Most folks dismiss quite a bit of STAR WARS’ over-arching mythology because of one stylistic consideration: they see George Lucas’s albeit rich narrative as little more than a spruced-up Western. There isn’t anything necessarily incorrect about that perspective – yes, there are good guys, and there are bad guys; and, when they meet, their hats come off, and they battle it out with blasters until the last man is left standing – but it largely dismisses the depth of ideas all conveniently wrapped up and somewhat buried under layers of glitz and gossamer. Where the Original Trilogy was ripe with themes of friendship, dedication to cause, and commitment to purpose, the Prequel Trilogy explored the concepts of fate, destiny, and personal choice all within the films’ political construct. For those of us who recognize that Lucas’s playground is more than just one set of monkey bars, we have Dark Horse Comics to thank. For the past couple of decades, Dark Horse’s writers and artists have blessed us with scads and scads of tales that have fleshed out some of these deeper notions … and DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS certainly starts out like it’s going to be another welcome excursion.
(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 …)
THE CRY OF SHADOWS opens with a single clone trooper remembering the Clone Wars and how the Jedi – despite their vaunted reputation – still had all of the quirks, trappings, and failings of a regular Joe. It contrasted sharply with what he was ‘educated’ to believe, and that reality certainly colors his present-day perception of the state of affairs in his corner of the galaxy. “And a warrior doesn’t need a lightsaber to be fearless.” Then he recalls hearing the stories of Vader, and he knew something had definitely changed in the universe. Vader was different. Vader seemed unstoppable. Relentless. Perhaps even immortal.
But, in retrospect, the man acknowledges that maybe he ‘wanted’ to believe all of those stories. After all, legends live on; people don’t. Thus, he suspects he’s drawn to the stories of Vader largely because of his loathe of the Jedi who ordered him around thru the conflict, without any individuality, and even the Jedi who abandoned him to live out his days, injured, on some distant world.
His clone designation is CT-5539, and this will be his story.
An area that’s always been ripe for further exploration in the Star Wars universe has been the development – both physical and psychological – of the Clone Army. Their very existence was only cursorily hinted at with the Original Trilogy’s novelizations (old Obi-Wan ‘Ben’ Kenobi mentions fighting alongside Luke Skywalker’s father in the Clone Wars), and – much to my chagrin as an ardent fan of ‘All Things George Lucas’ – their beginnings were left mostly nebulous in the Prequel Trilogy, essentially reducing them to a plot point in ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Dark Horse’s various works have given others the chance to add greater complexity not so much to their inception but more so how they fit into the greater tapestry of an entire galaxy.
As first issue’s go, scribe Tim Siedell goes to great lengths to establish not only the requisite ‘where are we’ and ‘when are we’ but also he crafts a character – a missing-in-action Clone Trooper designated CT-5539 – with a chip on his genetically-engineered shoulder. He harbors a grudge against the Jedi, and, based on his past, it’s been allowed to grow. Siedell has deftly pulled back the curtain in this space-based land of Oz, and he’s teased his readers (to great effect) in these panels with a soldier who’s become something other than what his designers intended: he’s become ‘human,’ and that means he’s going to carry all of that emotional baggage any of us does, and it’s going to influence not only how he sees the world but how he chooses to contribute to it from this point forward.
And that, my friends, is something to get excited about.
The art by Gabriel Guzman isn’t anything all that revelatory here. In fact, much of it feels obligatory. As this is only the first issue, there’s really no way to tell whether or not that’s intentional OR if the artist is hiding something a bit grander for a more stylistic climax. (I’m hoping it’s the latter and not the former.) Still, because I love the idea of probing the minds of members of a race manufactured, I can live with it.
The Force may be strong with this one, my fellow padawans. Only time will tell how strong, indeed.
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS #1 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.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. It’s a great first issue – one that’s a solid psychological set-up for (hopefully) something much larger to follow. And, at this point, it’s clone-centric, an area that doesn’t get enough exposure in all of the worlds of STAR WARS. Based on those facts alone, I’m on-board. Add to that the fact that it hints toward the further emergence on the legends of Darth Vader, and I’m hoping this is one trip that’s worth writing home about! Go back to a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away for something special.
In the interests of fairness, I am pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with an advance digital copy of STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE CRY OF SHADOWS #1 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
What did you think of this review?