Over two years ago, I reviewed the first of issue of the "Star Wars: Dark Times" series and claimed that it delivered the goods on what happened between "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope" (or "Star Wars" to those of us born before 1980). That series, for whatever reason, has become less of an ongoing series and has morphed to follow the Hellboy story structure in that it is now a series of miniseries.
Whatever the reason for the structure and pacing change, there is no denying the fact that this is Darth Vader doing what he was meant to do in the prequels: hunting down Jedi and taking no flak from anyone. From the menacing approach depicted on the cover to the deflection of blaster bolts ten pages into the issue, Darth Vader is so good at being bad, all in the cause of tracking down a rumored Jedi.
Mick Harrison (or Randy Stradley) brings the Star Wars galaxy to life, with a vast array of characters, aliens, and personalities populating this issue. Harrison's Vader is evil and cunning, unremorseful and obsessed. It's not hard to imagine this issue as a collection of scenes from the cutting room floor somewhere out on Skywalker Ranch. As a matter of fact, these are the scenes I expected to see when news of a prequel trilogy first hit. After all, where in the prequels was it revealed that Vader was someone to be feared, a hunter of Jedi and nightmare on the battlefield? When he killed a temple full of Padawans? When he fell into the lava pits and howled at Obi-Wan? I'm not sure, my friends, but this issue begins the story we all deserved to see.
Doug Wheatley certainly helps us see that story with his wonderful, photorealistic (and at times, quite possibly phototraced) style that magnificently captures the likeness of Vader and the essence of the other Star Wars galaxy inhabitants portrayed in this comic. Harrison's story reveals that among those shown here, there are Nosaurians, Tintinna, Yarkoras, Togorians, and Blood Carvers. That is a wonderfully unique cross-section of the Star Wars universe that embodies the spirit without boring us to death with Wookies, Ewoks, and Mon Calamari (not that any of those are boring, but the Star Wars galaxy is a pretty diverse place).
Harrison and Wheatley deliver the beginnings of a Vader story, the middle of the story of the crew from the "Uhumele," and quite possibly, the beginning of the end of the story of Dass Jennir. I'm glad Dark Horse is giving us some worthwhile Darth Vader tales. Now if they could just find the means to deliver some interesting Han Solo stories our way, this old Star Wars fan would be mighty happy.