Famous (near) last words that Moff Tarkin said in Star Wars: A New Hope, and what he’s talking about is Darth Vader’s scouring of the Star Wars universe after Revenge of the Sith decimating the ranks of the fabled Jedi Order. But in a new series set between Episode III and Episode IV, long-time Star Wars creators Randy Stradley and Doug Wheatley show a last-ditch effort by a rag-tag group of Jedi to take down Darth Vader before the Empire’s grip fully strangled the Jedi once in for all.
Launching July 17, Star Wars: Dark Times: A Spark Remains shows one of the last “sparks” of Jedi – the insectoid Beyghor Sahdett and a lovesick Dass Jennir – attempting to mount an assassination of the right hand of the Empire, Darth Vader. The Jedi are used to long odds, but even these two know they need some back-up – it’s just a matter of finding the right Jedi for the job.
Newsarama: Randy, we’re here today to talk for the first time ever about the new series, Star Wars: Dark Times – A Spark Remains. This picks up after the previous Dark Times series, Out of the Wilderness, with Jedi Dass Jennir and the Uhumele crew. What’s going on in this new series?
Randy Stradley: Well, first of all, Jennir has some catching up to do. Longtime readers know that he has spent the months since the events in Revenge of the Sith either on the run, in hiding, or stuck on backwater worlds. When his pal Bomo Greenbark mentions Darth Vader, Jennir has no idea who he's talking about. Secondly, Jennir has fallen in love for the first time in his life -- with the fiery Ember Chankeli. They're an unlikely pair, but it seems to be working out, so Jennir is reluctant to rock that boat.But Bomo, the other members of the Uhumele's crew, and another Jedi named Beyghor Sahdett, have sold themselves on a plan to lay it all on the line in an attempt to rid the galaxy of Vader. When he was on his own as an outlaw Jedi with a price on his head, such a plan might have been something Jennir would go for. But now that he has a woman in his life, Jennir is going to take some convincing.
Nrama: Speaking of Beyghor Sahdett, he’s one of my favorite; an insect-looking Jedi from a species known as the Verpine. He garnered a bit of a cult following similar to Boba Fett, appearing at first as an unnamed background character who fans asked about and was brought to light more. For those who aren’t familiar with Beyghor, can you kind of give us a glance at who he is?
Stradley: Most notably, Sahdett is one of the best swordsmen the Jedi have ever produced. The first time we glimpsed him, he was standing atop a pile of dead clone troopers who had, unsuccessfully, tried to shoot him. And we've seen him display his skills a few more times since. When he switches on his lightsaber, his enemies end up in pieces.He's also a thoughtful planner. I'm pretty sure he uses his mostly expressionless insectoid face to good advantage around his human and mammalian companions. I mean, can you tell what he's thinking from looking at him? But I don't think he is as emotionless as he pretends to be behind that immobile face. We'll learn a lot more about him in this arc.
Nrama: Backing up a bit, how would you describe Jennir as a Jedi?
Stradley: Jennir is the most average Jedi in the Order. It seems like everybody wants to make their Jedi characters special in some way -- they're the last of their kind, or the only Jedi of their kind; they have some additional special power inherent to their species that other Jedi don't share; or whatever. I figured the suite of "powers" that come with being a Jedi were plenty for any character, and I decided to make Jennir "special" by making his connection to the Force weaker than that of other Jedi.
For instance, several times we've seen him on the verge of passing out -- or actually passing out -- from the strain of trying to use the Force. It doesn't come easy to him. But being a Jedi is the only thing he knows, so he clings to his training and his connection to the Force -- however tenuous it may be. Despite his impaired Jedi abilities, he's a good man who is struggling to remain a good man in the dark times.
Nrama: Beyghor’s trying to mount a straight-up assassination of Darth Vader, as a traitor, an agent of the Empire, and for the murdering of his fellow Jedi. How does Beyghor see Vader, and how personal is this for him?Stradley: Well, let's be clear on one thing: the only people in the galaxy who know that Vader used to be Anakin Skywalker are Emperor Palpatine, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda. So, Sahdett's not out to get Vader for being a traitor. Though, Vader being a Sith, and the Sith being responsible for the slaughter of the Jedi, is probably enough for him.
Nrama: The Jedi are familiar with long odds, but two Jedi to take down Darth Vader sounds like an oversized task even for them. I know its dark times with this taking place between Episodes III and IV, but are there any allies out there for them?
Stradley : Even Sahdett is willing to admit that they need a third Jedi -- at least -- if they're to take on Vader. And Jedi are hard to find these days -- after most of them were gunned down by their own clone troops. But Jennir has an idea for how to find at least one more. It's not an easy search, and it takes them all over the galaxy. But it provides Jennir more time with Ember.
Nrama: Any clues or hints you can give us on this third Jedi they’re hoping to recruit?
Stradley: Oh, now where would the fun be in that? I gotta keep some surprises for the story, don't I? I'm sure hardcore fans may figure it out, but I'm hoping most readers won't suspect it until they see the reveal in the second issue of the arc.In the meantime, Vader is trying to whip Falco Sang -- the assassin who was after Jennir in Dark Times: Out of the Wilderness -- into a tool he can use. And Vader's other find, Imperial Lt. Gregg, is pulling out all of the stops to locate the Jedi known as Dass Jennir. By the time Vader does fall into their trap, Jennir and Sahdett may need more help than they anticipated.
Nrama: A lot of things happened in Dark Times: Out of the Wilderness, and we haven’t really had a chance to feel their full effects – namely, Dass and Ember opening up to each other and becoming a couple. How does that new relationship factor into this larger arc?
Stradley: This is Jennir's first love, but he is a grown man -- and a Jedi -- so he's had experience in handling his emotions. He's not going to get all lovesick over Ember. That said, he hasn't had any relationship experience with women, either, so he's going to make some missteps. And don't forget, Ember has a hard background (she ran a brothel in her former life). She's not going to put up with Jennir ignoring her for the Force, or anything else.I mentioned this in a letters column in an issue of Out of the Wilderness, but artist Doug Wheatley and I had decided early on that Jennir would never fall for Ember -- or vice versa. But Dark Horse offered an appearance in a Star Wars comic as part of a charity auction, and a guy won the appearance for his granddaughter. We introduced her as the character Maddie in Out of the Wilderness -- Ember's fellow captive of the desert pirates. Still with no plans to bring Ember and Jennir together, but wanting to make Maddie's part more than just a walk-on, I discovered that Maddie's presence in the story had a softening influence on Ember's character. Before I knew it, Ember was looking at Jennir in a more appreciative light, and Jennir was realizing that there was more to Ember than the cold facade she had shown him previously.
I've heard writers talk of characters taking control of their own stories, but this is the first time I can recall experiencing it so definitively.
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