Comics Review: "Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison" #1-3
- by Señor Editor, 10 August 2012
Darth. Vader. Everybody likes Vader. You don't like Vader? You suck! Well okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but you're seriously suspect if you get no joy out of watching the iconic, breathing-challenged villain. I'm a big Star Wars fan, but I can't say anything SW-related ever came close to the quality of the first three movies. I don't TOTALLY despise the prequels, but I never was crazy about them or any of the "Expanded Universe" material. They never matched the atmosphere of the original trilogy. That said, the newest Darth Vader comicbook mini-series from Dark Horse is looking pretty damn good so far.
"Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison", by Haden Blackman and Agustin Alessio, takes place right after the rise of the Empire, soon after little Ani Skywalker got his limbs cut off and was put into the legendary badass black armor we all know and love. The story is told from the perspective of a young imperial, who just graduated from officer school. Our narrator is a bit different than the regular ol' whitey stiffs that become officers of the Empire army. He only has one arm, half of his face is covered in burn marks, and he bears the unfortunately feminine name of Laurita Tohm. Here he is, among his buddies during the "graduation" ceremony at Coruscant, the Empire's #1 planet:
Frankly, I'm not sure why Laurita here couldn't get a robot arm when half of the Star Wars characters seem to have one, but that's besides the point. We soon find out that a whole lot of Tohm's fellow graduates, as well as their superior officer - Moff Gentis, aren't all that happy with how the Emperor runs things. They suspect he might not be the perfect man in charge! They think he will keep "throwing them to their deaths". What a weird attitude to have! So they stage a terrorist attack, but first lock poor Laurita in a prototype space ship, so he doesn't get in the way. They didn't let him in on their plans because he draws too much attention to himself, what with only one arm and half of his face burned off.
Moff Gentis' men attack the imperials of Coruscant with a deadly gas and all hell breaks loose. Laurie manages to escape just in time to witness the battle and find out about his friends' rebellion. He doesn't like it at all. He's loyal to the Emperor, and when he sees Vader in action he's immediately inspired by the man. And frankly, Agustin Alessio's Vader is a sight to behold. He just looks exactly the way he should.
When Vader sees Lieutenant Tohm killing off one of his traitorous buddies, he apparently becomes fond of the young officer. After all, he's no stranger to being burnt and armless! He orders him to follow Vader in search of the Emperor. They eventually find him, but he's in poor shape. The gas melts a body from the inside, and while the Emperor's force powers managed to keep the virus at bay, he needs some serious medical treatment, stat. He also has a nosebleed, so we clearly see he looks a little more close to dying than he usually does.
Other than Palpatine, Laurie and Vader also find Moff Trachta... and I admit, I never heard of this dude before. He's sort of a cross between an Imperial officer and Vader. He has cyborg eyes and uses a breathing aparatus that saved him from the virus attack.
While Gentis' rebellion takes control of Coruscant, Vader, Trachta and Laurita come up with a plan to take the Emperor to a distant, uncharted prison planet... and use what they find there against the traitors...
And that's about all I'm going to say about the plot of this series. There's 3 issues out so far (there will be 5), and while the pace of the story isn't really fast, the art and the familiar atmosphere of the original movies makes it worthwile so far. Vader is just the way he should be, there's no sign of his embarassing emo behaviour, the art style is realistic (which in my opinion is the style that works best for Star Wars) and there's some plot details that tie it to the prequel trilogy in a surprisingly good and logical way. What's nice is that this story isn't bogged down by any Expanded Universe stuff (let's face it: the EU is often more harmful than helpful to the whole mythos) and anybody who only saw the movies can pick it up and actually like it, because it fits the style of the movies so well.
Choosing to let the young officer narrate the story is a good move on writer Haden Blackman's part. The title of this mini series clearly let's us know that it's gonna be mainly about Vader, but Vader works best when he's a mostly silent, grim killing machine. When we don't see his face, don't know what he's thinking or what he's gonna do until he's force-choking people left and right, cutting them up and telekinetically throwing random crap at them. Having him narrate the events himself wouldn't work at all and the story is much better when we view Vader through the eyes of others.
I want to go back for a minute to how the SW world looks in this series. The colors are toned down, sort of matching the look of "Empire Strikes Back" or even "A New Hope" vibe. It's set after the prequel trilogy but thankfully there's really no sign of all the more questionable designs that originated there. The main colors in this series so far are those of the Empire army: white, grey, black and the occasional red of the Imperial Guards. This color palette works really well here, and since no colorist is creditted, I'm assuming it's also the work of Alessio - great job!
I'm glad I checked out this mini series. If you're a Star Wars fan that mostly just enjoys the events and characters of the original trilogy than this fits into that style well, and you will likely enjoy it. I'm looking forward to how the mini ends and hope the recently announced new Star Wars comic (taking place during the original trilogy era) will be at least just as good. Check out "Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison"! And somebody help me get Bill Murray's Star Wars song out of my head... It's been stuck there since the second paragraph.