In Review: Darth Vader #6

Every Star Wars fan will want to read the final seven pages. It's awesome.

The cover: Emperor Palpatine cackles with glee at some unknown evil as his apprentice Darth Vader bows behind him. However, look closer: does Vader’s fist seem clenched extra tightly? Could this be giving readers a subtle tease at some hidden friction between the two? This is the best likeness I’ve seen of the Emperor on a cover and Adi Granov is to be congratulated. Having the title character be secondary to his master is a nice way to tell readers that this issue will be particularly Palpatine heavy, especially with the Sith Lord being so huge he stands in front of the title. Placing both characters before the Emperor’s signature circular window is also a nice touch. This cover that fans will treasure. Overall grade: A+

The story: Darth Vader has unwittingly found himself the Emperor’s pawn, having to defend himself against the technologically enhanced warriors of Cylo-IV. The dark apprentice first crosses sabers with brother and sister Morit and Aiolin, who are enhanced and wield lightsabers. Vader easily deflects their advances, so the pair direct flame from their hands at him. Using the Force, he remains unharmed. The Emperor desires to see what the other creations of Cylo can do, and the Trandoshan attacks next. It has a “trainer” AI personality installed within it “to guide the bestial instincts.” It feels no pain as Vader’s blade enters its left shoulder. Palpatine wishes to see another, so research and development scientist Tulon Voidgazer goes after the Sith with her fist-sized droids which circle Vader, shooting lasers at him. “She fights through them.” Again, Vader is unscathed. Last is Commander Karbin, who’s spent the last eighteen years on life support and the last two being enhanced. “He was a great admirer of the late General Grievous,” so his Mon Calamari head has been placed on a Greivous body. “Let us have a real demonstration…” commands the Emperor. “Very well,” says Cylo, turning to his creations in the pit with Vader. “To the death!” I couldn’t believe this scene from Kieron Gillen. The idea of Vader not using the Force to make quick work of his assailants leaves me boggled. When the action with these characters is over all I could think of was that this was done to establish more nemeses for Vader to encounter at a later date. However, the two page conversation that follows between the two Sith was excellent, reminding Vader of his place. The final seven pages are stunning. This is the Vader story I want! The first four pages also appear in this week’s issue of Star Wars #6, but Gillen has inserted flashbacks to Vader’s past, including famous scenes from the prequels. Readers get to see what Vader is thinking and his dialogue at the bottom of Page 18 and 20 made me cheer. If only there wasn’t that cyborg nonsense in the beginning. Overall grade: B+

The art: The opening page by Salvador Larroca is a magnificent shot of Vader with lightsaber held ready as the shadows of his foes fall about him. This is how to start a Star Wars book visually! Having the Emperor in his classic profile, hidden within his cloak, is an excellent way for him to be brought into the book. Larroca’s Vader is fantastic. There is never a panel that fails to make him look strong and absolutely evil. His cape work is also impressive, having it move in realistic ways around the Sith as the does battle and when he makes a mistake. Even when just the back of his head is shown in silence, it creates the same powerful tension that was evoked in The Empire Strikes Back. The twins look the best of the antagonists, in their features and movements, and Tulon comes next, though she’s powerful simply for remaining still with her arms folded–the typical pose of the emotionless scientist. The Trandoshan is fine, but I’m not liking the Mon Calamari head on the Grievous body. This is not Larroca’s choice, as he didn’t write the story, and he does what he can, but it’s just silly. The Emperor has got some strong visuals as he and Vader have their two pages alone. The visuals increased the emotion coming out of Palpatine twofold. The highlight of Larroca’s visuals are Pages 15 and 19. These pages contain his memories when he was Anakin Skywalker and make the final panel on 19 and all of 20 powerhouses. I’m such a fan, my heart leapt and then dropped as I saw each flawless image. It’s amazing work and will be talked about for a long time. Overall grade: A

The colors: Some really impressive work with lighting is done by Edgar Delgado on this book. I like that the pit where Vader is fighting his opponents is not the stainless steel one would expect from a training facility, but tan, echoing the colors from the battle at Geonosis. This also provides an excellent color to highlight the colors of the lightsabers, the flames, and the laser blasts. The background grows darker brown when the Sith talk, hinting at the primal forces the two are discussing. The flashbacks are wonderfully dark, even if they weren’t so dim in the films, showing that Vader’s past is dark to him. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, growls, and time passages are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. This work is typical of what he’s done before, and I continue to maintain that the font used for dialogue is too weak for the characters, with the one name uttered alone by characters in the closing looks too fancy for such powerful individuals. Overall grade: B

The final line: The second half of the book is miles ahead of the first, but every Star Wars fan will want to read the final seven pages. It’s awesome. Overall grade: A-

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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