Star Wars: The Dark Times – Fire Carrier # 1
Written by Randy Stradley
Art by Gabriel Guzman & colourist Garry Henderson
Cover by Doug Wheatley
Published by Dark Horse
While the future of the Star Wars property changes and expands with all the energy and enthusiasm of a tweenage girl at a Twilight screening, Dark Horse comics’ hold on the franchise’s comics iterations has remained pernicious. Though new jumping on points for readers, like Brian Woods’ new ongoing series, are fairly regular, the ongoing “Dark Times” series continues unabated, with a new number one issue out this month.
Those expecting a familiar jumping on point may find themselves slightly flummoxed when they open the first page to find the story already under way, but a more or less concise recap page tells you everything you need to know. The story follows Jedi Master K’Kruhk, one of the other thousand or so Jedi to survive Order 66 at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Apparently most Expanded Universe writers found the idea of every Jedi in the galaxy getting caught with their pants down and easily killed off as preposterous as everyone else did, because survivors seem to pop up whenever possible.
K’Kruhk, along with a passel of younglings, escaped the Jedi Purge into the fringes of space, and as the story opens find themselves stranded on the refugee planet Arkinnea, side by side with countless other refugees from the events of the Clone Wars. Meanwhile Darth Vader does some Darth Vader-y stuff which isn’t really explained in the slightest and seems out of place and confusing. Doubtlessly returning readers will know exactly what he’s up to, but readers unfamiliar with the story thus far will find the references to some prisoner he’s keeping and the occasional name drop more confusing than anything else.
As for the main plot and characters of the issue, the basic characterizations are easy enough to pick up on through some well-placed character exposition and a good use of dialogue. By the end of the issue, first time readers will have about a good a grasp on the personalities of the main characters as they can expect to.
The book does, however, make occasional use of a third-person omniscient narrator, something of a dying trend in comic book writing these days. While it isn’t as persistent and distracting as the narration in Brian Woods’ recent issue, which tended towards hitting the reader over the head with exposition, it does still feel a tad out of place.
The art by Gabriel Guzman presents a distinctly more gritty look at the Star Wars universe than Carlos D’Anada’s artwork in the Woods series, which tended more towards stylization with its brighter colors and slightly exaggerated facial proportions. The artwork here is noticeably more muted and fits with the darker themes of the series overall.
Where the book proves most interesting, however, is its portrayal of the Empire in its early days from the perspective of a civilian, a side not seen especially often. The highlight of the issue is when K’Kruhk watches an Imperial propaganda screen showcasing the brave exploits of Lord Vader, the hero of the Empire, as he quells the Wookie rebellion and a failed coup. It’s sometimes easy to forget that early on in its existence, most people in the Star Wars universe really did think the Empire was a good thing and didn’t really twig to the whole “Wait a minute, those guys seriously evil” until they started going around blowing up entire planets. Or threatening to, at least.
We’re also treated to one of the rare depictions of an Imperial officer as actually believing in what he’s doing, rather than being mustache-twirlingly evil. Of course, the book is most likely setting him up for a harsh realization of his career choice later on, but it is still nice to see the Empire as not being made up entirely of bigoted villains.
While it doesn’t present the jumping on point for new readers that the Number One on the cover may imply, readers new to the “Dark Times” story, the issue does still do its best to accommodate new readers, and is a good, though perhaps not excellent, way to get another fix of Star Wars in comics this month.