In Review: Darth Vader #21

A terrifying journey to Mustafar has Vader encountering something dangerous.

The covers: Two covers that are as hot as the surface of Mustafar. The Regular cover is by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Elia Bonetti and is a terrific point of view of the title character. Lord Vader hovers above a pool of lava, using his Force abilities to make a path for him to land. His lightsaber is ignited and held straight out at his side and his cape billows high above him due to the heat. And this cover certainly gets across to the reader the fury of this world. Oranges, yellows, and reds dominate this cover, with even Vader being tinted red due to the overwhelming heat. This is great. A surprising choice for the Galactic Icons Variant cover from Rod Reis: Hondo Ohnaka. I could think of several Jedi or aliens I’d rather see, but Hondo has been key to several episodes of The Clone Wars and Rebels, so I’m all for his appearance on this cover. It’s a little more cartoony than the previous covers, but considering the source material he looks fine. Overall grades: Regular A and Galactic Icons Variant A-

The story: Charles Soule opens this book with an absolutely haunting scene. Padme’s Naboo ship, seen in The Phantom Menace, flies though hyperspace. Staring at her empty chair is young Anakin Skywalker. He turns to face the reader and shows something horrific. Anakin is looking at Darth Vader who has come upon him. The story then moves to the present, where the Sith is walking down a corridor with Colonel Brenne and Lieutenant Roggo. The higher ranking officer is an Imperial architect, assigned by the Emperor himself to help Vader in constructing his palace on Mustafar. Brenne asks Vader why Mustafar and the recent past is then shown, with the Emperor asking Vader the same question. A turn of the page and the reader is back in the present. Vader ignores the colonel and heads to the pilot’s seat to personally land the ship. When the officers are alone there’s an artifact that’s shown that will have a major impact on this story’s plot and it’s a jaw-dropper. Vader’s landing of the ship is incredibly tense for a shocking reason, with it revealed fully on Page 12. This issue, once again, has Soule creating some wonderful surprises and moments completely in line with Vader’s monstrous history. There’s a great reveal on 18, some excellent backstory on 19, and an awesome cliffhanger on 20. I read this issue more than once and I heard the characters’ voices absolutely clear as each horror is revealed. This is incredible. Overall grade: A+

The art: The first page is a home run due to the the third panel. Anakin’s reveal is beautiful, disturbing, awful, and a visual that will have fans talking for years to come since this comes from Vader’s mind. Even in profile, Anakin is a fright in the fourth panel. Guiseppe Camuncoli provides the layouts and Daniele Orlandini does the finishes on this issue and they are a great team. The first panel on the second page reveals Vader and the Imperials, but the reader is looking up at the characters, making Vader look like a dark god. The artists then pull in on the villain, showing the detail of his mask in profile. The mirror images at the bottom of Pages 2 and 3 provide some fantastic synchronicity in Vader’s life. Page 4 has panels four and five split by a gutter, but actually compose one image. In doing so the artists allow each character to have their own moment. The artifact at the top of 5 seems unimportant, which immediately gives it importance. Its design is deceptively simple, but has one heck of a backstory. I love the partial double-paged spread on 10 and 11, showing that Mustafar is capable of beauty. I was also very happy to see the pair of characters on that page that have some dialogue. I’m hoping more of them and what one of them is visually shown to be capable of reappear in future installments. Page 12 has the first visual gut punch of the issue, with something getting a horrific make over, but is absolutely fitting considering the source. Another stand out image can be found in the third panel on 14, with this character looking as though he’s been burned. Page 16’s third panel is also a stand out for incorporating visual elements that have been shown in previous issues when Vader is alone. Page 18 advances the story with only two sound effects for text and each panel builds the tension fantastically. The action on 20 is great, as is the reveal. This is fantastic work. Overall grade: A+

The colors: David Curiel is the book’s colorist and he is one of my favorites in the field. The coloring used for Anakin’s back on the first page is movie quality, but when the character turns around the colors go dark, amplifying the horror. The flashback scenes with the Emperor have a tintype quality to them due to the use of blacks, golds, and muted colors: they are both dated and royal. The artifact that becomes much of the book’s focus has a metallic light blue color that suggest something royal or noble and that could not be farther from what it contains. Naturally reds, oranges, and yellows dominate once Mustafar appears and Curiel nicely blends each color to complete the deadly environment created by the artists. The light blues used for a computer’s image and a holographic projection evoke their on screen hues. Everything Curiel does is perfect. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, scene settings, sounds, transmissions, and a scream are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I’m still unhappy with Marvel’s choices on how the dialogue and scene settings should appear in Star Wars comics, but my hat’s off to Caramagna for the transmissions and the sounds. My favorite of the latter is a FFSSK! that looks terrific. The sole scream is also extremely well done. Overall grade: B

The final line: A terrifying journey to Mustafar has Vader encountering something dangerous. Another thrilling story that has epic visuals. I am continually amazed with how well the creators of this book make each issue unforgettable. 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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