In Review: Star Wars: Target Vader #1

This is a Star Wars fan's dream come true.

The covers: Four to find before the bounty hunters get them all. Nic Klein is the artist on the Regular cover. Bounty hunter Beilert Valance has a snarl on his face as he strides forward in the center of this image. To the left is Darth Vader’s helmet on an orange background. To the right is an orange and blue world against the blue of space. In the bottom right corner are four bounty hunters with Dengar one of their members. This is a good catch-all for the characters of this issue. Vader is in a pose from an old promotional photo on the Movie Photo Variant cover. The reader is looking up at Vader who has his left hand raised high as though clutching the universe. His saber is on, held low in his right hand. Behind him is a gray blob which highlights the book’s title. This is okay, but there are a zillion better photos of Vader out there. The Variant by Carmen Carnero is a character sheet study for Valance. He’s shown from three-quarters view turned to the left, though he’s facing forward, on the far left. The center shows him from the front, at top, and from the back at the bottom. He’s shown from the right on the far right. This is on a white background with the character’s costume in color on the far left, though his face is left uncolored. This is fine, but seems like a mishmosh of images. Much better is the Variant by Marco Checchetto. Vader is in the dead center of gun’s sights. The Sith appears to be on Mustafar due to the explosions of lava behind him. I like this, I like the targeting tech, and the focus on Vader. Plus, this summarizes the title visually: Vader is the target. Overall grades: Regular A-, Movie Photo Variant C, Carnero Variant C, and Checchetto Variant A- 

The story: In the Outer Rim in the lower bay docks of Fiarki, Holag approaches Uro and is asked if he thinks he brought enough guns. Holaq answers, “Honestly…no. Three low-level clans got hit last week. Three. And all by him. No survivors, Uro. None.” They commiserate that that’s the price of working for the Hidden Hand. As they talk, they don’t notice that others around them are being pulled aside. Uro disappears and Holaq is alone. He pulls his gun just as an unseen force compresses it. The rain begins to fall as the lone bounty hunter sees the bodies of his comrades on the ground. A familiar wheeze comes from behind him asking where the Hidden Hand is. Holaq turns and pleads with the unseen figure. As a familiar shadow falls upon him he begs, “Please, you have to believe me. I don’t know anything. I swear I don’t know — NO! NOOO –” A massive explosion is shown on the next page with the Lord of the Sith walking away. “I believe you.” This is a cool start to this story by Robbie Thompson which then transitions to Vader contacting the Emperor via hologram. Vader has been tasked with finding and eliminating the Hidden Hand because they are selling weapons to the Rebellion. The story then moves to Coruscant level 1313 where bounty hunter Xonr enters BG-RT’s Tavern and Spirits. He’s looking for cyborg bounty hunter Beilert Valance and finds him in a classic state. There’s some cool action that follows with another character giving him an offer that instantly piques his interest. The crew that’s assembled to join him is outstanding and I’m looking forward to seeing each character develop and I’m really interested in the characters revealed on the last page. The premise has begun and this looks to be killer! Overall grade: A+

The art: Two artists are listed for this issue (What’s going on with all the Star Wars titles having more than one artist, Marvel?) but I’m unable to tell where one artist’s work begins and ends, and that’s a good thing. Marc Laming and Cris Bolson make this an incredible looking book. The first page has the bounty hunters meeting on Fikari and it’s gorgeous right out of the gate. The characters look exceptionally well detailed and the background is a docking bay that’s alive with activity. Check out the individual in the foreground in the first panel and the ship in the distance — WOW! Holaq and Uro look spectacular. When the character is yanked out of the panel at the bottom of the page the action is incredibly strong. The other characters pulled aside on the second panel are also well done. Check out how cool the gun being smashed at the bottom of 2 looks. The shadow that ends Page 3 tells the reader exactly who’s responsible for the mayhem and a turn of the page reveals a full-paged splash showing Vader walking away from a fireball he’s set off with the motion of his hand and the Force. This is a cinematic opening. The conversation with the Emperor is cool looking and a visual clue shows that the Sith are not alone. The interiors of BG-RT’s tavern are amazing — the angles, the details in the characters, and the actions are fantastic! The design of the weapon’s check droid is fantastic. Pages 10 and 11 are primarily a double-paged splash showing Valance making his across a room and it is a great introduction to his capabilities. The character that speaks with Valance later looks good and I love the introduction to the four team members on 16. There’s a whole page devoted to a character on 19 and it’s reason enough to purchase this book. The last page features some new characters and their look was absolutely faithful to those from the films. The visuals are really strong on this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Again I have to ask: What’s going on Marvel? There are five different colorists on this issue and, as with the art, thankfully, there’s no way to tell when one begins and ends. Neeraj Menon, Jordan Boyd, Andres Mossa, Federicio Blee, Erick Arciniega are the five colorists. The faded oranges used for the backgrounds on the first two pages communicate distance to the reader as well as a rusted, sleazy setting. The sounds on the third page are in a dark red that make them harbingers of doom. The yellows and oranges of the explosions really make Vader stand out on the fourth page. On Page 6 the fourth panel has a really cool florescent colors for a unique point of view that gets repeated. I like how Valance’s blue jacket has him an eye catcher when he appears. Page 16 features four of the characters that are going to team up with Valance and the colors on these pages really pop, giving each their moment. The reds and their reflections on 19 increase the tension beautifully. Notice how the next page uses cooler colors to calm the reader as new characters are introduced. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Clayton Cowles is responsible for the scene settings, dialogue, sounds, swears, a scream, a transmission and droid speech (the same font), and a whistled tune. The scene settings look as though they hail from the SW Universe, in a elongated block font that uses lower case letters. I will say the first one on the opening page had me wondering if it was Eikari or Fikari, but I’m guessing it’s the latter. The dialogue is in a thin font that makes everyone sound like casual speakers. This would be fine for most, but Vader comes across as visually weak when he speaks. The sounds are great and there are a lot of them. I like the swearing done in grawlix, rather than in the created profanity of the films. The scream that starts Page 4 is awesome. The transmission from the Emperor and droid speech are done in italics, as they should be since they’re both mechanical forms of communication. It was also neat to see a whistled tune from a character, done with musical notes. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Vader is hunted by bounty hunters. What more could you want? How about outstanding writing with Vader at his most menacing, cyborg Valance as an absolute killer, and detailed visuals that make this seem lost a lost film? This is a Star Wars fan’s dream come true. Gear up and strap in, this is going to be awesome! 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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