A long time ago in a galaxy far,
far away . . . .
EPISODE III . . . and a little bit more
THE SITH DEPOSED
The Galactic Republic has been
erased from the pages of history by the Sith.
Palpatine and his apprentice Darth Vader
having destroyed the Jedi Order and
founded the Galactic Empire!
But loyal supporters of Chancellor Palpatine
have become disgusted by his imperial hubris.
These member of his inner circle have conceived
A daring plan to overthrowing the newborn Empire
and restore peace and security to the galaxy.
But the Sith are not so easily vanquished
especially when their strength attract young people
desperate for their own power.
And if that is not enough, there is always Lord Vader,
the seemingly indestructible henchman of Palpatine
who no one knows how to kill. . .
The story crafted by the Dark Horse Comics team of Haden Blackman (script), Agustin Alessio (art), and Michael Heisler (lettering) begins there: A young imperial cadet Tohm landing on Coruscant with hundreds of his fellow soldiers for a lavish graduation ceremony. Naturally, the crippled and scarred man is an outcast with only a handful of friends, but his social isolation has resulted in him because somewhat obsessed with becoming the finest Imperial officer possible. And his carefully developed skills are soon put to the test when a group of high level Imperial officers use the ceremony as cover for a elaborate assassination attempt on Palpatine and Vader.
Quickly, young Tohm is forced to make a difficult decision: Side with his friends who are part of the overthrow attempt or help save Palpatine and Vader?
After reading this comic collection I really have mixed feelings about it.
First off, I have to tip my hat to Agustin Alession on the art in Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison. It is absolutely gorgeous. Viewing this comic collection was like sitting in a movie theater watching a wonderfully filmed Star Wars movie play before my eyes: Every panoramic scene breathtaking, each action sequence heart-stopping, and each close-up full of emotional power. Alession’s art is, honestly, that good here.
As for the story itself, it is well plotted, well scripted, and well executed. And while it is 100% Star Wars, this is a more realistic Star Wars than most I’ve experienced, grounded in political upheaval and group dynamics. When reading it, I couldn’t help but compare it to the movie Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise from some years ago. In that silver screen retelling of history, a group of high ranking Nazis plan an assassination attempt on Hitler and his closest henchmen while also coordinating a simultaneous takeover of the government. And that basic tale is what Haden Blackman emulates in Ghost Prison with Palpatine and Vader attempting to escape assassination and putdown a very legitimate takeover attempt, which – coupled with Star Wars lore and hidden Jedi secrets – makes for enough pulse-pounding entertainment to satisfy any Star Wars fan.
But . . .
Well, you knew there was a “but”, right?
But, the main character Tohm (No, Palpatine and Vader aren’t the narrators here.) is very irritating. He is naive at best and stupid at worst. While his physical condition and his personal history give him a valid reason for his decision making throughout the story, his inability to sense the danger of his situation and his absolute trust in people who are telling him over and over again that they are not trustworthy is really perplexing. I mean, if he is smart enough to have survived Imperial officer training and help root out a palace revolt, shouldn’t he be intelligent enough to sense his own precarious position? But, maybe, that is merely my personal preferences regarding characters coming out.
All in all, though, this is a fine addition to the Star Wars Expanded Universe. (Yeah, I know the EU isn’t canon anymore, but it is for me until I’m convinced the upcoming replacement is better.) Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison has stellar artwork, a complex and exciting Star Wars tale, and a lot of Vader-being-a-bad-ass action scenes. All of which means, it should have earned a four star rating from me, but . . . it didn’t, because of Tohm detracting from what otherwise was a great Star Wars tale. Try it for yourself though, because the positives in this one still outweigh the negatives.