Dark Times returns with a new story arc, focusing on K’Kruhk and the younglings in his care — now all galactic refugees in this week’s Star Wars comic.
Dark Times, the ongoing Star Wars title focusing on the era immediately after Revenge of the Sith, returns and picks up the story with some characters we haven’t seen in a while: K’kruhk, the Whiphid Jedi, and a handful of Jedi younglings, with a new story arc: ‘Fire Carrier’ (Issue #1: DarkHorse.com profile).
Summary: Master K’Kruhk, along with Padawan Chase Piru, has ended up in charge of a group of nine Jedi younglings after Order 66. Crash landing on Arkinnea, the group gets directed to a massive refugee camp. Recognizing their hardscrabble existence in a powder keg of hopelessless, K’Kruhk hopes that they can stay off of the radar of both this “Empire” he sees in the propaganda, and the local human militia, who considers the refugees akin to the Separatists who battered the planet during the war. After breaking up a fight among his fellow refugees, K’Kruhk learns more about their situation, while Piru learns about the potential for an opportunity to start again, settling another part of the planet. K’Kruhk returns one evening to find a stranger in the tent: Master Zao, a blind Jedi and expert cook, who had sensed the group in the Force. Zao gives the group a simple lesson then sits aside with the Whiphid to discuss what is so wrong with this world…
Meanwhile, continuing the storyline from the ‘Out of the Wilderness’ arc, while also referring to the aftermath of Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison, Darth Vader gets updates from his men on the re-training of assassin Falco Sang, and the lack of progress in tracking the Uhumele or the Jedi Dass Jennir. Is Vader’s presence just to wrap up loose ends from the last story (and also help combine the timelines of the tales of Dark Times with the various Purge and Darth Vader comics)? Or will he, Falco Sang or Lt. Gregg, cross paths with the orphaned Jedi led by K’Kruhk and Zao? (Hint: Vader appears on the cover of Issue #2).
Review: Dark Horse editor Randy Stradley, who had been writing the entire run of Dark Times, though under aliases in the past, starts the story off with some action – a damaged ship coming in hot for a crash landing. Even after the crash, things start off a little tense – after all, a ship full of Jedi just landed on a world under Imperial control. Stradley flexes his editorial knowledge by weaving in recent galactic events into the Darth Vader parts, and into a great Imperial propaganda piece that help catch K’Kruhk up to date with what he’s missed: the Republic is gone, and Darth Vader is the public hero of the Empire. There’s not a lot of action in this issue, but that’s fine: we get a hint of K’Kruhk and Piru’s characters, though perhaps a mention of the Master being a little haunted still at having the younglings witness his rage against the pirates might have worked. Also, these kids need some names and characters beyond just species/gender descriptions. Hopefully we’ll get into shading them in as the story goes. Glad to see Zao return (he first appeared several times in the Republic series, which later turned into Dark Times), though it’s been so long since we’ve seen him, I had to look him up to see how long it has been – last seen in 2005. Stradley has a knack for bringing existing characters back into the stories (Crimson Empire III brought back some characters who hadn’t been seen in ages), while also fleshing out consequences and repercussions of events. Not only do we see the wreckage caused by the events of Ghost Prison, we see a world still dealing with the results of the Clone Wars: taking on refugees, and what that means: vast, squalid camps with scarce resources and even rarer optimism.
‘Fire Carrier’ is also a new start for a fresh face in Star Wars comics, Gabriel Guzman, who has previously done work on Kull and the Predators prequel tie-in comic. So much of the look of Dark Times was set by Douglas Wheatley, who did the artwork for all but one previous Dark Times story arcs with great soft lines and awesome renderings of aliens and creatures. Wheatley has been busy working on illustrations for the new character guide, but he still brings the cover of this issue to life. It is important to note that the one arc that Wheatley didn’t illustrate was the ‘Parallels’ story line (2007) that first introduced Padawan Piru and the Soaring Hawkbat Clan of younglings, when they were saved by K’Kruhk – ‘Parallels’ was drawn by Dave Ross.
Guzman has a different style than Wheatley, but his knack for non-humans shows. There’s a great panel of K’Kruhk witnessing a fight in the refugee camp, and some good close-up work on K’Kruhk, Zao, and some of the younglings in the tent. However, some of the zoomed-out shots lose a little too much detail in the characters. Gary Henderson adds his skill with the colors.
A good start for this story arc – we get a little action, but a bigger hook: a message of trouble on the horizon for a group that has already gone from bad to worse. Why do I get the feeling that once again Dark Times will live up to its title – something’s not right on this planet, and it’s going to take more than an indestructible Whiphid Jedi and a blind gourmet Jedi and a gaggle of Force users to get to the bottom of it!