In Review: Darth Vader Annual #1

Fans are paying for the visuals and not the story with this book.

The cover: Against an empty white background, the Sith Lord makes his way forward, his cape billowing behind him and his lightsaber activated for any who stand against him. Interesting cover by Leinil Yu, the interior artist. This does stand out on the shelf among other books due to its stark coloring. It’s the angle that’s throwing me off; Vader is being looked at from above. It’s drawn well, it’s just an interesting choice to position the character. I would have preferred a head-on shot to this. Overall grade: B-

The story: Set after the destruction of the first Death Star, Vader has been sent to Shu-torun to reinforce that planet’s cooperation with the Empire. Before he arrives, the King meets with his children: he tells the first that he will be king upon his passing, the second he proclaims as warlord, and the third, Trios, “…your blood will serve in other ways.” Vader’s TIE lands and he is greeted by Trios. This upsets him, as he was expecting her father, but she states she has been sent to escort him below surface to see “a little celebration to showcase our culture.” The Sith follows only so that he may meet with the king, but his majesty has other plans for Vader. Written by Kieron Gillen, this story is very straightforward, with no real surprises. Vader’s fate, as well as that of the royal family, is pretty much a foregone conclusion with his arrival. The story is fine if one wishes to read of Vader implementing the Emperor’s will on another world, but this was really padded. BeeTee and Triple Zero are also long with Vader, and they scamper off to have their own mini-adventure. Their scenes could have been eliminated, with exception to their necessity for the story’s climax, but are here to provide some gallows humor. The art is the showcase of this issue, with pages of little happening or said to show off the visuals. Page 28 has a solid reveal to make a point, but with the closing words of this story, I felt the payoff average. Overall grade: C

The art: Without question, Leinil Yu’s pencils and Gerry Alanguilan’s inks look amazing. They have created an incredibly intricate world on Shu-torun, whose architecture and garb of its denizens is wonderful to behold. The issue begins in opulent style with the king speaking to his children. The detail in the design around the king’s throne would make Edgar Rice Burroughs jealous. This pair’s style reminds me very much of Mike Kaluta and Charles Vess: it’s both ancient and regal, as well as fanciful. Had the book just followed characters making their way through different corridors encountering people, I would have been more than pleased. Outstanding work includes Pages 1, 7, 13, 16, 17, 20, 26, and 30. Shu-torun is an amazing world and I am hoping that Marvel will have one of their Star Wars titles return to this location with Yu and Alanguilan illustrating it. However, fans are not paying to visit new worlds; they’re putting their money down to watch Vader fight resistance. They will not be disappointed. Vader’s first appearance is a full page splash with him looking magnificent. When he speaks with Trios at the top of 5 he towers over her, as he should. The action that Vader takes on 11 and 12 is fantastic. Words are not used to increase the power of the moment because the visuals work flawlessly. My favorite image is Page 20 because it places the Sith in a perilous situation, while showing how small he is. It’s not used often in comics, and I’m glad it was done here. Yu and Alanguilan are a terrific team. Overall grade: A

The colors: The work by Jason Keith on this book is stunning. Color is a spectacular element on this book, starting deceptively small. The first page has all the marble and gold one would expect of a royal setting, but these colors are obliterated (and slightly teased in one panel) with the turn of a page. Blood red consumes a double-paged spread and provides an awesome background color for Vader’s entrance. Having Trios in a royal blue cape instantly sets her apart from other characters and provides some excellent contrast with Vader’s ebony. 14 and 15 have some beautiful teal work, which makes the violence occurring all the more alien. As with the art, Page 20 is my favorite work by Keith. The colors strengthen the art tenfold. This is a spectacular job. Overall grade: A+

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna’s dialogue font is perfectly suited for the royal family of Shu-torun, as it is a elegant script that makes them seem extra royal. However, seeing Vader speaking with the same font lessens his evil each time he speaks. Scene settings, sounds, Triple Zero’s speech, and a few yells also constitute Caramagna’s contributions. I wish he’d been allowed to add some sounds to 14 and 15, which was woefully silent. Overall grade: B- 

The final line: Fans are paying for the visuals and not the story with this book. It looks terrific, but some tightening could have had this been a regular issue of the Darth Vader monthly. Overall grade: B

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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