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Review: Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison (graphic novel)

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After Revenge of the Sith, what Vader did next...

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With the Star Wars movie machine set to rumble on for another generation now that the third trilogy, not to mention an undisclosed number of standalone films, have become a reality we’re about to have a plethora of new characters introduced into the stupendously massive mythology.

For an original generation Star Wars kid like myself though, who saw the first (or classic as it’s now known) trilogy as they were released, and who despite really wanting to love the prequel films found them difficult to warm to, there’s a very specific and relatively limited period of time that I’m interested in. Essentially, anything written within the lifetimes of the characters that I fell in love with in the original movies is what floats my boat.

Luckily for me Dark Horse Comics have been busy in this era of late (see my review of Blood Ties: Boba Fett Is Dead here) and their latest offering features the Dark Lord of the Sith himself in a tale called Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison. Set 19 years before the events of A New Hope (or The Battle of Yavin as they refer to it here, and which is, I suppose, more mythologically correct), the focus of the story is an ambitious young cadet called Laurita Tohm who accidentally finds himself in the service of Vader following a terrorist attack that leaves Emperor Palpatine in a critical condition. Forced to work alongside the cybernetic Moff Trachta, Tohm joins Vader on a mission to prevent the insurgents from completing their quest to assassinate Palpatine.

darth vader ghost prison coverJourneying to a Jedi Temple, Vader watches footage of himself when he was still Anakin and discovers that things were not as he had thought, which in turn leads to the discovery of the Ghost Prison, a secret penitentiary that the Jedi used to house the most dangerous criminals in the universe, and which Vader sees as the perfect place to recruit the intergalactic version of the Expendables. To say more of the plot would be to deny you the fun of discovering one of the best Star Wars stories of recent years, but I will say that the climax is both shocking and satisfying.

Writer Haden Blackman, who has worked on Dark Horse’s Star Wars books for a decade and also contributed to the pair of Force Unleashed video games, has created a tight, fast moving tale that does justice to the complex character of Vader and builds on what we know of the cybernetic psychopath while adding further depth to his mythology. The art, too, is superb with Agustin Alessio managing to create a sweeping cinematic feel to the book which often had me pausing to really take in his work, which at times is truly breathtaking.

Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison is another worthy addition to Dark Horse’s ‘classic’ era canon, and for my money is right up there with the majesty of previous tales like Dark Empire, Crimson Empire and Empire’s End. For Vader fans it’s an excellent look at the further corruption of the former Anakin Skywalker as we move further away from the angry young man and deeper into the controlled sociopathic behaviour than comes to fruition almost two decades later, and represents the much appreciated ‘grown up’ look at the Star Wars universe that is lacking in the likes of The Clone Wars and will no doubt be largely absent in the new movies.

The force is indeed strong with this book, and also with Dark Horse, who continue to rule the Star Wars universe.

Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison is out on 23rd April 2013

4 stars


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