In Review: Vader-Dark Visions #1

This issue does not have me hopeful for the rest of this series.

The covers: This first issue features four different covers if one needs to have the complete Sith experience. The Regular cover is by Greg Smallwood and features Vader in a pose looking inspired by the work of a Frank Frazetta painting. Sitting on an alien steed that looks to have demonic horns, Lord Vader wields his lightsaber in one hand and a shield in the other that bares the Imperial logo on it. Against a nightmarish red background three birds fly above. Nice idea, but it’s too dark to make anything out. I would rather the entire image be in silhouette than be this dark. The first Variant is by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Elia Bonetti and this is an epic image. Vader at the center bottom standing defiantly with his back to the reader but facing the Ender, the creature he battles in this issue. This looks like Vader versus a Kaiju. The characters are clear, their poses outstanding, and the coloring gorgeous. The next Variant is equally impressive. Vader stands atop a rock, holding his saber high before the throng of people from the planet he lands on in this issue. They stop in their tracks in their ascent to him to point at the monster that’s risen behind him, the creature’s gigantic eyes flashing at the Sith. A spectacular illustration with drop dead beautiful colors. This needs to be a print. Outstanding work from Leinil Francis Yu & Romulo Fajardo Jr. The Photo Variant cover features a classic scene from The Empire Strikes Back as Vader oversees Han Solo being placed in carbonite. He rests his hands on his belt as the watches his bait processed. I really like how his head just barely covers the bottom of the subtitle. This is definitely one to track down! Overall grades: Regular D, Camuncoli Variant A, Yu Variant A, and Photo Variant A+

The story: Narrated by unknown inhabitant of an unnamed planet, Vader’s TIE is damaged while fighting against several Rebel ships. He has to land on the planet to await pickup and is witnessed, by the narrator, battling a gigantic creature called a Ender. That’s what this issue is about. The voice of the narrator is that of an innocent youth witnessing something beyond his comprehension. In fact, because his hate of the Ender is so great, he believes Vader to be knight battling the monster. This is a neat idea by Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, but it never goes beyond this premise. Is the ending ever in doubt? The last two pages are a solid bookend, but I don’t expect to see this character, or his world, again. When all is said and done, this is just Vader fighting a Kaiju. Overall grade: C

The art: I did not like the art by Paolo Villanelli. It starts good enough as the narrator is shown living an idyllic life on the surface of his world with his people. The ruins of the city and the foliage that now grows over them are a neat setting. On Pages 4 and 5 a double-paged spread shows a huge battle in orbit between several Star Destroyers and Rebel cruisers, including several TIEs and X-wings. This is a massive battle that’s followed by a page showing Vader in his TIE taking down an X-wing and getting so damaged he has to land. From this point on the narrator has his mouth open in scream of terror/shock/disbelief. It got to be unintentionally humorous to see how he could have it in that frozen scream for the rest of the issue. Vader’s emergence from his ship is not great: the sun is behind him, allowing much of his figure to be lost in the glare and his lower legs disappear in a cloud of dust. The rise of the Keeper is a full-paged splash, but it, too, is lost to the light source of the sun and the narrator is in the foreground, having the reader focus on the character rather than the creature’s entrance. Vader’s first strike with his lightsaber is a panel drowning in speed lines. The panel that’s almost a double-paged spread on 12 and 13 is a mess due to the point of view. There’s no transition point from this large panel to the one that immediately follows: the reader needs to know where Vader is to carry out this action and I can’t tell. The large panel on 18 with the Ender rising up is ruined by the light source, again. The full-paged image of Vader on the horse could have been great, had he not been leaning down. Yes, it’s necessary for the story, but he could have been sitting upright and completed the same action, allowing the reader to more clearly see him. The double-paged splash on 22 and 23 holds no impact because Vader is too far from the reader and the title character is a mess on 24. The next two pages have Vader, again, obliterated by the light source. I haven’t noticed so much overuse of lighting since 2009’s Star Trek reboot. The art improves considerably on the final two pages, but Vader has already left the building. This was not good. Overall grade: D+

The colors: Arif Prianto starts the book with some fairly bright colors with the narrator and his world, but things become faded once Vader hits the scene. Why? Say it with me, “the light source.” The sun is destroying the artwork. It’s too strong. It’s not making the imagery cool, it’s making it look hidden. The light source of the fire on the final pages is also too much. There’s a lot of orange used when Vader strikes the Ender and his lightsaber is its iconic red. Other than that, the colors are fairly rote. This is surprising as Prianto has done much better work in many other books. I can only think that he was directed to use these colors so often. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Narration, dialogue, sounds, and droid sounds are created by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I really like the narration of the character telling this story because it’s unique to the character and looks like nothing seen in any Star Wars comic. It instantly made the character stand out. The dialogue is fine, with it often becoming yells as the narrator tries to survive the skirmish between the two titans. The sounds of Raz are very cool; cute, but entirely appropriate for a droid. The sounds are also good, with the best being from the Ender. Overall grade: A

The final line: This issue does not have me hopeful for the rest of this series. The story is so basic as to allow the artist endless opportunities for epic levels of excitement, but the visuals are the weakest element of this issue and that’s not good for a comic book. When all is said is done, did anything important happen? Was there anything memorable in this? The answer is, sadly, no. This is only for the most hardcore Star Wars fans. Overall grade: C

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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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