In the STAR WARS Universe, something as simple as being a clone can get you killed. From what we know, these clones were manufactured to essentially serve a sole purpose: the maintenance of an Empire. Emperor Palpatine certainly saw that he could put them to good use – bringing about the end of any possible Jedi influence (though, to be honest, we never really saw anything of the sort, nor did the Jedi legitimately ‘influence’ all that much). So long as they answered his bidding, Palpatine would allow them to survive, though he’d never approve one developing any greater sense of individuality. After all, such uniqueness could lead one toward thinking about things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those ideas could never serve the maintenance of an Empire, now would they?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind 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 …)
When we last saw Clone Trooper CT-5539, he was rather unceremoniously being left for dead by the Jedi on a distant planet offering little hope for survival much less rescue. When we join him in this issue, he’s pretty much in the same place, coming to terms with the fact that he’s dying slowly. But ‘dying’ does not mean he’s given up on the good fight, and readers learn precisely why the Kaminoans worked so hard to engineer genetic survivors, of which CT-5539 is quality stock. He’s given himself a name – Hock – and, despite the odds, he’s about to be found. Not only that, but he’s on the path for his exploits to draw the attention of a certain Dark Lord of the Sith. Where such attention might lead is only beginning!
This second installment in THE CRY OF SHADOWS is basically still expanding on the premise as laid out in the first issue, introducing readers to a clone with his own measure of character. In all circumstances, Hock refuses surrender. Whether it be a pack of wild wolf-like creatures or whether it be bending to the will of fallen Jedi, he’s forever a soldier hell-bent on being the best that he can be. It’s this dedication to service that captures Vader’s eye so well; perhaps the Dark Lord sees a bit of himself in the wounded soul.
Also, SHADOWS is deft at tinkering with the audience’s expectations. In the Original Trilogy, STAR WARS showed us a world where Stormtroopers were so similar to one another even a captive Princess Leia thought it odd that a short one showed up to rescue her. Making them faceless under such non-descript armor only further enhanced their conformity to a genetic ideal. The Prequel Trilogy pretty much side-stepped any thematic discussion of real merit regarding the development of an entire race to basically serve as slaves to a galactic government, and I’m thrilled that Dark Horse has picked up on these ideas. It’s clear that there’s still life screaming to rise up and be something: not only do we witness Hock’s desire to be greater than the sum of his parts, but he recounts the story of another – Kaddak. Granted, Kaddak’s story is only a vignette here, but I can’t help but wonder what role this demented and depraved ‘aberration’ may yet play in the tale.
If anything, I could quibble with SHADOWS over some of its artistic choices. Some of the artwork is far too ‘clean’ and ‘bright’ for my particular tastes, especially given the grim and foreboding subject matter driving the main plot. Both Hock and Kaddak’s struggles are meant to defy the genetic status quo – clearly, both are crying out to be more than what these societies have in store for them – and both are reduced to scratching notches on their respective walls to count out their days. But without knowing where all of this is heading that gripe may end up being a bit premature: I’ll let you know when it’s all over.
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS #2 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. Scribe Tim Siedell uses deceptively lean prose to craft a clone at odds with his world (perhaps even his entire existence) in STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS. At its core, the story is little more than a coming-of-age narrative centered on the most unusual individual (if a clone can ever really be considered anything resembling “an individual”) but where you’d expect to get pimples and cliques and social awkwardness you get a man growing not only more adept at being a killing machine but also impressing the ultimate killer (Darth Vader) in the process. The artwork is surprisingly bright for such a grim subject, but perhaps that’s exactly what Siedell wants you to think: there’s no way to know for sure until all is said and done!
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 (Part 02) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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