01/02/2009. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: Titan/Dark Horse. 128 page graphic novel. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84576-750-0.
check out website: www.titanbooks.com
'The Ahakista Gambit' is set shortly after the events that take place in the movie 'Star Wars'. The story is centred around a petty criminal called Wyl Tarson who also happens to be an undercover agent for the Rebel Alliance. Eventually, his boss, a crime lord called Raze, discovers this and by way of punishment plants a bomb inside Tarson's head and then sends him on what is effectively a suicide mission to the planet Ahakista.
Along the way he's joined by three companions and together they get involved in various exciting scrapes and capers along the way. But it's not the main story that makes this book so good, but the backdrop. Ahakista itself is in the midst of some sort of civil war with the Empire exerting its considerable influence to shore up the established government. Not for any altruistic reasons of course, but because this planet is home to a critical facility that controls the movements of the Imperial fleet.
So between the civilian uprising itself and the brutal way the Empire puts it down, readers experience some of things happening around the 'Star Wars' galaxy at the time of the first three movies. Although mostly operating in the background, Darth Vader dominates those scenes he appears in, as he should. Alternating between brute force and subtlety, this is very much the Vader we all know and love, but his presence isn't so strong it overpowers the other characters. Wyl Tarson in particular is a well-crafted character with major personality flaws and his interactions with his comrades make sense because of this. He isn't the standard issue hero by any means and 'The Ahakista Gambit' is all the better because of it.
Besides contemporary events, there are some key flashback scenes that tie in things like the fall of the Jedi Order and the metamorphosis of the Republic into the Empire. These scenes exist primarily to flesh out the motives of the main characters, but they also go a long way to fixing the book firmly into the 'Star Wars' timeline.
The artwork is first rate, from the dramatic front cover to the poster illustrations at the back, this is a graphic novel that fans will really enjoy. The flashback scenes are particularly nice, mixing in hardware from the prequel films with more modern-looking Stormtroopers, giving the reader a real sense of what things might have been like in between the two sets of movies. The use of colour is also worth mentioning, partly because of the impressive way limited palettes have been used to portray particular times and places. Lightsabre duels are also beautifully coloured, the blades almost seeming to glow on the page.
All in all, this is one of the best 'Star Wars' graphic novels this reviewer has come across. Between the exciting story and the superb artwork, 'The Ahakista Gambit' should appeal to both seasoned fans and casual readers alike.
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