The Dark Times series of the Star Wars Expanded Universe is the inescapable exploration of tales and stories set between the Prequel Trilogy and Original Trilogy. Of the main film characters, Darth Vader and the Emperor are fairly much the only ones who show up, and most of their appearances are generally cameos. This series follows a former Jedi Knight named Dass Jennir, who survives Order 66 and follows his path as he tries to live during the era that Obi-Wan Kenobi dubbed as the “Dark Times.”
Installment number four of the Dark Times: Out Of The Wilderness story arc is actually my first dive into this story – though I have read a few of the previously released trade paperbacks for the series, so I have a reasonable backing of information about the fundamental characters.
Jennir, during the events of this issue, finds himself on a rescue mission, trying to save two new characters: Ember and Maddie. The rescue undertaking, however, finds him crossing paths with an assassin – who apparently is also being sought by Vader. Dark Times: Out Of The Wilderness #4 opens with a spectacular confrontation between Jennir wielding his lightsaber and uber-badass Jedi kick-ass skills, striving to rescue Ember and Maddie from some desert pirates. What follows is a turn of events that lead to some mild strategic maneuvering, leading up to a major cliffhanger that will make you want the next issue immediately.
I especially like the character of Dass Jennir. He has a determined will about him, but also a willingness to question the significance of his very being. He is thrust into the darkest era of Star Wars history, with not many to rely on. And he is faced with making decisions that ordinarily he would have never had to have faced if the Jedi Order had not fallen under the boots of the Sith Empire.
And on top of that, I love his hat. I mean seriously, how can you not like a character with this tin can helm? It’s totally badass, look at it:
In all sincerity, the image of him in this hat hearkens back to some of the characters found in Akira Kurosawa’s work – a filmmaker who was a major influence in George Lucas‘ development of what Star Wars was, is, and is continuing to develop into (there are also Kurosawa influences used in the current animated television series of Star Wars: The Clone Wars).
The script of Dark Times is heavily based upon the characters and their dialogue. Randy Stradley, a talent with long standing in the Star Wars universe, and a fan-favorite, does exceptionally well at delivering the dialogue without bogging down the story with excessive exposition. The scenes with the mysterious assassin are dealt with much ambiguity and bad-guy professionalism (bounty hunter style) that leaves an air of enigma about the character. This, I think, is something we have previously lost in Star Wars stories. Over the last couple of decades, there has been an urge amongst creators and fans to explore every single aspect of many characters. Sometimes it’s just not needed, and I completely enjoyed the mystique of the assassin in this issue.
The artwork in Dark Times, as always, is breathtaking. Douglas Wheatley‘s realism and attention to detail (which reminds me of some of the Star Wars strips from the Archie Goodwin era) is noticeable and identifiable to the series. But it’s the creative input of colorist Dan Jackson that faithfully brings it to life, adding shadows and tones to the characters that amplify the scenes and also provide an additional dimension to Wheatley’s efforts. Clearly, this is a creative team that works very well together.
Dark Times: Out Of The Wilderness #4 is an attention-grabbing read, with a lead-up to a cliffhanger that will make you scream for the next chapter. The effort by the creative team to brief new readers with their introductory “opening crawl” or blurb will ensure that n00bz can bound right in to the story and enjoy it – and want more. Star Wars fans will love this, and I think if other comic book fans give it a shot, they’ll quite enjoy the solid writing and wonderful artwork.