Catching up from Comic-Con, here's my review of the first issue in the "A Spark Remains" in Star Wars: Dark Times. Dass Jennir and the Uhumele crew are reunited, but things are always awkward among bros when someone brings their girlfriend into the mix. Oh, yeah - they also try to kill Darth Vader.

I missed a few comic reviews during the Comic-Con and Star Wars Celebration Europe timeframe, but hopefully you caught my con coverage here and on ClubJade.net or on Twitter (@jamesjawa). Let's hop back on track with last month's Star Wars: Dark Times - kicking off a new story arc: 'A Spark Remains' #1
(DarkHorse.com profile). Writer Randy Stradley is reunited by longtime Dark Times artist Douglas Wheatley as we return to the journeys of Dass Jennir and his friends aboard the Uhumele. Spoilers ahead!

Summary: On Kestaval, Bomo Greenbark serves as lookout as the might of the Empire marches toward the front gate of The Lucky Twi'lek. Greenbark reports in to an unseen Jedi (presumably Dass Jennir) to confirm that Darth Vader is in the column of troops crossing the bridge to the establishment, and then Greenbark is dismissed to flee. As the Imperial forces reach the main entrance, the blast doors open, flooding the troops with engine fuel. Vader Force-jumps to grasp onto a crag as the fuel is ignited, and the blast is spotted by Imperial forces far away.
Flashback to six weeks earlier: Captain Heren and his crew are committed to a likely suicidal revenge plan by the Verpine Jedi Sahdett to strike back at Darth Vader, for killing their crew members and family, and otherwise ruining their lives - but Dass Jennir realizes that he has something to lose: his love, Ember Chankeli. In private, Chankeli appeals to Jennir's sense of doing right, but Jennir doesn't sit well with the plan requiring him to recruit another Jedi into a one-way ticket to joining the Force. Eventually, Jennir decides to join their conspiracy against Vader, but requests some special provisions from Ratty in secret. Meanwhile on Coruscant, assassin Falco Sang, forced into specialized training by Vader, escapes from his captor, Lt. Gregg, but ends up running straight into the Dark Lord. Back to the training, with now the greater ire of his jailer.

Review: By using the timeline framing, we get a story that kicks off with a big bang, and a question on whether Vader will survive the trap. Then the flashback, where most of the rest of this story will take place - the planning of such a bold attempt to remove the second most-powerful person in the Empire. Randy Stradley catches the readers up with Dass Jennir and the Uhumele crew by giving them all lines and introductions at some point, and also doing a little recap of recent story arcs of Dark Times and Darth Vader comics with reviewing the motives for personal revenge and a little Imperial propaganda video, to help catch Jennir up while he was on the run with Ember in 'Out of the Wilderness'. Perhaps a bit much for those who have been reading all along, but a good intro for those jumping in at this point.

We get some tension with the trap at the beginning, and some action with Falco Sang's attempt to escape from custody, which ends in Gregg's humiliation in front of Vader. I like how Sang has been looking to nettle his captor all along (even in previous arcs), and I'm sure that this will come to a head soon, as he hopes to be more trouble than he's worth. I also liked the scenes between Jennir and Chankeli in their quarters - rather than let her man decide her fate as his own burden, Chankeli asserts her own right to help choose her destiny and be part of the loop, reminding us that she is not just a love interest, but a character on her own, a former brothel owner used to the responsibility of tough decision making.

With the Dark Times storyline flipping back to the Uhumele crew and Dass Jennir, we also have the return of artist Douglas Wheatley, who is a pro at bringing the diverse species crew to the page with such emotion. Joining him on the visuals are colorist Dan Jackson and letterer Michael Heisler, and the issue looks great all over. There's a cool shot of the entire crew of the Uhumele in a meeting with Heren in command, and some neat effects in the flashbacks to their own past. And did Tarkin get put in the propaganda video over Moff Trachta? And such cool detail, like with Ratty in his gadget lair, and Mezgraf chopping vegetables. The calm before the storm, as it were. And of course, some shots of Vader leading a large force of ground troops - I think my favorite here is a shot from behind, with the scout walkers in shadow in the foreground.

Benjamin Carré handles the cover art, and I think it looks fantastic. Vader looks a little thin, but hanging from a rocky peak for dear life might make the suit stretch out a bit. The fiery lighting is great, and I'm excited to have picked up the less-text Comic-Con variant cover.

Overall, a fine start to kick off this story arc as well as serve as a jumping off point for those looking to get into Dark Times. Who does Dass want to keep his requisitions secret from? Bomo, Captain Heren, or Ember?

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