Review: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison #4
Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison #4
Writer: Haden Blackman
Artist: Agustin Alessio
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Cover Artist: Dave Wilkins
In our last issue, Vader, Lt. Tohm and Moff Trachta had just arrived at the Ghost Prison (where Vader promptly killed the Jedi knight stationed there). Needing an army to fight the insurrection on Coruscant led by General Gentis (headmaster of the Empire’s mililtary academies), Tohm wants to give the prisoners — CIS enemies of the Republic and some of the most ruthless beings in the galaxy — a taste of freedom, then full pardons if they agreed to help defeat Gentis. Vader has other ideas. He releases the prisoners and a bloodbath ensues. There’s a rationale to Vader’s decision: the strongest will survive and be the most worthy (or ruthless) soldiers. Predictably, Vader is right; the strongest and most ruthless do survive. But Lt. Tohm discovers, among the survivors, that there’s a reason why they’re both ruthless and survivors, and why they’re willing to fight for the Empire. With some justification, they despise the dead Republic and its equally dead Jedi. Again, the reader is given the sense of Jedi complicity in their own demise. This is hardly a new idea in Star Wars, but it’s nonetheless a poignant reminder of good beings doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, and the terrible path that can happen as a result. It also serves to illustrate that while the CIS prisoners aren’t entirely right or good, they’re not entirely wrong or evil either. But just as the Jedi failed to see the Sith manipulation, so too the prisoners are unaware of exactly who they’re now swearing their allegiance to.
Most of them don’t care, particularly after Moff Trachta skillfully manipulates their feelings for the Republic and their own past crimes into loyalty to the Empire. However, there is that in Trachta’s speech that leaves you with more; a burning for order and justice (as he views justice). All except one, Shonn Volta, a Force strong CIS sniper. She alone questions why she and her compatriots are needed, and it is Lt. Tohm who offers her the truth. She accepts and joins, and I wonder what will happen to her if she survives this series. Could she become the first of the Inquisitors or the first Hand perhaps?
With the capitulation of the prisoners to the Empire, Vader sets Lt. Tohm a grim task. Moff Trachta would have done it in a heartbeat without a second thought, but Tohm is still idealistic and it takes a heavy toll on him; it sickens him, literally. Afterwards, Tohm seeks refuge with Trachta, and although you don’t sense idealism in Trachta, he also doesn’t appear to be your average, power-grabbing, backstabbing moff. While Trachta understands the necessity of the lessons Vader is setting for Lt. Tohm, Trachta also sees more in the young lieutenant. He offers Tohm a proposition for the future. One wonders exactly what Tohm’s future will be. Is he destined to have his idealism subsumed by Vader and the lure of power? Will he rebel or become something more within the framework of the Empire: a leader with a conscience and a sense of duty to those below him? It’s too soon to tell, but I don’t think Laurita Tohm’s future will be the standard Imperial one.
I’m hoping the stories of the beings in this series (Tohm, Trachta, Volta) will be continued, because I find I’m becoming more enthralled with this series as it goes on. While this is perhaps one of my least favorite eras in Star Wars, this series is much more than Evil Empire. I care about these characters, and I want to know what happens to them.
The Ghost Prison series continues to impress me with its tone: a skillful marriage of writing and art. Like it’s predecessors, the art evokes the mood with an almost monochromatic tone that shifts as the action and the emotions of the scenes change. The artwork really is exceptional, and while I hesitate to say this series tops the combination of Ostrander and Duursema, it is most definitely their equal…which can only be a good thing.
Next issue: Welcome Back to Coruscant. General Gentis has discovered the existence of the Death Star and where Tarkin is headed. Gentis wants to take Tarkin into custody…while Tohm recruits Shonn Volta to intercept Tarkin’s ship.