In Review: Darth Vader #21

This is what you show people to get them to follow Star Wars comics.

The covers: A twosome to find and I admit to purchasing both covers. The Regular cover is by Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado, the interior artist and colorist for this issue. This is an excellent preview of what’s to come within: Dr. Alpha is in a bar in the middle of nowhere, trying to relax after escaping Princess Leia and the ruckus that went down in the last four issues of Star Wars. Unbeknownst to her are the two droids about to enter the establishment: Triple-Zero and Beetee. Readers familiar with this pair knows that they can easily kill, so things are about to get destructive when they see her. Good tease in the layout, like the calm before the storm, and the coloring is incredibly strong, with the outside sunlight creating an awesome glare. It makes just the right mood. The Variant cover is an Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher. This features a faux carded Kenner action figure of Tulon, one of the last surviving creations of Cylo. I love the look of the figure and the large image of the character is fantastic. Yeah, I’ve become hopelessly addicted to chasing down all of Christopher’s variant covers. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+

The story: Part II of End of Games has Vader acting as pure evil. On board The Executor, the Sith Lord’s personal Star Destroyer, he learns that one of Cylo’s colleagues, Professor Thlu-Ry is aboard, and with his usual direct approach, Vader asks where Cylo’s abominations are located. Naturally the man tells the Dark Lord. The ship goes to the Crushank Nebulae in the Outer Rim and finds traces of the man Vader seeks. Meanwhile, in the Cosmatanic Steppes of the Outer Rim, Dr. Aphra has arrived in a bar where she’s known. She just wants a quiet drink. If only she knew what was occurring outside; HINT: the Regular cover. I’ve got to give major credit to writer Kieron Gillen for showing the two assassin droids at their strongest. Throughout this series there have been teases at what this pair can do, with some killings, but nothing on the scale with what starts on Page 8. Even more impressive is how the battle concludes; no reader will see that coming, but it’s absolutely logical for the droids to take that action, and their reactions are terrific. The book then returns to Vader who’s gotten close to Cylo. The final nine pages focus on this confrontation, but it doesn’t go as the reader or Vader expects. The first big surprise is what Tulon does, who’s featured on the Variant cover. Her moments with him only comprise two pages, but she’s probably the strongest of Cylo’s creations to go against him. How she goes against him is the cliffhanger of the issue and Vader doesn’t have a nearby bone to assist him. Overall grade: A

The art: There cannot be enough praise given to Salvador Larroca for his visuals. The first page focuses on Vader speaking with Thlu-Ry, and Larroca shows how ominous Vader’s presence is in a room; shown from several points of view, the Sith towers over the poor professor and the reader knows the pitiful man hasn’t long to live. Pages 2 and 3 has a partial double-paged spread of the The Executor, but over a third of the illustration is just empty space. On top of that it doesn’t look anything like Star Wars space; it looks like space from the SW knockoff Starcrash. However, the three panels that follow nicely resemble Vader’s focus as he looks at the ships windows as he does in The Empire Strikes Back. Aphra versus the droids is a spectacular action sequence. The action at the top of Page 6 is shocking, but it’s only a prelude for the destruction that’s to follow. No one does explosions like Larroca, and they start on 7 and don’t stop. The blaster shootout that follows is something I hope the films integrate for its intensity. The bridge on Cylo’s ship is fantastic–the idea for this type of ship isn’t new (my default always goes back to an Uncanny X-Men story from the 1980s), but what’s shown under his command chair is flippin’ awesome! Having TIEs battle his ship is a conflict I’ve never seen in a Star Wars comic, and this was very cool to see. Vader’s conflict with Tulon is outstandingly set up, with both character’s stances making the dialogue so important. The final page is a full paged splash, and the reader is more than getting his or her money for it. I love Larroca’s work. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Colorist Edgar Delgado is also doing a spectacular job on this book. The opening page has Vader in the bowels of his ship and he’s speaking with a man who’s wearing dark clothing. It’s so impressive to see that Delgado is able to keep things dark and shiny (Those Imperials like things clean!), but all the different shades of black he uses doesn’t make the page become an indecipherable blob. This does provide a nice set up for the colorful sky that follows on the next two pages, but it’s way too varied in colors to look like anything from a Star Wars film. Aphra and the droids’ sequence have some sensational coloring, with excellent lighting effects and some truly powerful blaster shots. The coloring for the setting where Vader ends up is really well done and unexpected. Delgado is a star when it comes to coloring. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, droid speak, sounds, and screams are VC’s Joe Caramagna’s domain. I’d like to see a different font for Vader as he should visually sound different from other sentients. I’d also like to see some sounds during the action sequences: blasters fights and space battles are sadly mute. Vader also ignites his light saber dramatically on one page, but there’s no sound. That noise is so iconic in films that it creates dread when it’s done off camera. Jordan D. White, you’re the editor, please don’t keep Caramagna caged. Overall grade: B

The final line: This is what you show people to get them to follow Star Wars comics. An excellent read with a split story following the Sith and his prey. Overall grade: A

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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