(2008) various, Titan Books, £12.99, trd pbk, 120pp, ISBN 978-1-845-76470-8
This first Dark Times collection is sub-titled "The Path to Nowhere", which is a bit pessimistic. It portrays the events leading from the portentous prequel movie Revenge of the Sith, and the outlook is pretty grim. Dass Jennir, one of the few Jedi to escape assassination by Imperial forces, leads the Nosaurian people in a suicidal battle to allow time for their families to escape. As Jennir and fellow soldier Bomo Greenbark emerge as the only survivors of a massacre, they realise that even their diversion failed. What follows is a desperate attempt to rescue Bomo's wife and daughter from slavery, aided by the troubled Jedi Master. The story then takes us on a grim journey through a Star Wars universe being over-run by desperation and anarchy. In the wake of events in Revenge of the Sith, and before the optimism of the Rebellion makes itself known, Jennir and Bomo find themselves facing some of the worst aspects of humanity. They delve into some dark places to find Bomo's family and, pointedly, rarely find what they were looking for. This graphic novel is very effective at conveying the mood prevalent at the time: hopelessness. To aid them on their search, Jennir and Bomo earn the help of the usual assortment of rogues and weird aliens, in the form of a crew of smugglers. As always with Star Wars, these outlaws are honourable by nature and surprisingly sympathetic, considering the harsh world they now live in, but that somehow detracts from the grim world that the characters are heading towards.
'Headings' and 'paths' are a key theme in this story as many characters question the one that they are taking. Jennir's actions are taking him uncomfortably close to the Dark Side. Imperial stormtroopers begin to question their purpose, as their usefulness becomes less and less with each mission. And even Darth Vader doesn't know what to do with his new-found power. It all works well as a story, and in relaying its themes, and it even has a quite shocking resolution for a Star Wars tale. It is an enjoyable read, if only for its grimmer, one might say adult, tone to the subject matter, but it seems oddly undermined by some all too friendly smugglers and the occasional superfluous soul-searching by Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. And if this is the beginning of an ongoing series of tales about Dass Jennir, then it would be nice to see him developed further, since it is only his apparent descent into the Dark Side that really ignites any interest by the end of the story.
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