In Review: Darth Vader #2

Vader's on a mission and if you're wise, you'll get out of his way.

The covers: This is only the second issue of the series, but I’m calling it now: the Regular cover by Jim Cheung & Matthew Wilson is going to be used for the hardcover compilation. Vader’s arms are down, with his left hand in a fist and his right holding his lit lightsaber. His cape is billowing behind him as explosions go off around him. The bit of background that’s shown suggests that he’s aboard a ship or a station, since there are stars seen through the window. This looks outstanding. The Variant cover by Mike Del Mundo is also good. Darth Vader’s head is all that is shown of the Sith Lord, slightly down, looking at something before a line of clone troopers. Nice contrast, with the row of white helmets on the right and Vader’s ebony on the left. What he’s looking at has me wondering what he’s seeing, but it looks cool. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant B+

The story: Charles Soule takes three pages to focus on the issue’s supporting characters before Vader appears. This gave the clone troopers some solid personalities. In the Mid-Rim, on the Jedi outpost designated Brighthome, a clone trooper picks up a lightsaber and says to his peers he’s a Jedi. The weapon is quickly taken away and deposited in a box of other Jedi items. The trooper who had the saber, Ding, laments, “The best soldiers in the galaxy, and here we are, stuck making an inventory of a bunch of Jedi junk at the far end of space.” He’s taken to task by Kicker, who tells him they need to do anything the Emperor says. Ding responds that they won’t be the only ones following orders, “I heard the shut down the facilities on Kamino. They’ll train up the last batch of clones and that’s it…I think our fighting days are done.” This very interesting exchange is interrupted when another trooper shuts them down as they’ve got incoming. Four ARC fighters are about to intercept a ship, which is being flown by Darth Vader. The droid accompanying the Sith asks if he should send the authorization codes to the fighters, but Vader has other ideas. This leads to some incredible action sequences, but all the excitement of this issue could have been avoided, had Vader revealed the authorization codes and that he’s there on the Emperor’s demand. The penultimate page has him getting the information he needs from the base’s databank, and he’s off for a new location. Page 19 could have been Page 5 and all this violence could have been avoided. Vader is barely a day or two in the suit, so he could be channeling some rage. He’s more of a rock than a blade in this issue, but it could be because he’s only been a Sith for less than four days. Overall grade: A-

The art: The visuals on this issue are incredible. I’m a huge fan of clone troopers, and for them to get any time in a book makes me happy, so this book made me giddy with the opening pages. The first panel establishes Brighthome as the setting and it resembles a Jedi temple, complete with two large Jedi statues, floating in space. It looks okay. Giuseppe Camuncoli is on pencils and Cam Smith inks, and the second panel has them introducing the first trooper, but bordered on Warhammer 40,000 territory with those statues. A trooper holding a lit lightsaber is a sight to behold and I love it. The way he and his fellow solider make their way is great, allowing them to be clearly seen and establish the very highly detailed surroundings. Vader’s arrival is good, with panels alternating between him and an ARC pilot, upping the tension. The engagements between the ships occurs on Pages 6 and 7, with most of them being done in eight similar sized square panels. This has the action feeling much more intense and very engaging. The troopers bracing for Vader’s entrance is also really well done, with the visual in the fourth and fifth panels on 9 being cool. The entrance on 10 suits the character and is memorable. Without getting specific, my hat is off to Camuncoli and Smith for Page 10, panel 1 and all of Pages 11 – 14. This action is outstanding and after my first read, I went back and really poured over what was created. It is gorgeous work. Vader’s cape is really impressive, as it’s in tatters. The final page is the introduction of a new character whose name is soon to be a part of every fan’s knowledge. He looks fantastic. I can do nothing but applaud Camuncoli and Smith for this issue. Overall grade: A+

The colors: David Curiel’s work on this book is as strong as Camuncoli and Smith’s. Look at the fantastic glow he gives to the green lightsaber in the first panel it appears. It’s the brightest thing in the top panel on the following page, being an instant source of focus for the reader. The troopers’ armor looks terrific looks in their every appearance in this book, with it getting amazing highlights from the light sources. This is also true with Vader, with his suit stunning, without disappearing in it’s black hues. Sounds pop out well in red, set apart from the dark surroundings and title character. The color green gets considerable focus on Pages 18 and 19, with something starting as a brilliant shade of emerald before transforming into a sickly green. Curiel is awesome on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: This book has scene settings, dialogue, sounds, transmissions and droid speak, all created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I’m still displeased with the dialogue font, which is so thin and weak it makes Vader’s dialogue impotent: look at any panel where he speaks. Is there any strength to his words based on that font? No. In fact, as it’s used by the troopers, it visually gives him the same level of importance as them, and it should not. The sounds that are in this book are excellent, but there are several odd omissions. The first is when the troopers open fire on Page 11. Their blasters make sounds, but after this, when shown still firing, they are silent, and remain silent for the rest of the skirmish. This is the definition of inconsistent. I am dumbstruck that a there’s a sound given for Vader catching a lightsaber, but none for him activating his blade, nor using it. This is ridiculous. Star Wars films are iconic for their sounds and comic books are the next best medium to employ sounds. These are not Caramagna’s errors, but come from the writer and editor. Caramagna has done strong work with sounds before and they would add to the book’s enjoyment. Omitting these sounds from this book, from this series, is like asking him to work with one hand tied behind his back. I’m giving a low grade to this contribution because the missing elements are obvious, but I do not blame Caramagna. Overall grade: C+

The final line: Vader’s on a mission and if you’re wise, you’ll get out of his way. Beautiful artwork for horrific deeds highlight this book. An inconsistent use of sounds proves somewhat problematic, but everything else in this issue is exceptionally well done. 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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