In Review: Darth Vader #5

This gives the fans what they want and a whole lot more.

The covers: Two covers to seek if one was the will. The Regular cover is a wowser from Giuseppe Camuncoli and Francesco Mattina. It features a close-up of Vader’s helmet, which has been partially shattered. One of Anakin’s blue eyes can be seen, as well as some of the mottled skin that surrounds it. A creepy image done exceedingly well that left me anxious to begin this book. However, take a look at the image that accompanies this review, it’s the Regular cover, but it’s not as up close nor as dark as the actual physical copy that I purchased. I wish that my actual comic looked as clear as the image online; mine is pulled in tighter and is much, much darker. The Variant cover is by Terry and Rachel Dodson and anything by the Dodsons is worth picking up. This features an image of Vader holding his lightsaber in his right hand, while having his right clutch the air, all against a smoky red background. The image is outstanding, though a generic cover. Overall grades: Both A

The story: Last issue Vader killed Jedi Knight Kirak Infil’a to take his lightsaber. The Sith took a beating in getting the weapon and now speeds through space on a course not of his choosing. A hologram of Emperor Palpatine is projected in his ship with the evil man stating, “The droid was instructed to take control of the ship once you obtained a Jedi lightsaber. It will bring you to your final destination. This was selected by me.” The planet he arrives at is Mustafar. “From the site of your greatest defeat, you shall rise — strong, unbroken…powerful.” Given instructions by his master, Vader takes the saber to a location on the planet and takes it apart, revealing the Kyber crystal within. That’s when things start to happen. This is a decent What If? tale from Charles Soule, with Vader’s soul determining what his fate will be. There are different avenues his life may take at this stage and some possibilities are shown. Pages 8 – 10 have a very surprising choice, with the outcome being the one that hit me the hardest. The dialogue between the characters on these pages holds a lot of weight. It’s on 11 and 12 where fans will be screaming, though. The confrontation that occurs here is the most painful, with the decision by a character at the top of 12 being incredibly moving. There’s even less dialogue on this pair of pages than on the previous ones, and it’s a gut punch scene. The words at the bottom of Page 13 are damning, and the selection of images on 16 and 17 wonderful, in the most twisted of ways. This is absolutely what would be going through Vader’s mind at this moment. There’s an unexpected appearance by two characters on 18, with the dialogue between them very, very cool. I would love to see the relationship between this pair explored more. The action that ends the page is fantastic, as are the words that follow on 20. Given the previous four issues, this installment could end no other way and it’s glorious. This gives the fans what they want and a whole lot more. Overall grade: A

The art: The pencils are provided by Giuseppe Camuncoli with inks done by Cam Smith. The issue begins with a worrisome image of a hologram of the Emperor whose smile is too broad for his face. He resembles the Joker more so than Ian McDiarmid. Thankfully, this concern is only on this page, for he and the remainder of the book looks strong. Mustafar looks fantastic, seething with lava and threatening terrain. Vader is a wreck after the battle of the previous two issues: his cape is tattered, his left leg a mess, and his left eye lens is cracked, soon to be broken entirely. His every step carries a stagger that’s outstanding. He’s also hunched over, showing him to be in immense pain. When Vader reaches his interior destination, there’s not much dialogue, so it’s up to Camuncoli and Smith to communicate to the reader what’s occurring and they do so handsomely. The physicality that’s shown is good on Page 6, with the images in the final two panels being repeated to show different possibilities for the character. It’s a tiny panel, but the fifth panel on 8 is awesome because of the detail shown on the left side of the character’s face. I like the pose of the character in the air on the following page, though it would have been immensely better had the character not been computer blurred to show the speed of the character — it looks awful. In fact, it seems as if the coloring is particularly dark there to hide this horrid effect. This is the only time this happens with the visuals and it was one too many. Page 10 has an outstanding first panel, with both characters looking excellent. Only four words are spoken on 11 and 12 and the visuals are packed with emotion. One character’s face is not seen, but the staging of the character is incredibly dramatic. Ending the sequence with a repeated panel upped the drama considerably. 14 – 17 have a lot of power, with several flashbacks that struck a never. Cutting between the action in the interior location with exterior location panels and the flashbacks is really cool and made the pages come off as cinematic. My favorite action of the issue is the final panel on 18, as that never happens to those characters. The final page of the book is a full-paged splash and it’s a fitting image. I smiled as much as another character did on the page. Overall grade: A

The colors: David Curiel starts off this issue with the familiar blue hues of a hologram that is recognizable to any Star Wars fan. The reds on Mustafar are deadly, though the sky was certainly a surprise — it was colored in grays, coming off as a calm day…Well, as calm as things get on Mustafar. The emerald used for the crystal was excellent and gave its scenes a strong magical element. The colors are too dark at the top of 8, making the action of a character extremely difficult to make out. The coloring on 9 is outstanding, with both individuals looking strong. 11 and 12 is a different setting, with the colors being bright, allowing Vader to be an abomination in every panel. The sky before the character at the top of 11 is particularly beautiful. The red and orange that makes up the background behind the character on 14 – 16 is fantastic, making the actions blasphemous. The flashbacks look terrific in black, white, and gray, allowing them to stand out against the bright colors of the present. The last page has a lot of crimsons, highlighting something’s first appearance and tainting one individual’s future. Overall grade: A

The letters: Transmissions, scene settings, sounds, dialogue, and a scream are crated by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I’m continuing to have issues with the weak, skinny font used for dialogue, which makes Vader and Emperor look impotent whenever they speak. The transmission font on the first page changes into normal dialogue font in the second panel, simply because the image no longer takes place within the cabin of Vader’s ship. If the character is first shown with a unique font, the character needs to keep that font. Additionally, just because the action has moved outside the ship does mean it’s not a hologram that’s still speaking. I was ecstatic to see a sound that I’ve been longing to see in Star Wars comics appear on Page 8 — it’s absolutely necessary to be included for the emotional impact of this tale. Yet, the same sound is missing on the final page, which demands equal, if not more, emotion. Another confusion of lettering on a Star Wars comic. Overall grade: B-

The final line: A great conclusion that addresses how Vader got his saber. Great flashback sequences with hints of Anakin peeking out of the Sith’s robotic body push this into must-buy territory. It misses being a classic due to an unnecessary computer blur and inconsistent lettering. Enjoyable with some nits. 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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