The Star Wars universe is vast. There’s an impressive amount of characters within the movie franchise and with the comic books that number grows with each issue. The thing about Star Wars is that it tends to focus on the same groups of people. There are so many worlds and races in the fictional universe that you’ll never see explored in the films. Thank goodness for the comics because they can focus on whatever they want as is the case with Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows, which follows a clone trooper that was left for dead during the clone wars. If you read Tim Siedell’s last Vader series (which you should have it was fantastic!) then you know that the book followed Vader closely. The brilliance of how Siedell approaches the character is that even when you’re viewing him closely you’re still on the outside looking in. As the reader you’re not allowed to get close to Vader much like the other characters in the story aren’t allowed to get close to him too. His defenses both physically and emotionally are very high and so it’s this incredible reading experience where you feel like you’re going through the journey with him, but rather being alongside him you’re back and to the left of him. Many times you see a character looking over at him and it’s only with that character do you find your vantage point in the story.
This series, Vader has been kept even further away from the reader. He only shows up a few times and when he is in the story he’s the baddest mother in the cosmos. Sure we know that he is. There’s no arguing that Darth Vader is one of the most significant characters created in the past century, but that’s not why we’re viewing him as a bad-ass here. We’re seeing the world through our fallen clone trooper’s eyes. He sees Vader as this iconic figure that commands obedience and even though Vader is actually doing some evil shit, our clone trooper can’t see it. He’s blinded by their shared interest in the extinction of all Jedi. It’s very interesting to see Vader painted as a hero in his eyes and as much as I like the character, I know that Vader is evil.
The gist of this issue is that our fallen clone trooper has joined up with the Republic. After being discarded by the Jedi during the Clone Wars, he’s come back to serve Vader. He’s also the second clone to ever take a name, his being Hock Malsuum. Hock then tells the story of the first “anomaly” aka clone to take a name. He was regarded as a mutation because he had taken a name and was able to excel at everything. He was better than the other clones which wasn’t what they wanted. There’s five pages of the story that follow this clone anomaly named Kaddak and they are some of the best pages set in the Star Wars universe that you’ll ever read. What’s crazy to me is that you actually forget that both of these clones are based off of Jango and made the same way as Boba (minus the natural progression that Boba had of course). The potential for more bad-asses is actually pretty endless when you think about it, but you only do because of Siedell.
Speaking of Siedell he’s the only one I want handling my Star Wars stories. I would never have described myself as the world’s biggest Star Wars fan and the reality is that I really have no interest in the franchise anymore and that dates back before Disney’s purchase. I enjoyed Star Wars and even have some great memories associated with the prequels which are terrible movies. The thing I always enjoyed about Star Wars was that it created a new universe, but not just that it was a new universe.
Hell, you and I could do that right now. Done. I did it, did you? What makes Star Wars different is that everyone became invested in the universe. It grew a history; it created a future and then kept expanding further and further past each of those points. It’s worlds like this that you want more. You crave more. You want to know what was happening on planet “A” while the rebels were fighting on Hoth because it continues to create and be interesting. It’s a world you want to live in or visit, not just a new world.
Siedell’s writing and handling of Star Wars keeps me from turning my back on this franchise all together. This issue reminded me why the concept of the Clone Wars is interesting, even if the film execution wasn’t. After all this series has Vader’s name in the title and yet Siedell was able to hold my interest without the character doing much of anything; I was content following clone trooper CT-5539 and learning how he chose his name. That’s saying something when a writer can do that, at least in my opinion.
If you thought this love note to this issue was over then think again because there is one very important aspect that I haven’t touch upon yet: the art. Gabriel Guzman gets Star Wars. It’s not about the technology, the politics or midichlorians. It’s about the people; their struggle with good and evil and the choices in life that weigh upon them. When Hock looks at the broken down and captured Jedi you can see everything he’s feeling by looking at his face. The best part is that the expression is simple, but relatable. There’s disgust in his eyes and anger in his mouth. I wouldn’t be surprised if his scar ached at that very moment in which their eyes met.
That’s not the writing either. That’s the art. It’s never mentioned if Hock’s scar hurts. In fact he doesn’t bring it up in this issue other than painting the scar on his trooper helmet. Guzman brings the world to life and makes it feel like Star Wars. Guzman makes Hock’s anger and disgust real and relatable. Guzman’s best pages are the five about Kaddak because the two clones couldn’t look more different… except in the eyes.
So many artists could have approached this a different way and some artists wouldn’t have been able to do it period. I think of Rob Liefeld’s work on The Infinite in which a character from the future teams up with his past self and future self is six inches taller. They’re the same person much in the way that these clones are the same, but Guzman does what Liefeld can’t… he’s makes it believable. I didn’t question for a second that these two men though different looking, were not the same person. It really goes right back to the eyes. It just shows you how important a simple thing like that can be in a comic.
Should you buy this comic? That’s what this all boils down to and usually I wouldn’t actually say “yes” or “no.” What is amaze-balls for one person can suck balls for another, but in this case it’s a yes. Even if you never realized it, you read comics for the story and this is an incredible story that’s being told with the writing and the artwork. It’s something that even non-Star Wars fans can enjoy because that’s how fantastic the storytelling is. This here people is what we call on the site “the reason you read comic books.” It’s also one of the reasons I’ll miss Star Wars under Dark Horse’s supervision.
Writer: Tim Siedell Artist: Gabriel Guzman Colorist: Michael Atiyeh Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 1/15/14