In Review: Darth Vader #18

This is quite possibly the single best Darth Vader story ever written.

The covers: A twosome to find if one is a die hard Star Wars fan. The Regular cover is by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Elia Bonetti and shows a scene I’d have never imagined: Wilhuff Tarkin hides behind a tree holding his blaster ready as a ragged Darth Vader walks by. The Sith Lord has his lightsaber ignited as he searches for his prey. This is a great cover because it creates a lot of questions from the reader, most importantly, “Why is this happening?” That said, this cover is too dark. It’s possible to have this planet exterior much brighter and keep the situation tense due to the character’s stances. This is good, but it could have been better. The Galactic Icons Variant cover by Rod Reis is much better as if focuses on a bust shot of Darth Vader. This is one to track down. I know I will. Overall grades: Regular B and Galactic Icons A+

The story: Charles Soule is the author of this one-shot story “Bad Ground.” In the Outer Rim on Chandar’s Folly, Tarkin considers his situation. When the sun rises the hunt will have entered its ninth day. He started this venture with twenty men, including himself, and now he’s down to eight. Yerga comes to him to say that Sissian has picked up their prey in the northwest. Using some macrobinoculars, Tarkin sees Vader, minus his cape and without his lightsaber, but wearing the skin of a Valath. This animal’s unique skin allows it to become invisible to others, so Vader now has that capacity. He’s showing himself to Tarkin to show him that he now has this ability. Tarkin rouses his team and they began their hunt of the Sith anew. As they walk, Tarkin recalls how this began. Knowing that blasters would be useless against Vader, he employed flamethrowers and slugthrowers; the Force cannot deflect fire. Vader was clever and attacked the flamethrowers not the flames, killing those who wielded the weapons. “We lost four hunters that day. But I learned a great deal.” What Tarkin learned is revealed as they make their way to kill Vader. The tension from this tale comes from the Sith’s invisibility and why Tarkin is in this situation. The reason for this hunt is fantastic and how the issue ends is spectacular. This easily fits into the history of both men and shows how each views the other. This is quite possibly the single best Darth Vader story ever written. Overall grade: A+

The art: Giuseppe Camuncoli does the layouts for this issue and Daniele Orlandini finishes them. This book looks amazing. The opening panel shows Tarkin alone in a camp near a flame, several tents around him, a long rifle beside him, and several bolts of lightning striking in the distance. This is not where one expects to find the future Grand Moff. The large panel on the second page that shows Vader is incredible. He looks as though he’s been through hell. The skin wrapped around him is a covering from the devil himself, and please take note of the claws at the end of each point — Wow! The surviving group that’s tasked with taking out the Sith look great, with the pair of Chadra-Fan looking exceptional. The two pages of flashbacks that show how Vader evaded death are stunning — heck, these could have been an extra issue on their own. The death that occurs on 6 is a shocker. The change in settings on 7 is great and looks amazing. Seeing Tarkin raise a rifle on 9 shows him to be absolutely fierce looking. The joy on Tarkin’s face on 15 is frightening because I can’t recall ever seeing this character smile so gleefully. The action that occurs on 18 is fantastic, as it shows the unthinkable happening. Page 20 is composed of six equal sized panels that perfectly capture a terrible moment. The final page is a full-paged splash that left me exhausted because I realized the story was over. It’s a horrible image and it’s unforgettable. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The first page has the colors one would expect if one were in the woods camping: a bright orange fire, brown tents, green mountains, and white bolts of lightning. Nothing here to suggest anything is wrong due to these colors by David Curiel. A turn of the page and the book peers into Hell as Vader is colored in different shades of reds due to the macrobionoculars Tarkin is looking through. Notice how the two panels below are divided by a slim gutter that’s colored the same reds as Vader, reminding the reader of the threat. The flashback on 4 continues the hellish nature of the visuals by using shades of red and bright yellows for the sounds. The bottom panel on 5 is a stunner for the gorgeous reds that are reflected in Vader’s mask, especially the flames in his eyes. The blues that surround the characters on 7 are calming after all the past chaos that’s been shown, and it lulls the characters, and the reader, into a false sense of security. I love how the many sounds are given pale yellows to make them pop off the page. The whites and blues on 17 and 18 are powerful, which they need to be. Curiel, once again, knocks the visuals out of the park with his skills. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The scene settings, the narration and dialogue (the same font), sounds, and yells are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. My usual dislike of the dialogue in Star Wars books is increased because now it’s also the font used for Tarkin’s narration, differed only by the colors and shapes of the texts’ containers. The scene settings also continue to be difficult to read. The sounds are neat at least and are essential to the story beginning on Page 7. Overall grade: B

The final line: I can’t recommend this highly enough. If you’ve never read a Star Wars comic, pick this up. The characters are true, the actions stunning, and the visuals to die for. This could be the most perfect Star Wars comic ever created. 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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