I’ve been a Star Wars fan since the original movie in 1977. That flick introduced an entire generation to such things as X-wing Fighters, Jedi Knights, Sith Lords, and the Death Star. It presented a classically simply good-versus-evil story peppered with blasters, droids, and Stormtroopers. Thankfully, Dark Horse Comics keeps the Force alive by finding even more clever ways to revisit them without making it all feel so intrusive or commercial. Sure, some of the tales may not be to everyone’s liking, but many of them tweak established canon that push the readers to think more about the people, places, and events of the Galactic Empire. Every now and then, a great read comes along that deserves greater celebration, and DARTH VADER AND THE GHOST PRISON is a pleasure as much to the eyes as it is to the imagination. Those original circumstances – a galaxy in conflict, an Empire on the rise, heroes nowhere to be found – come to life once more.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and 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 two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The Clone Wars are over, and the rise of the Galactic Empire is well under way. The stresses on what remains of the government are dire indeed – many men and clones have fallen in the conflict, and things are just now returning to a sense of normalcy on many worlds. However, a terrorist assault on the Imperial world of Coruscant leaves Palpatine’s administration in disarray, and it even appears that the Emperor himself may have fallen. In this conflict, one faithful recruit joins Darth Vader in rescuing the Sith Lord they serve, but when they see that the odds are against them they’re forced to flee the homeworld in favor of some dark secrets the recently fallen Jedi Council had hoped to keep locked away forever …
DARTH VADER AND THE GHOST PRISON is, mostly, one terrific read. It’s a story that’s easy to accept as having been spawned by events established within the Prequel Trilogy, and that’s mostly because it’s even relatable to the limitations of our own civilization. As all of us can attest, war is hell; and the greatest consequence of waging war is the drain on our national psyche. Once war is over, only then can we – as a society – begin to truly assess the damage to our resources and our spirit. That’s exactly the sentiments in play in GHOST PRISON: a bitter Academy head is furious over the immeasurable loss of so many officers and recruits, and he decides to rise up, cut the snake off at the head, and claim the Empire that remains as his own.
And, as has been known to happen in the waging of war, choices are made by those in charge that’ll no doubt forever haunt them. What Vader shares with his young recruit (for the sake of the narrative, most of this tale unfolds through his jaundiced eyes) is a secret he learned while serving the Jedi Council – together, they review a holographic record of young Skywalker’s report to his seniors, and it’s this learned secret involving a secret prison that puts them on course to regaining the advantage and, inevitably, taking a stand against traitors to the Empire.
GHOST PRISON goes where so many other war and post-war thrillers have gone. It examines the consequences of war. It pulls back the curtains to put a true horror on display. It shows us once again that, in the growing world of Star Wars, there’s nothing quite like the dedication of a Sith Lord to his mentor. Vader is who he was meant to be, and he’s still becoming the last, best hope for the Galaxy, but – beyond all things – he’s an inescapable danger that’ll always get you in the end.
Haden Blackman’s script is very solid. This was originally a five-part miniseries, and, to be fair, it could’ve easily been much longer. There are survivors at the prison – readers will learn that they’re a huge component to Vader’s quest for retribution – but, sadly, they’re given the short end of the stick when it comes to any great background. Others may feel different, but I would’ve liked to have gotten to know them a bit more before sending them back into the greater world outside; this would’ve served to give their ultimate ‘destination’ greater impact. But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Also, Agustin Alessio’s artwork here is dynamic; he effortlessly brings Coruscant back to prominent life while also delivering nice work on a few new locations (especially the prison) that makes the reader feel right at home.
All in all, GHOST PRISON is a brilliant work that hits far more marks than it misses. It returns Vader to his rightful place as the resident badass. It dabbles convincingly with already established characters in ways that feel right, that seem logical. Lastly, it once calls into question just what the Jedi Council under leadership of Mace Windu and Yoda were doing, showing that in some cases they knew they were heading down a dark path, one that ended up serving the forces of evil when they needed it most.
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE GHOST PRISON is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Haden Blackman; the art is by Agustin Alessio; the lettering is by Michael Heisler. The volume collects a five-issue miniseries appearing under the same name by Dark Horse Comics, and the collection bears the cover price of $24.99 in Old Republic credits … a bargain in exchange for once again being transformed a long time ago to a galaxy far, far away.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Beginning not long after the events of the film STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH, DARTH VADER AND THE GHOST PRISON revisits some developments never depicted officially but certainly could have logically transpired given the state of affairs for the emerging Galactic Empire. What works best here is Vader, a villain depicted much in the same way he was in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE – a menacing threat to any form of freedom or liberty in the galaxy. With a handful of allies available to him, he faces an all-new threat to his own pursuit of happiness; and he’s once again given the chance to clarify just why Emperor Palpatine ‘invested’ so much time, effort, and resources in turning Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital copy of STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE GHOST PRISON by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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