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DARKLIGHTER

A graphic novel by Doug Wheatley, Tomas Giorello, and Paul Chadwick (2004, Dark Horse Comics)
Empire comics #8-12 and 15
Set immediately prior to Star Wars: A New Hope

A man from Tatooine enters service in the Empire, but quickly switches allegiances to the Rebellion.

 

 

4 stars

Read April 27th to 28th, 2015, in Soft Graphic Novel for the 2nd time  
    As with my previous reading, I was quite impressed with the graphic presentation of this story. There isn't a shortcut anywhere on any page, meaning that the backgrounds all have some sort of detail, never plain colors. Also as per my previous reading, the narrative boxes really got in the way. I didn't like the way they intruded into the story, which is supposed to be the graphic format.

The person of Biggs is just as much a hero as you would expect. Somehow, though, I don't think Luke was so dependent on Biggs as the comic shows. The story of Biggs' moral fiber, and the way it asserts itself, is what makes this story interesting.

I mentioned below, regarding the story of Sewel, that Dodonna loved the man, but I'm actually of the opposite opinion upon the second reading. It looks like Sewel was rather detrimental to the cause in some respects, and that some people, especially in the higher chain of command, were happy to be rid of him. Dodonna spins a good tale, though.
 

 

4 stars

Read December 23rd to 28th, 2004 in Soft Graphic Novel  
    Thoroughly impressive, all the way through, but especially when dealing with the main character.

The artwork was what struck me first of all. It was very nuanced, with lots of shadows and graininess to it. The artists took a lot of time to give us lots of details, not in the usual sense, as in background objects, but in pebbles in the sand on Tatooine, and the very many stars in the sky. Every scene that has stars was very impressive, as it also contained a dark blue and other contrasting colors.

The story of Biggs Darklighter starts just before the events of A New Hope. The scenes at Fixer's garage were my least favorite, for the same reasons that they were cut from the movie. It is, however, nice to see them in some form, anyway. Biggs' training at the Imperial Academy is shown side-by-side with Luke's development as a person, as he gains his independence from his friend. Biggs becomes disillusioned very quickly with the Imperial navy, especially after hearing a speech by Moff Tarkin. It gets worse when he meets his arrogant new captain on the Rand Ecliptic. The man is a true representative of the Empire. He even has a pot belly stretching his uniform! When he congratulates the pilots on destroying a cargo ship full of children who didn't have the proper authorization papers, because it reduces paperwork for them, Biggs figures he has to do something.

The mutiny on board the Rand Ecliptic has been told elsewhere, I believe. The most likely place is the Star Wars Trilogy Sourcebook, but I don't recall the exact story. I believe, however, that this one is different, though along the same lines. We even get to meet Hobbie Klivian, whom we otherwise met during the battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, and who becomes an important member of Rogue Squadron. Hobbie is among the other rebel cells on board the Imperial picket ship who lead the mutiny. In this version, Biggs is off the ship when the mutiny started, though he was the one who triggered it.

Once among the Rebel Alliance (we aren't told how they finally found the rebels), they use their TIE Fighters as decoys to steal some X-Wing fighters. We get a summary of the events in the Rogue Squadron prequel comic, where the Rogues steal astromech droids to pilot the ships through hyperspace.

There are also some cool "explanation" moments, where we learn why Hobbie didn't get to fly against the Death Star, since he was on Yavin IV at the time, and where Biggs was all the time before he met Luke as they were about to fly off. I don't recall Hobbie having a mechanical arm and leg through the comics or Rogue Squadron novels, but apparently I must have missed that. What an unlucky guy! On Yavin IV, he also gets an infection from one of those wounds, which spreads to his whole body. Biggs and some friends go out into the jungle to find a plant that can possibly cure him. They are still out when the Millennium Falcon arrives. There is a strange scene where it is implied that Biggs might have Force-sensitivity, which is too much for me to take -the authors are implying that almost everybody has the ability to command the Force, which is something I disagree with on principle. But if I recall correctly, one of the books or comics from the past has hinted that creatures like the one encountered here are the ones with the Force-sensitivity. Biggs gains the antidote, but Hobbie is not well enough to fly against the Death Star when it arrives. We all know what happens to Biggs during that mission.

My major complaint about this graphic novel is the amount of narrative boxes, trying to give us the form of a real text novel. I didn't think all of it, or even most of it, was necessary. It tried to give us mood and emotions, as well as thoughts, but these might have been better given as thought bubbles, and we can see the emotions on their faces. It intruded a little too much for my tastes.

Appended to the story of Biggs Darklighter is The Short, Happy Life of Roons Sewell, which I read separately, on another day, which might have affected my mood. This story interested me less than the Biggs one, but it was well-told nonetheless. It deals with a former General with the Rebellion, and how his ruthless life in poverty turned him into the kind of person who hated the abuse of authority that the Empire represents. His young life wasn't very interesting, and with a little too much graphic violence. When his love is killed by his actions, speaking out against the repressiveness of the Empire as a satirical actor, he took up arms against them. When he decided that he needed to become more organized than a one-person menace, he found an organization that had the same objective as he did. But he was quick to make rash decisions. When they worked out well, they were spectacular victories. When they were too rash, he eventually died. But he was well-respected and loved by all, especially the man who succeeded him, Jan Dodonna, whom Sewell had rescued from the Empire earlier in his life.

Both stories have a tragic note to them, but Biggs has the better one, because of his connection to Luke, I think. But given the storytelling ability of the people involved in both, I think the readers would be well-served to get more from them. I liked this issue a lot, and look forward to more character-driven stories in the future.

 
   

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