The Price of Power
Story: Scott Allie
Art: Joe Corroney
Coloring: Michael Atiyeh
Lettering: Michael David Thomas
Cover: Joe Corroney, Dan Jackson
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (05/29/2005)
Darth Vader another visit to Tiss'sharl to introduce the new Imperial liaison, Commander Demmings, and to demand that the Tiss'shar League lower the price of their blaster cartridges manufactured on the planet by TaggeCo. The League president Si-Di-Ri is outraged at the news, but when he meets with a representative from the Rebel Alliance, Senator Timi Rotramel, he finds out Vader's real motive. The Sith Lord is looking for certain Rebels and was hoping they would show up on Tiss'shar. But Si-Di-Ri shows no interest in them, and when Vader leaves for Jabiim on a lead, the President decides that a life of politics and power may be too much for him.
Scott Allie is no stranger to Star Wars comics. He previously wrote the very first Empire story arc "Betrayal", and the "No End in Sight" story in Republic #50. Both of those were good and interesting, as is this issue.
Allie's stories are not your run-of-the-mill lightsaber/ starships/ blaster action stories. They have a certain feel to them that I can't really describe. It seems he likes to explore his characters' values, and his narrative style is very character-driven. He offers a lot of narration in this story, which I don't see a lot of these days. The opening scene at the dinner table is a good way to start off this story, and the way the Imperial guests and local culture are introduced through what the chef thinks of their eating habits is just masterful. I don't know exactly how much Allie knows about the Expanded Universe or just Star Wars in general, but he seems to pick stories that perfectly stand on their own, without resorting to a lot of previously-established characters or events.
This story does have some EU material, but it is self-contained and hasn't been explored before in Star Wars literature. It takes place on the planet Tiss'sharl, homeworld of the reptiloid Tiss'shar. This species was first introduced in the 1979 novel Han Solo at Stars' End by Brian Daley, in the form of the assassin Uul-Rha-Shan. The species was further explored in West End Games' Galaxy Guide 12: Alien Species - Enemies and Allies, and more recently in Wizards of the Coast's Ultimate Alien Anthology, both detailing their planet, culture and politics. Allie makes full use of these references, and for long-time fans it's very interesting to see this little-known planet in a comic.
This story explores the relations between the Empire and some alien manufacturers, here exemplified by the Tiss'shar. Vader uses the League's president, Si-Di-Ri, to root out any relations with the Rebels the Tiss'shar might have, and hopefully find Princess Leia or Luke Skywalker. It shows that Vader's job is not all about fighting Rebels or killing Jedi. As the Emperor's representative, he has to go to different planets to negotiate deals. This story deals one of these jobs, which Vader probably doesn't like to do. Si-Di-Ri himself is a very fleshed-out character, and through his eyes we find out about the treachery and political backstabbing of his own species and the Empire. The story also shows the Empire's racism, as Vader refers to the Tiss'shar as "snakes" and Mon Calamari as "fishmen", and there is also a reference to a time "when all species were welcome on Coruscant."
Although this is essentially a fill-in issue, it does tie-in with the current five-part series "In the Shadows of Their Fathers," as in the middle of the story Vader receives a report that some important Rebels are on Jabiim. Which means that Vader will show up there, and that should make things very interesting.
There is another reference to the ""General" Skywalker" storyline, as a trio of mercenaries report that they heard from Stormtroopers on some remote planet, which the Rebels were planning to use as a spy base. They bring back a clone trooper helmet, and mention that one of the Rebels had a lightsaber. Obviously, Vader is not interested in finding out where the Rebels were but more where they are now, which is when he gets the report about Jabiim. To show that he doesn't need the mercs anymore, he strangles two of them, and since the female doesn't flinch when her buddies are strangled, Vader decides to "keep an eye on her." This scene is kind of weird, but it seems the writer is trying to set up a new recurring villain.
If you've read my review for Empire #25, you know how much I love Joe Corroney's artwork. In my opinion, he is the perfect artist to do a story starring Darth Vader. No one draws Vader like Corroney, except maybe for Al Williamson and Claudio Castellini ("Extinction" in Star Wars Tales #1-2). Even the panel where Vader's helmet is removed looks remarkable. Also, who else can make a bunch of humanoid lizards look distinct from one another? Each one has distinctive features on their heads, or different costumes. The colors by Atiyeh also help as well. Although slightly different from previous representations by Mike Vilardi and Alfredo Alcala, Corroney adds his own touch in the look of these aliens. The Mon Calamari senator looks just like in the movies, and Corroney even throws in an Uulshos Justice Droid in the background of the dinner scene, proof of his knowledge and dedication to established Star Wars material. The one thing I thought was kind of bland is the three mercenaries. I thought their design and colors are kind of generic and uninteresting. But they are basically cannon fodder so it doesn't really matter. Just a look at Vader's depiction on page 21 should prove to Dark Horse that Corroney has enormous talent, and they should make more use of it if they know what's good for them.
An intriguing look at the Star Wars universe, from the perspectives of both the Empire and the Tiss'shar. Maybe not everybody's cup of tea, but definitely a winner if you're looking for a different kind of story.
Rating: 8.5 / 10 Highly Recommended