Dark Times #13 (Republic #96)
Blue Harvest Part 1
Script: Mick Harrison
Art: Douglas Wheatley
Coloring: Dave McCaig
Lettering: Michael Heisler
Cover: Douglas Wheatley
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (09/28/2009)
Dass Jennir comes to the archipelago of Noua on Telerath to attend tryouts for a job in a slaver gang. On the way to the town by water boat, he learns that there is also another gang running the town, a fact that was not mentioned by his employer Ember Chankeli. Jennir does not get to participate in the trials on that day, but gets the Chagrian leader Demanna's attention when he stops him from sword-dueling with a young boy. Jennir plans to get his own vibro-sword and challenge the slave runner leader soon enough.
The Dark Times series returns after a 10 month absence... well, not really since this new story arc has a two-part prologue that was offered as part of MySpace Dark Horse Presents #18-19 in January and February respectively. While that prologue is partially recapped in a flashback on page 7, it is offered online for free so there's no reason not to read it before this issue. But enough with the history lesson, as Dass Jennir says to his droid H2 as they walk towards the docks on Telerath looking for a water taxi. As readers of the prologue will know, Jennir has been hired by a woman named Ember Chankeli to get rid of a slaver gang that plagues her little tourist town. This story takes place two weeks later as Jennir follows the plan and passes himself for an outsider attending the tryouts to join the gang. His motivation is money, but also to redeem himself for failing to save his friend Bomo Greenbark's wife and daughter from another slaver (that was back in issues 1-5 "The Path to Nowhere").
H2 gives a bit of the history of Telerath, which fans will know as the banking planet from the Knights of the Old Republic series (especially the "Reunion" story arc in issues #11-12). Apparently, the planet has been forgotten for all that time until recently when an effort to make it into a tourist spot was undertaken. As the pair meet up with a water taxi sailor named Fish in the archipelago of Noua, they learn more about the gangs controlling the town. Yes, Jennir is surprised to hear there are two gangs, a fact that was not specified by Chankeli at their meeting (she had also said at first there were 40 slavers, then 50). The slaver gang is led by Demanna, and the other gang is a band of spice runners led by two T'surri brothers.
Jennir disembarks the old-fashioned water vessel at the town's main square and witnesses the tryout in process. A huge Chagrian and a tentacle-headed alien are dueling with vibro-swords while a crowd, which includes Jennir's employer Chankeli, is cheering on. The Chagrian fighter turns out to be the leader Demanna, and the next one to challenge him is a Human boy named Dado. Jennir decides to intervene at this point and shoots the sword out of Demanna's hand. Another Chagrian tries to shoot the ex-Jedi in the back, comitting a big mistake by violating the Sword Law. He gets proper punishment from the leader, and the boy is given a lesson by having his right hand cut off. Being an outsider unfamiliar with local laws, Jennir is not punished but he gets the gang leader's attention. He also has the idea to get himself a vibro-sword. As the crowd dissipates, Chankeli reassures Jennir he is doing well so far.
Meanwhile, there is a framing story starring Darth Vader much like in the "Path to Nowhere" storyline. Three weeks after the events from the last two issues with ancient Jedi Celeste Morne and the Imperial historian Fane Peturri, Vader returns to Coruscant to report to his Emperor. Palpatine informs him that the crew of the Uhumele had a Jedi among them and order Vader away to a mission on Bandomeer to stop a rebellion by the ionite miners. While a sub-plot starring Vader is always interesting, it does feel disconnected from the main story. I'm not sure if Harrison plans to tie them down the line, but if he does it doesn't bode well for Jennir.
While I love evey issue of Dark Times so far, I'm not connecting with Jennir yet. The character comes off a little stiff and undefined. I don't see a personality or likeability to him, aside fromt he fact that he is a generic Jedi who survived Order 66. I can't really compare to Zayne Carrick from Knights of the Old Republic since John Jackson Miller had several more issues to develop him, but Zayne was likeable even within the first story arc of that series. And some of the other crewmembers of the Uhumele are more interesting, and I hope they come back soon. Plot-wise, this story is kind of intriguing. I'm curious to see how Jennir will accomplish his job of creating havoc among a slaver ring, and especially if Vader will become involved in the mix later on.
I've been loving the cover for this issue ever since it was announced in the previews. It's such a cool, iconic image that demonstrates a whole new aspect of the Star Wars universe. The "Blue Harvest" title is inspired, of course, by the fake title George Lucas used while shooting Return of the Jedi, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they used the actual logo as well. The interior art is simply amazing as usual. I can't say enough good things about Doug Wheatley he's my favorite Star Wars artist so far, followed closely by Joe Corroney and Jan Duursema. There are countless little details in almost every panel, either in the background or foreground. And the panel composition and angles are also amazing feats of storytelling, raising the whole reading experience to a new level. He could draw a 30-page Republic Senate debate and I would be entertained.
Wheatley also seems to love aliens, and a lot of the more obscure ones. The whole slaver gang seem to be made up of Chagrians, and some Chubbits are seen walking around. Some of these frog-like aliens were seen in issue #11 in a flashback scene that has nothing to do with this story. I guess the artist wanted to explore them further. The scenes with Vader are epic, especially the last page where we see LAAT/i's and V-wing starfighters pouring out of a Venator-class Star Destroyer, while Vader is overlooking squads of stormtoopers overtaking a mining outpost. Chillingly beautiful artwork and coloring. The only minor annoyance I have is that the floating droid H2 has a miniature R2 torso for a body. A more original design could have been used for this new type of droid.
A very nice start with amazing artwork. Keep reading!
Rating: 8 / 10 Highly Recommended