In Review: Darth Vader #19

The most horrific scene I've ever encountered in a Star Wars comic is in this issue. This is required reading!

The covers: A pair to find, as though they were Jedi hiding (Too soon?). The Regular cover is by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Elia Bonetti and features Vader atop a hill raising his lightsaber above his head. Its red blade casts a crimson light over him and where he stands. Behind him in the sky is the monstrous smiling visage of the Emperor who is taking joy at his pupil’s abilities. Great, unquestionably disturbing, image. The Galactic Icons Variant cover by Rod Reis is a beautiful bust shot of Qui-Gon Jinn. This is fantastic and should be one for any fan to try and track down. Overall grades: Regular A- and Galactic Icons Variant A+

The story: This opening installment of “Fortress Vader” begins with the birth of a girl to Mira and Eeth Koth, a former Jedi Knight. As the father goes to pick up his daughter for the first time an ominous figure appears in the door: Darth Vader. “You don’t need to do this,” Koth says. “I’m not him anymore. I’m no one. No threat to anyone. I mean…I’m just a priest now. In the Church of the Ganthic Enlightenment. I bring people peace. Officiate weddings and funerals. That’s all.” As he speaks to the Sith Lord, he makes a subtle gesture to his wife with his right hand. She immediately whispers to the droid holding her child to give her the infant. Vader repeats one of the priest’s words and the Jedi sends the droid, which has given the infant to Mira, hurling at the villain. Koth throws his hand to the wall and a hidden lightsaber springs out of it. He grabs the weapon and ignites it. Taking a stand, he says, “Now…Let us pray,” as Vader ignites his blade. Wow! What an opening from Charles Soule. But wait — this is just the beginning! Naturally Vader is going to try and kill the Jedi, but there are also three Inquisitors with the Dark Lord and they are there to take the baby. The book is split between Vader fighting Koth and Mira trying to evade her pursuers. I’ve been reading Star Wars comics since Marvel first published them in 1977 and the most brutal thing I’ve ever seen in a Star Wars comic occurs on Pages 11 and 12. It’s not graphic, but it’s the most disturbing, horrific, shocking thing I’ve come across. 14 is also a terror to read. The final six pages take place on Coruscant, where something is done, something revealed, and something is said to provoke a response. I’m still shaking after reading this issue. Soule continues to make every issue better than the last, and the previous issue was genius. This book is haunting. Overall grade: A+

The art: Just like the story, the art continues to be killer on this series. Giuseppe Camuncoli has created the layouts and Daniele Orlandini finishes them in this outstanding looking book. The first page establishes the situation quickly for the reader through visuals: the first panel has a close-up of a newborn baby, the second shows the happy father coming into frame as the medical droid lifts the child up, while the third and final panel shows the setting, which would look familiar to anyone who’s grown up on a desert world. As the father leans in to pick up his child for the first time, at the bottom of the illustration the open front door casts a light onto the floor and a familiar character’s shape is revealed. The second page is full-paged splash of Vader in the door. In the bottom right corner are two small panels that show the mother and father’s reactions to the Sith Lord’s entrance. The third panel starts with Eeth Koth inserting himself between his child and Vader. As he speaks to the monster he makes a gesture with his right hand that hangs at his side. His wife reacts to the gesture and then speaks to the droid that brings her child to her. Vader is given an extreme close-up in the penultimate panel and Koth gets the final illustration on the page, looking angered. The fourth page has Koth using the Force to throw the droid. The next two panels shows how he acquires his lightsaber. This is absolutely incredible, but the battle that follows is wonderful: every move of the protagonist and the antagonist is stunning to look upon. Pages 8 and 9 are comprised of 9 panels, with the second, fifth, and eighth crossing over the center. These show the lightsaber battle and the Inquisitors looking for Mira and the baby. 11 and 12 are just stunning: I can’t spoil it, but the event that occurs is haunting. As if they weren’t horrible enough, Page 14 will destroy you. The two new characters introduced on 15 are like something out of Hell. 17 has Vader return to a familiar location that this series has introduced and it continues to be completely absorbing and nightmarish. Page 19’s final panel returns to the final panel on the first page. The final page is full-paged splash and it’s outstanding. These visuals are to die for. Overall grade: A+

The colors: David Curiel is by far one of the best colorists at Marvel and he, too, contributes handsomely to this issue. My default for Vader is always dark colors, but the story has the Sith in the light and he is terrifying. Colors announce Vader’s entrance at the bottom of Page 1. His first full appearance is against a powder blue sky that makes his ebony stand out sensationally. When the action begins, the sounds gets some glorious colors to make them stand out, with them introduced on Page 3. The Inquisitors are dressed in grays, but its their red skin and crimson highlights make them look spectacular. Note how the final two panels on 13 have a glorious sunset with beautiful oranges and violets which compliment the action in the foreground terrifically. The final page has some great crimsons that issue not only from a device but highlight Vader. Curiel can do no wrong. Overall grade: A+

The letters: I’ve had issues with the dialogue and scene setting fonts on this series, and all Marvel Star Wars comics, from the get-go, and still do, but the rest of the book looks sensational. VC’s Joe Caramagna does some great work on the droid speech, sounds, yells, a baby’s wail, and Aurebesh. The sounds are extremely well done. Star Wars books are often lacking sound effects, but not this issue and they look great. More. please. Overall grade: B+ 

The final line: The most horrific scene I’ve ever encountered in a Star Wars comic is in this book. The story and art are at the highest possible level to thrill and chill your soul. This is required reading for all Star Wars fans. I absolutely give my highest possible recommendation to this issue! Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy go to

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

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.
    No Comment