In Review: Star Wars: Darth Vader 1

Good story and excellent art have this book easily surpassing the flagship title of the franchise.

The covers: There’s a bezillion different chase covers out there, and Marvel’s not exactly forthcoming with how many and who’s done what, so I found what I could online. The Main cover, which is by Adi Granov, is a nice image of Vader exiting his meditation chamber, with one knee bent as he descends the steps from it. He’s got his lightsaber out, holding it horizontally, which is an interesting choice, as I’ve never seen him do this before. The coloring is good, and there’s quite a bit of steam surrounding him, making him appear more otherworldly than usual. It’s a nice cover but the content of it could fit on any book that contained the Sith Lord. A sketchy and rather Hulkish Darth Vader holds a lightsaber leaving a wispy red trail of steam in a dark setting, surrounded by several sketchy stormtroopers. This Variant is by Whilce Portacio and it looks really rushed. The Newbury Comics Exclusive is by Salvador Larroca and it’s a great shot of Vader surrounded by three bounty hunters in Jabba’s palace. Boba Fett, Dengar, Bossk, Jabba the Hutt, Salacious Crumb, Bib Fortuna, a Jawa, and Ree-Yees all look ready for action. Very clean drawing with lots of details and spectacular coloring. The Variant by Mike Del Mundo is a close-up of Vader’s mask with Anakin from Episode I peering through his mouth grill. This reminds me of pulp art from the 1970s. Good idea, but I really can’t stand little “Ani.” The Midtown Comics Exclusive is by Mark Brooks at it features Vader, Tarkin, some troopers, a TIE pilot, Imperial guards, and the Emperor with the Death Star in the background. Feet’s too green for me on this. Mico Suayan does the Hastings Exclusive which has Vader standing on some rocks (looking like the famous Vasquez Rocks of many a sci-fi film) with three stormtroopers below him. In the background is a demonic looking Emperor and the Death Star. Reminds me of the work of Bob Larkin, so I like it. A very sharp cover can be found on the Dynamic Forces Exclusive by Greg Land. A full figured Vader stands ominously ready with a bust of Tarkin, three stormtroopers, and a young Emperor around him. The Death Star is, again, the background and a TIE Fighter flies into the lower right corner. Very nice. The Alex Ross Variant has a pair of troopers flanking Vader as he kneels down to plant his saber’s blade into snow. Very King Arthur like. Love the cape on this one. It’s Alex Ross, so you know this will look awesome. Darth is flanked by two stormtroopers as a torture droid displays a hologram of Luke on the J. Scott Campbell Variant. Excellent point of view shot looking up at the trio with two Star Destroyers in the sky. Outstanding! The Gamestop Exclusive has a gigantic Vader holding his hands out menacingly, with a small Death Star before him accompanied by several Star Destroyers and TIEs. This image by Greg Horn is more Doctor Doom than Darth Vader. Alex Ross’s webstore also has a Variant. This doesn’t feature the Dark Lord at all, but Boba Fett astride his mount from the Star Wars Holiday Special. Odd angle and focus: only for the hard core collector. The only copy available at my local store when I got in was the Sketch cover. This is a blank white cover featuring only the title and upper credits. It’s nice, and I’m glad to see that Marvel is now doing these covers. I’m hopeful that DC will follow suit. Overall grades: Main B+, Portacio C+, Newbury A+, Del Mundo C, Midtown Comics B, Hastings B+, Dynamic Forces A+, Ross A, Campbell A+, Gamestop C, Ross Website D, and Sketch B

The story: This issue takes place after the events of the first two issues of Marvel’s new Star Wars comic, but one not need read them to understand the contents of this issue. In a scene reminiscent of the Luke’s arrival at Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader enters the compound, beheading two Gamorrean Guards, rather than just Force choking him. He uses his lightsaber to convince Bib Fortuna that he be allowed to see Jabba now. The Hutt is asleep and has to be woken, and once roused is not pleased to learn that Vader is a day early and killed two of his guards. The back and forth between both villains is very entertaining, and more winks are given to the action in Jedi. Why Vader is there is told via a flashback to the day before. This involves the Emperor reprimanding Vader for allowing the Death Star to be destroyed. It’s a scene every fan knew had happened, but now they get to see it. I really liked how manipulative the Emperor was to Vader and how poorly he treated him. Pages 22 and 23 are a slick pairing that shows how one individual is keeping some information hidden. Two bounty hunters make an appearance on Pages 26 – 28. I really wish that both could have been original characters. I find the appearance of one character to be already on overload for me. The last two pages are dynamite stuff. Didn’t see that coming and really packs an emotional punch. I enjoyed this story by Kieron Gillen. He definitely has the voices of the classic characters down and he knows exactly what to do with Vader to make him a strong presence. I’m really looking foreword to next issue. Overall grade: A

The art: There is some gorgeous art in this book by Salvador Larroca. His artwork beautifully captures the likenesses of all the characters. Strong examples include Vader, Jabba, the Emperor, and the denizens of the Hutt’s palace. I was really impressed with the action in Jabba’s court. Rather than go for the expected comic book panels of squares and rectangles, the action is a series of horizontal boxes, making the events more exciting because the reader is closer to what’s going on. Coruscant is breathtaking. The settings are fantastic and having the Emperor reside in such a location made the imagery seem frail and lost with such a villain heading the Empire. Page 16 has a device from The Empire Strikes Back and it looks even more terrifying in this book than it did on the big screen. There’s a panel where the Emperor’s hands brush against it and it’s wonderfully disturbing. The smile at the top of 24 is perfectly grotesque. The greatest visual occurs on the final double-page spread. That moment spectacularly captures the power and the horror of Vader. The visuals are fantastic on this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: With the art so closely mirroring events from the films, Edgar Delgardo places the colors to match the films seamlessly. The first four pages of Vader entering the palace look like stills from the film because of the perfect colors. Once inside, I was really impressed with the blue lighting that either backlit or rained down upon the characters. What I didn’t like about these sequences was the black used for the borders. It’s a natural color to use since the focus is on the Dark Lord, but by using black some of the panels are unclear because objects in panels seem to bleed into other panels since black is employed within them. Case in point, Page 12. Panels two and three in the left seem to blob into each other. This occurs in a few other cases, but this is the worst case. Now this is avoided once the setting changes, as the other locations are much brighter and the blacks don’t cause bleeding to occur. My favorite coloring job is those final two pages. Perfection! Overall grade: B+

The letters: The first four pages are an unnecessary waste of space, which I don’t blame letterer Joe Caramagna of VC, but his work is solely on display: the classic movie opening, a double-page spread of the title, and then the prelude’s crawl. I liked Bib Fortuna’s first bit of dialogue; I’m always keen on seeing how the language is so foreign, it’s impossible to write in dialogue for the reader. Caramagna’s dialogue is okay, but, and this is such a personal dissatisfaction, I don’t like how the letters D, P, and R have their tops roll beyond their back stems. It just looks sloppy to me. I was stunned at the lack of sounds in this book, again not Caramagna’s call, but I can’t believe that readers will never get to hear a laser blast or lightsaber ignition on this book. A lack of sounds makes the fighting strangely impotent. I want to see Caramagna’s sounds! What he does is good, but I want more! Overall grade: B-

The final line: Good story and excellent art have this book easily surpassing the flagship title of the franchise. I will definitely follow this book with this team. 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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