this long-time SW reader is concerned.
RECOMMENDED. What started out as a grand exploration of what I’ll term Clonehood from the mind of Tim Siedell ended up turning into some kind of Liberal grandstanding about the nature of conflict that, sadly, anyone who’s seen Oliver Stone’s Platoon already knows. Sadly, three-and-one-half great issues get redefined (and reduced) by the last one-and-one-half, and can I just say? The Empire deserved better.
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 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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