"Star Wars: Dark Times -- Fire Carrier" #1 continues to depict the rise of the Empire while focusing on the dwindling Jedi forces. Writer Randy Stradley and artist Gabriel Guzman focus on Jedi Master K'Kruhk, detailing his plight with a group of younglings in tow.
"Star Wars: Dark Times -- Fire Carrier" #1 opens as K'Kruhk is forced into an emergency landing on the planet Arkinnea. Part of the forced landing might be due to K'Kruhk's ship looking like a car stereo with a cassette tape deck in, but the other aspect is most certainly guided by the Force. As has been the case with all of the "Dark Times" stories, the paths the expatriate Jedi take bring them to new adventures and forge new alliances, all in the growing shadow of the Empire. Stradley defines the threat quite clearly in this issue, as Darth Vader appears for a three-page cameo and then once more in a propaganda piece that is utilized like a political commercial, declaring, "Wherever a threat arises, Lord Vader is there to meet it... to crush it!" Stradley does a nice job of picking up the political spin the Emperor puts on his takeover of the Republic. Additionally, the writer delivers a diverse cast of characters for readers.
In this case, the sampling includes the constituents of a refugee camp, some younglings (including a Zabrak, a Togorian, and a Mon Calamari among others) and K'Kruhk's old mentor, Master Zao, all of which are drawn quite capably by Guzman. None of the characters are spectacular and the world of Arkinnea is one that shows the wear and tear of an embattled universe, much like Tatooine. While Guzman does give each of the characters a defining visual moment in the story, there are also spots where scale slides or characters anatomy shifts just enough to be bothersome. The artist's storytelling is strong; the details of the story's participants simply need to be refined.
There is a sinister undertone to the story of "Star Wars: Dark Times -- Fire Carrier" #1 that stretches beyond the omnipresent threat of Darth Vader. The refugees herded into a camp and watched over by the Arkinnean militia feels rather familiar and not unlike a parallel to the Holocaust. I may be reading too much into this story, as nothing is truly revealed in that direction here, but the false hope and fading optimism as refugees absorb the depth of reality surrounding them seems like a story I've seen before. I am, however, curious to see if K'Kruhk and Vader cross paths and what becomes of the younglings in K'Kruhk's care.