In Review: Darth Vader #3

A good set up, but nothing more, as yet.

The covers: Doctor Aphra strikes a semi-seductive pose with droids 0-0-0 and BT-1 behind her, all under the watchful eye of a giant Darth Vader in this illustration from Adi Granov for the Main cover. Nice to see the new supporting character get some major face time on the cover, as well as the two new droids. The coloring is okay, but it’s too dark. The three characters should be brighter against the Sith Lord backdrop. Heck, even the title could’ve been colored in solidly to have that pop a little. All that stands out on this is the Marvel logo and the Digital Edition hype. The Variant cover, unadvertised as there being one anywhere on the credits page (C’mon, Marvel–If you credit it, fans will buy it!), is by interior artist Salvador Larroca and I just happened to come across it online while I was googling images for reviews. It features Darth Vader seemingly acting out a scene from The Empire Strikes Back, but is extending a hand to save Aphra from falling to her death. This is a good image and a nice homage to that scene. Plus, this actually occurs in the story. I’m always pleased when artists do this. Overall grades: Main B and Variant A

The story: On Quarantine World III, in Kallidahin space, Doctor Aphra, a self-described rogue archaeologist, is breaking into a facility to steal something. The first four pages of “Vader” by Kieron Gillen chronicle her methods for entering this facility. She talks out loud, to let the reader know what’s going on, as she unleashes “antique stealth microdroid dust”–or nanobots as we on earth would probably call them–to show where sensor lasers are located. She crawls along the floor, completely successful until that last, low beam. Explosions go off behind her as she makes a mad dash a la Indiana Jones, complete with orb coming after her. She runs into some antagonists, who then have to face a certain title character. Starting on Page 11 an entirely new setting is introduced and why someone has need of someone else. It’s an intriguing idea and it follows why Vader would be doing what he’s doing. The introductions of Triple Zero, 0-0-0, and BT-1 is fun and their programing is perfectly logical with the Star Wars mythos. This issue is setting up what’s to follow, so it functions for character introductions, what each is capable of, and justification of story. There’s a bit of action in the first half of the book, but the latter half is for advancing the new characters. The droids are fairly one dimensional, for the moment, with their very specific programing, and Aphra is a chatty Kathy. I’m surprised Vader didn’t use the Force to shut her up at some point–I would have. Vader has shown himself at this point in Star Wars history to be pretty quick to kill anyone who upsets him, but she gets to live? Based on his actions on Page 13, the doctor’s use hasn’t proven itself, so I’m hoping that’s shown next issue. There are some good lines in this, mostly in Vader’s deadpan delivery, but the best would undoubtedly be on Page 20 in panels two through four. Love the silent panel. A solid introductory issue whose story grade could rise after next issue. Overall grade: B

The art: There are no flaws anywhere in the stunning artwork of Salvador Larroca. The opening six pages that show Aphra in action are told fairly text-free and his visuals communicate exactly what’s occurring. Aphra in close-ups is beautiful (Page 2, panel five; Page 6, panel three; all of 13; and the second panel on Page 20). His panel layout during the opening scene is creative, with Pages 1 and 4 being very cool with a complete figure overlapping into other panels, yet not interfering with the understanding of the narrative. I’d love to see more of this next issue. Several familiar looking characters from the prequels appear on Pages 5 and 6, with the speaker on 6 being really nicely done. This species was a throwaway visual in the films and seeing their frozen faces combined with Gillen’s dialogue makes this individual fairly creepy. The entire sequence on Page 10 is magnificent. The ship on 11 is gorgeous. I don’t recall seeing anything like that before in any Star Wars comic and the paint scheme reminds me of Plo Kloon’s Jedi starfighter. I’m not really much of a ship fan, but this is really cool. My favorite page of the book is the final one because of both character’s reactions to the dialogue, or lack of. That middle panel really creates an excellent pause where readers will really be thinking, ‘Oh-oh.’ Overall grade: A+

The colors: Excellent coloring on this issue from Edgar Delgado. I like how the opening pages, which is from a “quarantined world” is given a sickly yellow. Before much is known about Aphra the colors made me think that she was going to steal something medical related, like a virus. When the sensor lasers are revealed Delgado lights them up in red, which stand out brilliantly in the green room. When she’s exiting on Page 4 the colors go brown and tan, creating a strong Indiana Jones feel. Page 10’s color scheme completely resembles the setting from Luke and Vader’s final confrontation in Empire. I raved about it under the “art” category, but the coloring scheme on Aphra’s ship is beautiful. Excellent use of red on Page 14 when something is reactivated–the color puts readers on guard instantly. Superior shade work is done on Aphra on the final two pages as she moves about her ship. Delgado is a master. Overall grade: A+

The letters: I’m not liking the font used for dialogue, the lack of sounds, and how dialogue balloons are manipulated to show a character’s dialogue being different from others, rather than by font. The speaker on Page 6 should have been a new font, rather than just a change in italics, because, based on this, this character has the exact same voice as the character that speaks on Page 14. They do not in any of the films. Speaking of Page 14, an error is made when this character first speaks because the dialogue is not in italics, but becomes italics every time after the individual speaks. I’m not liking VC’s Joe Caramagna’s work on this book. Overall grade: C-

The final line: A good set up, but nothing more, as yet. Overall grade: B+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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