Returning to a galaxy drastically changed, CT-5539 immediately sets about gaining the attention of Darth Vader. As his exceptional accomplishments on numerous battlefields earn him the Dark Lord's trust, he reflects upon some of the experiences and influences that propelled him down this path.
This one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. While the integrity of the story still holds up and continues to keep me invested in Hock (now that we've got a proper name for CT-5539/"The Trooper"), the pace of this issue made it feel less intimate than the previous one. You get the feeling that the haste to move the story along to (presumably) more crucial points caused other interesting parts of Hock's journey to be skipped over.
While that's understandable, this issue seems like more of a generic clone trooper story because of it. Hock seems to be simply going through the motions of returning to society and getting back into action. His transition from forgotten clone to stormtrooper serving under Darth Vader's command happens too quickly, and with no explanation. After seeing Hock's longing for this dream throughout Issue #1, not being able to see his reintegration into military service, an important part of his journey to be sure, is a bit of a disappointment.
I was also not impressed with the additional flashbacks to Hock's time in the desert. Having been featured so heavily and effectively in the previous issue, going back to that harrowing time in his life seemed like a retread offering little aside from a name. This could just as easily have been provided in the first issue and would have made that aspect of Hock's past seem more monumental. While I know his delirium induced choosing of a name is important on a story level, it doesn't feel as important as it should emotionally.
What is impressive about this issue is the section in which Hock tells the story of the "Mandalorian Anomaly". The tale of Kaddak is a fascinatingly dark and terrifying one that introduces a character so intriguing that I hope he shows up again later in the series. As both a physical and mental threat to Hock, there's a ton of incredible potential there that I'd love to see capitalized on in later chapters.
Artist Gabriel Guzman continues to work very well with colorist Michael Atiyeh to create images that capture Hock's impressions of the worlds around him as he continues his quest to serve under Darth Vader. Never has the flag of the Empire appeared more benevolent than it does on this issue's first page.
Showered by colorful confetti and bathed in a golden sunlight promising peace and security, the image brilliantly conveys Hock's joyousness at returning to civilization and his optimism about the future. That the flag's colors are reminiscent of Nazi Germany's adds an ominous layer to these panels that one can't help but feel mirrors Hock's eventual fate.
As with this issue's story, the art shines brightest in the panels detailing the story of aberrant clone Kaddak. From the mutilated form and twisted visage of Kaddak himself to the subtle scratches and worn appearance of his abnormally dirty cell on pristine Kamino, every unsettling thing about the "Mandalorian Anomaly" is amplified in the work of these two. Their interpretation of Tim Siedell's story is fantastic.
The second chapter of Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows has some pacing issues, but they seem to be for a reason. There are only six more issues for Tim Siedell to complete Hock's story, and stopping along the way to explain everything could cause more detrimental pacing issues later. If anything, the desire to see more of Hock's journey is a testament to how Siedell's strong characterization causes you to invest in the character. It's a great series and now that the pieces are all in place, I'm looking forward to seeing what Siedell does with them.
Rating: BUY IT.
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