In Review: Darth Vader Annual #2

This story inserts Vader and Tarkin into the events that lead up to Rogue One and it's a winner.

The covers: Two to pick up with the Sith in very different locales. The Regular cover is by Mike Deodato, Jr. and Arif Prianto and features Vader on a desert world, his cape billowing to his right from a strong wind as he holds his saber with both hands. Behind him can be a squadron of Death Troopers to protect him. Yeah, right. There’s a familiar looking city behind all and high above, just visible under the title, is an incomplete Death Star. This image is sure to make you open it before you can say, “Rogue One.” The coloring suggests a desert world with all the tans and oranges. Nice. The Variant cover by Rahzzah has Vader as a dark god. The title character is looking down upon the reader, his red saber pointed at them. His eyes are orange. He is as large as a planet and stands among the cosmos with one world just avoiding his blade. Great image with the violet starscape making the Sith stand out. Putting the title at the bottom of this image is a good way to preserve it. Overall grades: Both A 

The story: Titled “Technological Terror” this tale from Chuck Wendig opens over Scarif with an Imperial Shuttle containing Governor Tarkin and a trio of Death Troopers. They march to the Data Vault where the unhappy man finds someone. “Lord Vader. You presence here is unauthorized.” The Sith responds, “And yet, Governor Tarkin, here I am. I thought I should learn more about…Project Stardust.” What follows is Tarkin pushing all of the Dark Lord’s emotional buttons as he reminds Vader of who works for whom, with a holographic transmission from the Emperor to make it clear. Vader is ordered by Palpatine to go to Geonosis and root out and destroy the sabotage that’s been occurring there. Once on the world there is an incident which doesn’t do much to impede Vader from meeting with Commander Orson Krennic. Their conversation is outstanding. Though only on Page 13, Vader remembers what happened in the Petranaki Arena when he was Anakin. I loved that moment. A person comes up to Vader with some important information and I would love to see this person return in other books. Something very surprising is discovered on Coruscant, which ties this plot of sabotage to another character from Rogue One. The action on 21 – 23 is something I’ve been waiting for a Star Wars book to address and I enjoyed it immensely. The echoing of familiar words from a film on Page 24 is awesome. Pages 25 – 27 clearly show the relationship between Tarkin and Vader and it’s the worth buying the book just for these pages. The final trio of pages deal with a pair of characters who will have a long lasting impact on the Star Wars Universe and lead directly into the events of one of the films. Windig has inserted Vader and Tarkin into events before Rogue One cleverly, establishing Vader as a force (no pun intended) to be reckoned with and Tarkin as a man who is not afraid of the armored Sith. Very cool. Overall grade: A+

The art: Leonard Kirk pencils and Walden Wong and Scott Hanna ink the art of this book. Their work on the characters is extremely well done, with humans, aliens, and Vader looking just like the characters from the films. The vehicles are also really well done. However, the lines that are employed to create shading are too thick for me. Yes, it’s a nit, but it stuck out on every page for me. Take a gander at the Imperial Shuttle as it comes in to land. Notice the shading done on its wings? Check out the lines used to create a shadow for the open hatch. Look at Tarkin’s face in the final panel on Page 2. It’s not bad, but it is very noticeable. I’m not a fan of this type of shading. The page layouts are unquestionably top notch: the progression of panels and the point of views with which they are shown make Tarkin’s entrance into the Data Vault a tense trek on 3. The full-paged splash that is Page 4 has Tarkin looking strong with his finger pointing angrily at Vader, who disregards the man to look at a holographic projection. And I will say I have never wanted to see a smile slapped off a character so much in life as Tarkin in this issue. His smug showing of teeth was the visual equivalent of nails on a chalkboard and I found myself having fantasies similar to those of Darth Vader. The final panel on 7 has Vader in a close-up with his head inclined, showing him giving respect to a specific character. Pages 8 and 9 show an alien world and the art is not looking great. The characters are fine, the action is fine, but the environment is not. Look at the images that Vader recalls from the arena. They’re not working for me. The book’s final battle is fine, but the setting is not detailed enough. This book looks the best when the characters are focused on with little to no background. Those shading lines on characters and in the settings just take me out of the reading experience. Overall grade: B-  

The colors: The work by Nolan Woodard on this book is perfect. I’m used to seeing him coloring Darth Maul’s exploits, so it was good to see him creating more colorful locales. Scarif is beautiful in blues and greens. Tarkin’s pale blue eyes beam out of his pink head. Vader’s two moments of daydreaming are brought to life perfectly in Sith reds. Geonosis is awash in oranges just as it was in Attack of the Clones. Krennic is identifiable from a distance due to the distinct colors of this clothes. I also like how any panel where Tarkin is a strong force has strong greens, giving the illusion that Vader is jealous of the man that has the Emperor’s ear. Excellent work throughout. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates this issue’s text which contains scene settings, dialogue, sounds, and a holographic transmission and droid speech (the same font). These settings just don’t work: having pale colors sit atop white makes the lettering come off as blurry. Other Star Wars titles have employed other fonts for these introductions and they should be used rather than these. The dialogue font doesn’t work for strong individuals. Vader being the prime example: his words physically match those of every other speaking character, and they should not. No character in the Star Wars films sounds like Vader, therefore his font should be different. Additionally, Tarkin comes off as having frail words with such a slight font. This has been disappointing for some time in all Star Wars books. I usually get vexed by the same font being employed for dissimilar forms of communication, but I cannot say that about the transmission and the droid speech. Since both are mechanical they should look the same. The sounds are spectacular, though, and I’m glad that Caramagna is able to create so many for this book. More please, on this front, Marvel. Overall grade: B

The final line: This story inserts Vader and Tarkin into the events that lead up to Rogue One and it’s a winner. If you enjoyed that film, you will enjoy this story. The art didn’t work for me, but that comes down to preference. It might be a non-issue for you, so I suggest you check out this book and skim its images before discounting it. I’m not sorry to have picked this book up. I just wish the art had been a titch stronger. 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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