Friday, May 24, 2013

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Empire: Darklighter

Empire: Darklighter  

Darklighter collects six issues of the Empire ongoing series, published between May and December of 2003. The trade paperback was published in May of 2004. 

                Biggs Darklighter is one of the few pivotal characters from the Star Wars films to receive no attention in the expanded universe. Despite serving as an early inspiration to Luke, a role best seen in the deleted scenes of A New Hope, and helping to make the raid on the Death Star a success, Biggs has been rarely featured in the various books and games fleshing out the Star Wars universe, and never in more than a cameo role. Volume 2 of the Empire ongoing series finally remedies this, but does this story live up to Darklighter’s important but overlooked role in the first Star Wars film?
                In this comic, the life of Biggs Darklighter is chronicled as he moves from Tatooine farmboy with dreams of making it off his home planet, to disgruntled Imperial cadet, to Rebel Alliance hero. Along the way, we learn more about Biggs as a person. He’s a fairly interesting character in his own right with a very compelling moral dilemma that plagues him from nearly the start of the story- can he do his duties as an Imperial soldier despite the fact that the Empire is so frequently in the wrong? Of course, we all know the answer to that question, but watching him struggle with it makes for great character drama and helps flesh him out as a person.
                Biggs’ story isn’t the only one being told here, however. Luke plays a huge role and there is a great sense of just what Biggs meant to Luke based on their interactions with one another, while future Rogue Squadron member Hobbie Klivian acts as something of a comic relief role, losing limbs at a prodigious rate. Klivian is actually the second most interesting character in the whole book, as the story of Biggs’ defection to the Rebel Alliance is also Klivian’s, although the two are totally different personalities.
                Another thing this book does exceptionally well is capture the idealism of the early days of the Rebellion. There isn’t any politicizing or cynicism at play here. Everyone fighting with the Rebels is convinced of the righteousness of their cause, and prepared to take on incredibly dangerous missions to sustain the Rebellion. This leads to several great action scenes, including a raid to steal X-Wing starfighters that is probably the highlight of the book.
Biggs’ story is very close to a must read. Perfectly paced with plenty of frantic action scenes followed by compelling character moments, and featuring a character with plenty of endearing traits that typically doesn’t get enough recognition, this story is one that all Star Wars fans should read. It’s a great look into the early days of the Rebellion, and an even better companion to the story of Luke Skywalker.
The second story, The Short, Happy Life of Roons Sewell, is once again framed as the eulogy of an Alliance hero. Where it earns its stripes in this collection, however, is in its drastically different protagonist. Unlike Biggs, a farm boy raised in relatively plush surroundings by his wealthy family, Roons is a street urchin on an urbanized world. An early tragedy fuels the man’s hatred for the Empire, and sometimes drives him on a path of rage and brutality. Like Biggs, he does several extremely heroic things and is well liked by all who served with him, but he is prone to eccentrics that render him as something of an oddball. He’s a more flawed character than Biggs, and this more nuanced characterization does great things for the book.  What could’ve been non-descript filler ends up being a fantastic contrast to the featured story.
                The tale of Biggs Darklighter is penciled by Douglas Wheatley, one of the most impressive artists to have worked on Star Wars. Wheatley brings an incredible amount of detail to his work, everything from Star Destroyers to Biggs’ home on Tatooine is rendered with care and looks absolutely gorgeous. Though he is technically proficient, the more human side of the storytelling isn’t neglected either. He captures the warmth of Biggs’ personality, Luke’s desperation to escape his uncle’s homestead, and the haughtiness of the Imperial officers perfectly. Colorists Joe Wayne and Chris Chuckry aid in this, giving us reserved, straightforward colors that allow the pencils plenty of room to breathe while contributing an aesthetically pleasing palate of their own.
                On the other hand, Roons Sewell’s story features an entirely different art team. As with the story itself, the artwork here is much different than its counterpart. The art team behind this book favors a far more exaggerated look, in an attempt to coax all the emotion out of the often histrionic Sewell that they can. Outside of the facial features, it is little more than a blandly drawn story with some weird lighting. It gets the job done, but a few too many goofy faces and a lack of true inspiration, not to mention the unenviable task of following up a brilliantly conceived piece of art like the previous story, makes the artwork in the Short, Happy Life of Roons Sewell one of the few negatives in this book.
Darklighter features stunning art, an engaging story of interest to even the newest of Star Wars fans, and a bonus story that acts as an appropriate compliment to the main event. There’s really no reason not to give this book a try.
Final Score

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