In Review: Darth Vader #16

This could be the most perfect Darth Vader comic ever created. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: Two to find, as if they were Jedi hiding from your wrath. Giuseppe Camuncoli & Elia Bonetti are the artists of the Regular cover. This is an actual scene from the issue as Vader is followed by three of the Inquisitors and several stormtroopers as they seek the hidden enclave of Jedi. The angle and composition is similar to Vader’s march to the Jedi Temple in Revenge of the Sith. The illustration on this is nice, but the colors are so dark as to make everyone really muddied, sadly blending into each other. The Galactic Icons cover by Rod Reis is a spectacular bust shot of Enfys, the villain from the upcoming Solo movie. I kid you not, I was looking for this cover, but my local comic book store didn’t get any. I went to a weekly weekend comic book show and not one dealer had it. I’ve got to get myself a copy of this variant! Overall grades: Regular C+ and Galactic Icons Variant A+

The story: This is an absolute MUST-READ! The story has been building slowly with Vader now actively pursuing the hidden Jedi on Mon Cala as the Imperials attack the planet’s denizens on more than one front. Jedi Ferren Barr tells his followers to evacuate having learned that Vader and the Inquisitors are on their way. One of his flock asks why they don’t stay to help the people of this world. “We’ve done what we came her to do, Orvek. And if we’re going to do it again, on as many other planets as we can, we need to leave right now. If it is not already too late.” Donning underwater gear, they slip into the sea. Charles Soule then has the group speeding away underwater as quickly as they can to safety. Unfortunately the ship containing Vader, the Inquisitors, and some troopers crosses their paths. This is when Soule shows how monstrously powerful the Lord of the Sith is. There’s not been a moment in this storyline when Vader has been on the offense, but it’s clearly in the reader’s face on Page 5. That moment got an audible reaction from me that shouldn’t be shared in polite company. Soule then does something incredible smart, he backtracks to show how some of Barr’s followers joined his crusade to bring down the Empire. It gives a lot of weight to the story, not only for fleshing out the supporting cast, but for giving an additional emotional punch to events that have occurred. All of these men and women join the Jedi for different and completely justifiable reasons. I was as caught up in their backstories as well as their plight to escape. The story takes a surprising turn when the commanding officer in orbit has to change his plans and it requires a deviation from what’s being done on Mon Cala. Though not much has been revealed about one character, I smiled like the cat that swallowed the canary when I read the closing dialogue on 13. The promise made on 14 is fantastic, fleshing out the partnership between two characters. Page 15 has a shocking surprise. I didn’t think that there was any possible way to top that moment, but 19 and 20 have something so delightfully devious and dark I was screaming at the comic. This story twists and turns with strong moments for both the Sith and the Jedi that left me clamoring for more. Overall grade: A+

The art: Giuseppe Camuncoli creates this issue’s pencils and Daniele Orlandini does the inking chores. This book is visually stunning. Beginning at the hidden Jedi enclave, the background is beautiful for the incredible details done with the vines/roots that intertwine with one another. The three small panels on the second page that show the company gearing up to go underwater is accomplished without dialogue and conveys a sense of hurry to the reader. The underwater suits that the followers wear are classic sci-fi with giant glass globes around their heads, but they fit perfectly into the Star Wars Universe. The vehicles they use to speed away look awesome: they look built for speed, yet convey a sense of deadliness with several small spikes around them. The reveal on 4 left me gasping along with the protagonists. Page 5 may have the five greatest panels in the history of Darth Vader comics: the Sith speaks no words, but his movements convey the absolute power he has with the Force. The flashbacks to characters’ joining Barr are given a black border to separate them from the story happening in the present. A consistent three horizontal panels show the actions that moved them over to the side of the Rebels and they are visual delights. The flashbacks then show the same watering hole where the Jedi recruits them. The action in the present is staggering. It’s on a level of the climatic scene involving Vader in Rogue One. If this chase isn’t epic enough, the partial double-paged splash on 12 and 13 will more than satisfy the reader; this is a level of epicness that matches the films. The close-up at the bottom of 13 made me smile as deviously as the speaker. The visuals create a shock at the bottom of 15 that’s jaw-dropping. The reveal on 19 is visual magic, but it’s the full-paged that closes the book, that when combined with the text, will leave the reader screaming with anticipation. Camuncoli and Orlandini have created magic with this issue. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Of all the elements that a colorist has to work with, water must be one of the worst. Not only do Java Tartaglia & Guru-eFX have to show water from the surface, a good portion of this book takes place within it. They make water the focus in the first panel of this issue by coloring everything else, the characters and the background, brown. It’s as if water represents safety in this panel. Note how the vines behind the characters go from brown to almost red as it’s brought up that the Rebels are abandoning Mon Cala for destruction: the reds make the world a living being. In the ocean, the water become a dark blue that’s almost black, which emphasizes the horror that comes upon them. The laser blast that’s loosed upon the Imperials is white outlined in light blue giving it a spectral tone. The colors in the flashbacks are yellowed for age, but when they move to the watering hole where they are recruited they get more modern hues. The water’s colors on 9 are beautiful. And take a gander at how well the lighting is done as two characters look at a hologram on 11, with the one closest to the visual bathed in its blue projection. The detail in the colors on the high ranking official on 13 are fantastic. The crimsons on 17 overwhelm the panels dramatically, upping the tension. These colors are wonderful. Overall grade: A+

The letters: My two nits with Star Wars comics remain: the scene settings are done with a font that makes them difficult to read, due to them having a shadow effect, and the dialogue is too thin to hold any strength. There’s a lot of yelling in this book, but when all that’s done is slightly thicken the font, or some are italicized, they remain flaccid. This is not the fault of VC’s Joe Caramagna, as this is the style of all Star Wars comics. I’ve seen Caramagna’s work on other books, and though it’s taken me a while to catch on, I’ve seen that he can do better, but is being told to follow format. That said, Caramagna does some fine work with a transmission and sounds. For all the action in this book there have to be plenty of sounds. My favorites include KRRCK!, THOOM!, and SSSSZK! These look great. Overall grade: A-

The final line: You don’t know Sith until you’ve seen this Vader in action. The story is stellar as a Jedi and his acolytes are pursued by Vader, Inquisitors, and stormtroopers. The visuals show some stunning, epic action that left me screaming at the book. This could be the most perfect Darth Vader comic ever created. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A

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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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