A 4-part storyarc begins in the comics with this, the strongest entry in the comic book series to date, and one which promises an arc that will flesh out characters' pasts while telling an interesting story at the same time.
Garibaldi has intercepted several of Londo's transmissions, and has become concerned about repeated references by Londo to the incident in Quadrant 37 - the area of space where the Narn base was wiped out. When he discovers that Londo has arranged a meeting with his associate, Lord Refa, Garibaldi decides to beat Londo to the rendezvous point... not bothering to clear his mission through Sheridan first.
Garibaldi is accompanied by Warren Keffer, who insists on piloting the shuttlecraft. As they travel, Garibaldi begins to recall for Keffer his first meeting with Jeffrey Sinclair, in response to Keffer's questions about why the security chief can't entirely trust Sheridan the way he did the previous commander.
As Garibaldi's story is just getting warmed up, something happens on Babylon 5 that neither he nor Keffer could possibly have predicted. Londo's sinister associate, Mr. Morden, has learned of Garibaldi's mission, and has sent some friends to greet Garibaldi and Keffer at the rendezvous point...
This opening issue of a 4-part storyarc is actually very impressive. It has a spark to it that the previous comic entries have too often lacked. I can actually hear the actors' voices in my head reading the lines. Not just one or two of the characters - all of them! The dialogue has the sharpness of the television show's dialogue. With some of the earlier entries, there was a sense of "this'll do, it's only a comic" to the writing. This time, as much attention appears to have been paid to the quality of the script as in the TV episodes, making for a very enjoyable outing.
The plot has much promise, and thankfully it doesn't feel rushed. Writer Tim DeHaas takes time to let some suspense and atmosphere build, particularly in the scenes with Londo and Morden. The flashback storyline also promises to be intriguing, even though it only barely begins in this issue.
My last avenue of praise may surprise those who have read my other comic reviews. My previous comic reviews have focused on one, consistent complaint: no matter how good the stories frequently were, the artwork in previous issues has been just horrible, to the point where I sometimes had to avoid looking at the pictures (which kind of defeats the purpose of a comic) in order to enjoy the stories.
In this issue, for the first time ever in this series, the artwork is actually quite good. It's not brilliant, mind you; it doesn't scale the artistic heights of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, for example. But the characters look very close to their television counterparts, and have a wide range of expressions. The artists have even managed to capture Sinclair fairly well, in the flashback scenes... and Sinclair has, to date, been the character most consistently badly-drawn by the previous artists.
For the first time reviewing the comic series, I have very few complaints, and they largely amount to nitpicking. The artists don't quite capture Ed Wasser's Mr. Morden in this issue, which is a disappointment given how well they do with the other regulars. Also, Garibaldi's unease with Sheridan seems odd by this point in the series, given how comfortable the two characters have seemed in recent television episodes. The last time I sensed any strain between the two characters at all was in A Distant Star; and it's quite clear that this storyarc is meant to be set after that point.
On the whole, the introductory issue of Shadows Past and Present marks not only the beginning of a new comic story, but the first unreserved recommendation from me of any of the comics. This is good stuff so far - here's hoping the remaining three issues maintain the quality on display here.