Forgotten and left for dead years ago on a backwater world, a former clone trooper meanders through a meaningless existence while yearning to serve a purpose again. After hearing tales of a legendary figure forging a path of victory across the galaxy, he begins a journey to join the cause of this leader... a man known as Darth Vader.
Though the revenge of the Sith was essentially the culmination of a thousand year old vendetta against the Jedi, it affected an untold amount of billions across the galaxy and claimed many victims, none greater than the clones. Essentially pawns of two sides in a war controlled by one, any story featuring clone troopers is resonant with a sense of tragic futility. It doesn't matter who wins, the clones were literally born to lose.
Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows continues that tradition with the story of the clone formerly known as CT-5539 (for review purposes, The Trooper). With its first issue, writer Tim Siedell (Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin) crafts the unexpectedly poignant story of a man in search of purpose. While characters in search of purpose are nothing new, using a man who has lost the specific purpose he was bred for is an inspired idea that Siedell executes brilliantly.
He wisely chooses to let The Trooper carry this first entry, establishing the character and his motivation through the use of flashbacks and a first person narrative so engaging you can almost hear Temuera Morrison's voice speaking the words in your head as you read them. By focusing completely on The Trooper and his hero worship of Darth Vader, Siedell pulls you into the story and effectively earns your investment in The Trooper and his goal.
That his goal is to join Darth Vader makes things even more interesting. The Trooper is a good man going to war for an evil one in the misguided belief that this represents a chance for him to regain his purpose and himself. Seeing him realize this over the course of the series should make for a very interesting read.
Gabriel Guzman's (Star Wars: Dark Times, Cable) art serves The Trooper's tale extremely well. His illustrations, along with the coloring of Michael Atiyeh (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Shadowpact) creates a post-Vietnam kind of ambiance that perfectly fits the story's themes of disillusionment and yearning to believe in something again. The Trooper's world is presented as grimy, extremely worn, and used up... just as The Trooper views himself.
Guzman's interpretation of how The Trooper views Darth Vader is equally as impressive. Presenting the tales of Vader's exploits as an almost mythic haze befits The Trooper's exaggerated impression of the Dark Lord and is a great way to show how much he idealizes him. Darth Vader becomes a superhero of sorts in The Trooper's imagination.
But where Guzman's work shines best is in emotional expressions. In a story this intimate it's crucial that the reader connects with the main character, and Guzman's art insures The Trooper remains extremely sympathetic. His moments of anguish, decision, and fear are depicted in such a way that you know exactly what he's feeling. Most notably in a spectacular insert panel focusing on his eye as he realizes that the Jedi and his brothers aren't going to save him. Everything you need to know about the fire that drives this character is communicated beautifully in that one panel. It's pretty awesome.
You know, I wasn't expecting much from Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows when I picked it up. I knew next to nothing about it and the cover art, featuring an unremarkable shot of Darth Vader Force-choking numerous people (including Captain James T. Kirk), didn't do a lot to instill in me a sense of confidence.
But reading the issue, I found myself quickly pulled deeper and deeper into The Trooper's story. Tim Siedell writes him with just the right mix of heartbreak, hatred, and hope, making it very easy to feel for The Trooper as he struggles to find a purpose again. By the end, I wound up really rooting for him, though his final lines indicate (as you'd expect with someone like Darth Vader) that things aren't going to go as well as he might hope when he finally meets his hero.
I loved this first issue, and I'm eager to continue reading.
RATING: BUY IT