Dark Times: Fire Carrier #2 is out today and true to its title, we get served up a hot order of really depressing story. Can K’Kruhk hold his group together through this latest dark time?
“No one is hurt… but we’re not all right.” — K’Kruhk
Warning: Issue #2 of Star Wars: Dark Times – Fire Carrier (DarkHorse.com profile) is not for those seeking some fluffy feel-good puppies-and-kittens escapism. Having recently crash landed on the Imperial world of Arkinnea, K’Kruhk, Piru and the band of younglings are now in a refugee camp trying to stay off the radar. Blind Master Zao finds them and warns them of danger in the camp. What can be worse than being in a refugee camp on a world that doesn’t want refugees?
Summary: Most of the time, I tend to not give away spoilers of the ending of a story arc but will summarize the beginning issues, but I really can’t do this storyline justice by spoiling the final pages here. So I’ll lead you up the mountain, but not show you what’s on the other side. You’re going to need to read this issue for yourself or at least wait until next issue’s review.
On Coruscant, Darth Vader has ratcheted up assassin Falco Sang’s rehabilitation and training, and tries to break the man of his fear, in order to make him useful to the Empire’s mission.. or perhaps just the Dark Lord’s plans. Not easy to do when one fears getting killed by Darth Vader in combat.
On Arkinnia, after Zao’s warning of danger in the camp, K’Kruhk packs up the family, and escapes out into the countryside with Zao. At a local farm, they appropriate a beast of burden and a hovercart. Covering all the younglings and masters inside the Canoestoga-class wagon, Piru plays the role of a farmgirl driving the cart along the roads in the wilderness. But their escape is detected, as the local militia catches their absence when their numbers get called to board an ore shuttle to a new life out of the camp (one of their neighbors from the camp is also herded aboard). The militia commanders search for the escapees, but don’t want to bring it to their Imperial connections. After Piru passes through a militia checkpoint unchallenged, they reach a mountain and the younglings race to the pass only to discover something horrifying.
Review: I was afraid that Randy Stradley was going to go someplace really dark with this storyline, and my fears were surpassed. It’s even worse. I’m not sure yet whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it will definitely keep me interested in this story. This story is not about action (though Vader and Falco Sang spar a bit), but instead about K’Kruhk’s search for atonement. He still feels very guilty for the violence he undertook to save the younglings from the pirates on the last world, because he fears that his rage may have scarred them. Zao tries to forgive some of this guilt, but these impressionable children are going to be experiencing a lot more shocks by the time this story is over. Dark times indeed, and as with Carl on The Walking Dead, childhood is over.
Gabriel Guzman signs his name on that last panel, and well he should, since it is a good piece of art – albeit tragic in subject matter. I’m not really a fan of the first few panels on Coruscant – they feel less detailed, but when the action returns to our heroes on Arkinnia, the art fits well for the characters and setting. There’s a bit of lightness with the children, especially as they gather some melons and other food at the farm before heading off in the cart, which sets a good balance to Zao’s countenance as he senses something in the Force as a ship flies overhead. My favorite panel is one of the sunnier moments in the issue, with the younglings excited to meet their new beast of burden, possibly nicknamed Wooly.
With a story title like ‘Fire Carrier’, is this story about someone or something who comes to bring light and warmth in the darkness… or to burn away everything to ash. Can’t wait for the next issue, and I already have some guesses how this could possibly go from worse to even worser for K’Kruhk and the kids. (We left bad back at the refugee camp.) I’m glad we have such variety in our Star Wars storytelling, so that with the fun action adventures of Jahan Cross in Agent of the Empire, we can get something more serious, and possibly depressing, as Dark Times. Haven’t I learned yet that Dark Times means dark times? But how our favorite characters endure, survive, change, and perhaps someday achieve… that is what makes it work.