When a Darth Vader story is released, fans crave two things: first, an insight into the mind of the brooding dark lord and second; to know what he got up to between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. If either of these is omitted, one can feel cheated. Cry of Shadows is a Darth Vader tale truly impressive in scope, where Vader isn’t even the focus!
The story centres on a clone trooper, shot down during the clone wars on a desert world (NOT Tatooine) and abandoned by his Jedi liaison. As a result he has become a rugged survivor with a grudge against all things Jedi, and so, after a few years, decides to find and enter the service of a certain Darth Vader, of whom many a tale is told at the local cantina.
The book contains very little in the way of actual dialogue between characters, the story being told in retrospect by the clone. This is entirely appropriate to the plot, as the solitary nature of both the clone and Vader himself renders dialogue fairly useless and would probably have been forced and awkward had it been otherwise. The script itself is enthralling and very well paced, moving quickly enough to keep the story dynamic, yet slowly enough to include real depth and insight into the clone’s bitter, angry character and the situation of the Empire-gripped galaxy.
As with any good story, the script also deals with real and relevant issues. The Empire mirrors many totalitarian state tactics used in today’s current affairs. There is the censorship of media, literature & history and the crushing of any attempts at independence by a military colossus, remind you of anyone?!
However the book also deals with much more personal issues in addition to grand ideas; the sense of hollow loss when one loses respect for another, the poisoning effect of post-traumatic stress and the crutch that purpose and fellowship can provide a crippled mind.
For me though, the artwork is the the true shining light of the Cry of Shadows, the story lives to serve it just as Vader lives to serve the Empire. Panels are varied and beautifully coloured, from wide landscapes to close-ups of the clones’ expressive face. There are soft sunsets, chaotic battlefield vistas and rainstorms only to be found on hostile alien planets or in Scotland.
Impressive as these are, the close ups on individual conversations or character’s expressions outshine the scenes of war and carnage. One could remove the script and the story could still be read from their looks and intention-filled faces, such is the depth of emotion conveyed. Moreover using Vader as a secondary rather than central character only adds to his menace and relentless power.
I recommend this, very much. This is a different animal from most Star Wars comics and will earn its shelf-space as a great piece of writing and art. Buy it.
The writer of this piece was: Lewis “Daft Vader” Campbell
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