In Review: Darth Vader #22

A fun issue that shows the intelligence of the Sith and his opponents.

The covers: Darth Vader deflects the laser blasts from the drones that protect their creator Tulon Voidgazer. She looks at the Sith Lord unemotionally, studying his reactions to each attack, learning how better to vanish him. A decent cover from interior artist and colorist, Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado. The idea is good for this cover, but the angle at which the action is shown is awkward for the title character: Vader looks odd. Tulon and her drones look good, but spinning things slightly to have Vader at the top with Tulon’s back to the reader would have more clearly established Vader and had Tulon remain the threat, though more mysterious. Delgado’s coloring is fine, but Larroca’s layout needs some tweeking. There’s also an Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher. I am absolute enamored by his faux Kenner covers, so, naturally, I had to purchase this cover as well. It features a character unique to the comics, the villainous Cylo, whose minions have been causing the Sith trouble for several issues. The action figure looks cool, with the large photo of Cylo as he ponders his next move great. Overall grade: Regular B- and Action Figure Variant A+

The story: Triple-Zero and Beetee have fulfilled Vader’s orders and delivered escapee Dr. Aphra back into Imperial hands aboard the Executor. The taller droid is his usual sarcastic self, amusing itself and its companion with gallows humor toward the doctor. Just as she’s being taken away by a pair of stormtroopers, Aphra says something to the droids which spins her fate in a new direction, but writer Kieron Gillen leaves this moment hanging as the story moves to the show how Vader will deal with the threat from last issue: a cybernetically, or “cyberanmite” rancor. The beast was created by Tulon Voidgazer, one of Cylo’s minions. She knows she cannot best the Dark Lord physically, so she employs her mechanical creations to test him so that she can learn from him. He has his lightsaber and uses it, but what can one do to stop the fury of beast so huge, let alone one that is constantly receiving and following instructions from its master? This isn’t the hack and slash I thought this would be and that impressed me. Gillen has made Voidgazer a seriously smart opponent, as shown to the reader on Pages 5, 7, and 8. Even Vader has to acknowledge that her augmentations to the beastly force of nature are “impressive.” If only she hadn’t been so willing to share what she’s done to the creature, Vader might not have thought of a flaw in the creature. This isn’t a spoiler, everyone knows Vader will survive this encounter, but it’s how he changes his tactics and how he deals with Voidgazer that make this so entertaining. But his antagonist will not go quiet into that good night, as she has another trick up her sleeve, and what a trick it is! Not only has got something planned for Vader but for a bigger fish, a much bigger fish. Tons of action with great dialogue, and so, so smart! Overall grade: A

The art: The first page is a splash by Salvador Larroca and the reader is instantly thrown into the Star Wars universe as the shuttle containing the droids and their prisoner is shown as it makes it way to the Executor. It’s a spectacular image of this tiny craft making its way to the super star destroyer. What follows on the next two pages are the long horizontal panels that have become a hallmark of Larroca’s work on this series, emulating the letterbox experience of the cinema’s screen. He shifts his point of view around in a scene as expertly as any film director. Aphra’s last appearance on Page 3 is both cool and funny, reminding one of Leia shouting at Luke on Cloud City. The next page has three panels, with the final being large to show the rancor staring down at Vader, but being of such enormous size, the panel (over half the page) is only large enough to show the monstrosity’s head. The next three pages show the Sith’s battle with the monster and they are in the artist’s iconic horizontal panels. This is, indeed, the best way to show the battle, constantly moving about, even including the proud scientist as she watches her creation smack Vader down. How Vader wins is awesome, which is in turn matched, or perhaps bestest, with how he battles Voidgazer: I love the circular panel that is inset at the top of 14. There is also another major Star Wars character in this issue who makes a holographic appearance and I admit to feeling very worried just with this individual’s appearance. The climax of the issue is a tremendous action, eclipsing the strength of the rancor and it is very impressive. The final panel of the book shows the surviving pair of foes making their next move. Ohhhh, it’s going to be so bad for them next issue! I don’t know how it’ll happen, but I know that Gillen will have something appropriately nasty for them. Overall grade: A

The colors: Great coloring on this issue right out of the gate from colorist Edgar Delgado: excellent work on the silver sidings of the ships, but the background of space, with the blue void and the lime green planet, is beautiful. The interior of the Imperial ship is the expected silver, but Delgado has Aphra stand out in every panel with her outfit and the chilling red-orange eyes of Triple-Zero. Vader’s scenes are set within one of the whale ships, so the backgrounds for his pages are a dark fleshy brown. This had me initially concerned for how the rancor, which is somewhat similar in its coloring, would be able to stand out as it goes after the Force user. My worries were unnecessary; the creature is given a slick bronze-like color that has it stand apart from the walls easily. The mechanical pale blues used for Voidgazer and her drones is terrific, rendering them emotionless and entirely too similar. The action of the final page has some really good coloring. Without spoiling what occurs, I’m been continually impressed throughout Delgado’s run on this series when this action occurs, always making it look fantastic. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, Triple-Zero and transmissions (the same font), wookie growls, dialogue, and rancor utterances are brought to life by VC’s Joe Caramagna. The scene settings are practically absent on both pages they appear, blending in too easily to the illustrations because of their design and colors. It would have been nice to see two different fonts for 0-0-0’s dialogue and transmissions, rather than shown to be different by the shape of the dialogue balloon. The rest of the book looks fine, but I expect better. Overall grade: B-

The final line: A fun issue that shows the intelligence of the Sith and his opponents. A great read for fans, old and new. Overall grade: A-

To find more information about Darth Vader and other Star Wars comic books go to http://marvel.com/

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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