The Star Wars franchise is awesome (well, for the most part) and it deserves equally awesome comics. Thankfully, the modern era has presented us with more than a few topnotch reads and for me, there's one that stands above the competition: STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE GHOST PRISON. Solid writing, a compelling plot and stunning visuals makes this a read any Star Wars fan should totally love.
Released back in 2012, this story by Haden Blackman and Agustin Alessio takes place mere months after the Jedi were overthrown and slaughtered. The narrative shines the spotlight on the new Empire and specifically follows a sharp character who just graduated from the Imperial Academy: Laurita Tohm. I don't want to give too much away regarding the plot, so I'll only provide the basics. There's a vicious mutiny and it's not long before this loyal and intelligent newbie is side-by-side with the likes of Darth Vader and even the Emperor. What happens next will briefly dive into Vader's former relationship with the Jedi and reveal Yoda and his allies were keeping quite a secret during the war. Along the way we'll be introduced to a fair amount of other characters (most notably the pre-existing character, Trachta), but ultimately, this is Tohm and Vader's story.
There's a lot to love in this five-issue limited-series and obviously a lot of that is thanks to Haden Blackman's writing. The storyline is incredibly compelling and dives into some really dark and emotional territory. This is a tale that flips the traditional formula on its head. No longer are you rooting for the character you know you should be supporting. Now, the "villain" is the one striving for "good," yet Blackman writes the main characters in a manner that'll ultimately have you cheering for them even though you know they're rather despicable.
Despite taking a backseat to Tohm, Vader's presence is quite powerful and has some terrific moments in each issue. Blackman writes him as a character who often chooses to remain quiet most of the time and speak through his actions, but when Blackman does have him speak, it certainly feels appropriately intimidating. As I've already stated, this is mainly Tohm's story, but Vader's by no means sold short on panel time and has what is by far the most shocking scene in the entire series. Honestly, calling it a "jaw-dropper" isn't even doing it justice. Meanwhile, Tohm is handled masterfully. There's some exceptional character development surrounding the wise rookie and you'll be shocked by how much he changes from his opening moments to a final twist. Additionally, there's no shortage of action and the final battle is a real blast.
Alessio's artwork is mind-blowingly good and never fails to create at least one jaw-dropping panel in every issue. Whether it's Darth Vader wielding his lightsaber against unfortunate enemies or the key characters merely standing around, Alessio does a phenomenal job bringing these characters to life with an exceptional amount of detail. My only gripe is many characters have very similar faces, but that's massively overshadowed by quite literally everything else regarding the art. As if having a superb story wasn't enough, GHOST PRISON successfully delivers consistently excellent visuals which perfectly convey the book's darker tone.
An intriguing plot by Blackman and absurdly good illustrations by Alessio makes STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE GHOST PRISON a great limited-series. It's without question something every fan of the epic franchise must experience at least once. Even if you just kind of like Star Wars, you owe it to yourself to give this short series an honest shot. And in the event you can't get your hands on the individual issues, you'll be happy to know this has since been collected as a hardcover which is absolutely worth every single penny.
And if you want to see even more from the story before diving into it, here's a trailer they previously released to help promote the hardcover.