In Review: Darth Vader #22

Charles Soule continues to be the greatest writer in the Sith Lord's history beyond the big screen. 

The covers: Two fantastic covers to choose between for this outing, but, let’s be honest, you’ll really want to pick up both of these. The Regular cover is by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Elia Bonetti and features a moment from this book: Darth Vader holds the helmet of the ancient Sith Lord Momin before him. The eyes of the dead Sith glow red and cast its ambiance upon the iconic villain. This is a terrific tease of what’s to be found within this issue. The Galactic Icons Variant cover is by Rod Reis and focuses on the most notorious gangster in the Star Wars universe — Jabba the Hutt! I am continually wowed by these variant covers by Reis and this one only increases my desire to collect all of these frontpieces. The drooling monstrous slug appears gloriously on this cover, making it a must-own. Overall grades: Regular A and Galactic Icons Variant A+

The story: Charles Soule continues to be the greatest writer in the Sith Lord’s history beyond the big screen. Last issue Vader returned to his ship to find the Emperor’s architect Alva Breene dead and her assistant wearing the helmet of Lord Momin. He’s killed the man and lifts the helmet off him with the Force. He takes the helmet outside and into the cave where he has been meditating. He asks the helmet what it is and it responds, “I am Momin. And everything I did was guided by one simple principle.” A psychic outpouring from the helmet blows into Vader and the Sith’s history is given in a series of flashbacks. Momin was an artist at a young age, but he created disturbing things. He tells Vader, “If people feel nothing when encountering something you have created…then you have created nothing.” He continued to create blasphemous things, resulting in the populace arresting him. That’s when he is freed by a Sith who takes him under her wing as an apprentice. This history of Momin is incredible. The character is a monster of the worst kind and his ability to wield the Force is staggering. His plan to do something to a world rivals the inhumanity of the Death Star. However, the arrival of some characters on Page 11 is amazing and what follows simply incredible. The story was absolutely satisfying at this point. Soule could have stopped here and I would have felt that I had gotten more than my money’s worth. What’s revealed on the final three pages is absolutely jaw-dropping. What Vader says and does and what Momin says and promises to do will leave every Star Wars fan screaming in anticipation. This is perfection. Overall grade: A+

The art: Matching the incredible story are the superb visuals. The layouts of this issue are by Giuseppe Camuncoli with finishes by Daniele Orlandini, with Terry Pallot doing Pages 3 – 4. The book opens with Vader looking upon the bodies of the Imperial officers with the helmet held aloft by the Force. He spies a hologram that intrigues him and he leaves his ship to enter the cave. The three panels on Page 2 that show the back and forth between Momin and Vader are a terrific lead in to the blast that comes out of the helmet. Pages 3 and 4 show Momin’s fall as his endeavors take a morbid turn. The smile on his face on Page 4 is frightening when compared to the other characters in the panels. The entrance of the character that rescues him from prison is epic and it’s only topped by the two pages that follow. I especially like the bottom panel on 6. There’s a positively ghastly image on 8 that’s outstanding. The aliens at the bottom of 9 are wonderful with their reactions being excellent. Page 10 is a full-paged splash and it definitely shows the villain in his element. The entrance on 11 is killer and all that’s missing is music from John Williams. The back and forth between the characters on 13 is similar to that from Page 2. The visuals on 14 tell the story more so than the text and I was shocked by the actions of Vader. I really like how an item on this page gets separated from the larger panels giving it emphasis. Pages 15 – 17 return to some characters that were briefly seen at the beginning of this saga and their importance is now revealed. These characters didn’t get much to do in one of the prequels and they are visual stunners. 19 has Vader making a familiar gesture and the reaction from another character to it is wonderful. The final page’s visuals leave no question as to who is in charge, but the final panel shows that there may still be some fight in one character. This book looks tremendous. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The best thing that can happen to a book’s art is having David Curiel color it. The color red is always present in some form, reminding the reader of Mustafar and the dark soul of the title character. There’s also a cool blue hologram that’s repeatedly shown. Blue is always used for Star Wars holograms, but it now takes on another meaning with the reveal on the final two pages. Notice that when Momin begins his flashback tale, red energy pours out of him into Vader, reinforcing the crimson color. The flashback sequences are tinted in browns, tans, and bronzes to age the sequences, but Sith lightsabers stand out for being in, you guessed it, red. Only one other colors stands out in the past and it appears on Page 11. It’s subtle, but take note that the small panels on 14 are outlined in red: this book just oozes with that evil color. Crimson also dominates the final page and it’s haunting. Curiel truly is a coloring god. Overall grade: A+

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates this issue’s text: scene settings, dialogue and narration (the same font), sounds, and screams. I’m still not pleased with the scene settings and the dialogue/narration, which are inappropriate fonts to match the intensity of this story. An opportunity was lost in giving Momin a similar speech font differed only by the shape of the dialogue balloons and their colors. The sounds and yells are fine at least. Overall grade: B 

The final line: A stellar issue in every possible way. The justification for the design of Vader’s castle is revealed and it’s staggering. The story is incredible with Vader being monstrous and incredibly vulnerable by the conclusion. The art is magnificent, both in the past and the present. The colors are fantastic, keeping things dark without losing any of the details in the art. I can’t ruin this book’s ranking simply because the lettering continues to be disappointing, as it’s been since the get-go. This is an absolute must-read, must-own book. Star Wars fans would be missing a major arc in the Dark Lord’s saga if they let this issue escape them. Absolutely recommended. 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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