Dark Times #8 (Republic #91)
Parallels Part 3 (of 5)
Story: Mick Harrison
Art: Lui Antonio (p.1-9, 14-16 & 22), Dave Ross (p.10-13 & 17-21)
Coloring: Alex Wald
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Zack Howard, Brad Anderson
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (02/03/2008)
During an illegal deal on Mimban between the crew of the Uhumele and the ruthless Haka Hai, one of Hai's hencmen Lumbra steals the contraband and escapes. After finding out the cargo was only a decoy anyway, Hai tortures the crew to get the location of the real contraband. Meanwhile, the decoy cargo damages Lumbra's shuttle and he is forced to land on a lush forest moon. The landing is noticed by the moon's other recent inhabitants, Master K'kruhk and his Youngling protégés.
I really like how events are turning out, even if it is very somber and tragic. First off, one of the crew gets killed during the deal gone wrong: the Elomin nicknamed "Sniffles" (look up his real name in Wookiepedia) gets a blaster bolt that was aimed at Crys Taanzer. The crew only have a short while to grieve as a very ticked-off Haka Hai wants some answers, and he wants them now. The cargo intended for him was just stolen by his treacherous henchman Lumbra, and Hai is now overpowering Sherk-Heren and his crew. Hai's powers of negotiation allow him to deduce that Heren also intended to double-cross him since the cargo crate he brought was only a decoy. At first only intending to keep the crew as prisoners, Hai now wants to torture them in order to find out where Heren stashed the real cargo. Heren's resistance to the torture is very noble, and thanks to Bomo's quick-thinking only three more members are sitting in a cell waiting to get their turn. Ratty and Crys are used as slave labor. Personally, I don't see at this point why Heren doesn't just give up the secret location. He's already lost one member of his crew and himself and the others will be subjected to horrible pain and humiliation. I can only assume that either A) Heren believes Hai will simply kill them if they talk having no more use of them, or B) the secret cargo (which only a select few know what it is) is extremely valuable.
Meanwhile, Lumbra finds out exactly what was in the decoy crate when a curious member of his crew named Gamy opens it up. The cargo hold blows up damaging the ship's hyperdrive. Lumbra's Devaronian pilot lands the ship on the closest inhabitable moon for repairs. That brings them into the K'kruhk storyline, since the forest moon is the one where the Jedi Master crashed after his escape from the Empire. K'kruhk notices the ship approaching while on a hunting trip, and quickly notifies Piru at the camp to go hide in the jungle with the Younglings. K'kruhk doesn't know who is on the ship, and he doesn't want to take any chances. The story ends with two cliffhangers: K'kruhk watches the pirates heading towards the camp, but is unable to warn them; and Bomo Greenbark is being tied up to the torture rack with a chain that has a weakened link.
Like I said, I really love this series. It's one of the few stories where we follow a group of outlaws, and it takes place after Order 66. It's a nice change from the usual Jedi, Rebellion or Clone Wars stories that make up the bulk of Star Wars fiction. This story arc has some serious villains: I haven't seen such a wicked Gotal since Glott (from the River of Chaos series), and I don't remember any Ishi Tib crime lords. Plus, we see a slice of K'kruhk's long life, and he is one of my favorite Jedi Masters. I mean, how cool is a Whiphid Jedi? After issue #5's horrible turn of events, and one of the good guys taking the final jump in this issue, these are Dark Times indeed. But they could not be better chronicled. I think Mick Harrison does a really good job of creating interesting characters and putting them in dramatic situations. I really hope that K'kruhk repairs the pirates' ship and goes back to Mimban, where Crys will be reunited with her son Kennan. But the way things have been going so far, I doubt anything so uplifting will happen.
Like last issue, this one is illustrated by two different artists. I wrote which page numbers I think are assigned to each artist in the credits (top of the page), although this is pure speculation and might not be 100% accurate. I realized that at least each artist handles a different part of the story: Antonio illustrates the Mimban scenes, while Ross does the scenes with the ship crashing on the planet where K'kruhk is residing. Whether this is intentional or not, it doesn't look as bad as if, say, each artist did one half of the book. It creates some consistency between scenes, with both stories having their own look and style to them. The reason for two artists is probably because editor Randy Stradley didn't want to have some long delays between issues, like it happened with issues #1-5. For the sake of the trade paperback collection, maybe it would have been better to have delays than having inconsistent artwork, although that may not have been possible due to the upcoming Vector storyline which has to stay on track for issues #11-12. Anyway, as mentioned before I prefer Ross' style, which is more realistic and in the same vein as Doug Wheatley's incredible art. Antonio's style is a bit more cartoony with cleaner lines and goofy-looking aliens. His art is good, but it's noticeably different than Ross'. However I do love the curves Antonio puts on Crys Taanzer.
More tragedy and horror for the crew of the Uhumele. And K'kruhk will see some action. Too bad about the art though: I would prefer only one artist.
Rating: 7.5 / 10 Highly Recommended