In Review: Darth Vader #23

Dark humor punctuates the construction of Vader's castle. Recommended.

The covers: A pair to choose from for this installment. The Regular cover is by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Elia Bonetti. This has Vader standing on a cliff on Mustafar, his back to the reader, gazing at his completed castle. The Sith’s cape catches one of the hot breezes and blows to the right. Such a beautiful image for such a horrific locale. Being so distant, the castle is primarily a silhouette, but it strikes a fearsome pose against the fiery skies. Vader’s cape looks cinematic in its realism. This is great. Droid assassin IG-88 gets the focus on this Galactic Icons Variant cover by Rod Reis. This shows the mechanical menace from the bust up and he looks good. I’ve never been a fan of this silent character from the films, but Reis makes him look outstanding. Overall grades: Regular A and Galactic Icons Variant A-

The story: Charles Soule opens this chapter of “Fortress Vader” with the castle built, but looking nothing like what fans are familiar with. Momin asks Vader if he can feel the Force and he replies he can. A turn of the page and the reader sees that both vile men are within the structure, with Vader channeling his abilities to opening a portal to the realm of the dead so that he can contact Padmé. As he does so fire erupts outside and the construction workers run for cover as do the native Mustafarians. Vader opens the portal and uses his hands to widen it. “I told you this was the right design! My masterpiece!” Momin yells, but something goes terribly wrong. Vader’s reaction to Momin’s construction is on Page 7 and it’s not surprising. However, before this is shown, the Mustafarians get all of Page 6 to themselves and they’re plotting to do something. The passing of the torch, so to speak, on Page 8 is great. The action on 10 is good, as is one person’s commentary. Pages 12 and 13 are funny, if one has a sick sense of humor. The final panel on 16 will set fans’ hearts racing, and the dialogue that begins 17 will only rev it up more. The command in the fourth panel on this page is fantastic. Page 18 shows that Vader has been preoccupied too long with the construction of his dwelling to have missed the build up to this moment. Sadly, it will distract him from the actions occurring on 19 and 20, with that final page making me scream in joy, even if it does follow the dialogue of a character from The Matrix Reloaded. The conclusion of this issue was inevitable, but I’m still going to be on pins and needles to see what happens in the next issue! Overall grade: A

The art: The layouts for the art are by Giuseppe Camuncoli with the finishes by Daniele Orlandini. This book continues to look phenomenal. The opening page has a full-paged splash of a structure not seen before on Mustafar with five small square panels that show tight close-ups of Vader and Momin as they talk. Each of these tiny panels progressively pulls in closer to the characters, making their words carry more strength. The partial double-paged splash on 2 and 3 is epic, making the dark nature of the Force primal. The physicality of Vader opening the doorway on 4 and 5 is awesome, with the final panel on 5 being intense. Page 6 is devoted to the Mustafarians and they look terrific in their protective gear on this hostile world. Their helmets echo the classic designs of Moebius. The action that occurs between the third and fourth panels on 7 made me smile devilishly. The artists are incredibly strong and the progression of actions between panels, such as here and on Page 9, again had me smiling for all the wrong reasons. The actions on 10 and 11 are glorious and I’m hopeful that much more of this will be shown in the next issue. 12 and 13 are composed of eight equal sized squares and they, again, capture the progression of action well over a longer period of time. I especially love Momin on these pages. The reveal on 14 is glorious and I love the slight inclination of the head on Vader in the final panel, which deliciously accents the threat of his words. Page 16 is thrilling. The point of view that begins 17 is fantastic because it shows that Vader can’t see the sight as the reader saw it on the previous page. I love 18 and I’m so eager to see what the artists do with this next month. The final panel of the issue is a spectacular cliffhanger, full revealing the antagonist of this issue. The design of this character is incredible and, yet again, I can’t wait to see what happens next month. Overall grade: A+

The colors: David Curiel and Dono Sanchez-Almara are the book’s colorists and they complete the visuals fantastically. Mustafar is wholly inhospitable with oranges, yellows, and reds highlighting the inferno world. Having Vader’s black armor on this world is like having a visual scar on the colors, and it suits his dark nature perfectly. The glowing red eyes of Momin have him always seem as if he’s of another world. The reds on 2 and 3 make the actions that occurs blasphemous. The sounds that are punctuated in book receive strong, bold colors making each appearance explode off the page. My favorite colored panel is the last one of the book, with the character backlit with outstanding yellows while standing on a orange base. Wow! Overall grade: A+

The letters: My continual disappointment with the thin letters for dialogue continues, as does my disdain for the scene settings. However, when allowed to go beyond the mandates of all Star Wars comics, VC’s Joe Caramagna is wildly successful with the sound effects, which are magnificent. There are several explosions in this issue and they are awesome. Overall grade: B

The final line: Some dark humor punctuates the construction of Vader’s castle. The conclusion of this chapter is never really in doubt, but it sure is fun getting there. The visuals continue to be superior in every possible way, creating new fans and thrilling veteran readers. The tales of this Dark Lord continue to brighten my day. 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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