In Review: Vader–Dark Visions #2

This book brilliantly shows how Vader inspires terror among the Imperials.

The covers: Two different covers to pick up for this appropriately numbered second issue. The Regular cover is by Greg Smallwood and it’s outstanding. Darth Vader’s full figure is shown against a white backdrop. Within him is a terrified Imperial officer. A bolt of red lightning is cutting the man’s face in half, making its way down to strike the Star Destroyer below this officer’s petrified visage. Outstanding imagery and perfect colors. The officer’s face is one of absolute horror. The Variant cover is by Gerardo Sandoval and David Curiel and features the Lord of the Sith in an unusual position. He’s surrounded by four Imperial officers and he’s swinging his lightsaber around him, striking these men down. His arm is up high, leaving his saber at a downward slope and the men are reeling backwards as if they’ve already been struck. Vader looks like a giant among these men. I like the idea behind this, but the image is too close to the title character; if it had been pulled back just a titch the impact on the men could be better seen, and felt, by the reader. I do like the colors, with the reds on Vader excellent. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant B-

The story: “Unacceptable” by Dennis Hallum opens with a Rebel spy and his droid escaping the carnage that’s fallen among his fellows. He goes to lightspeed among the blowout carcasses of X-wings. This Rebel has the schematics to a key military facility, prompting Commander Tylux to utter, “Failure! Is! Un–acceptable!” One of his subordinates responds that they’ve been successful in every other regard: the Rebel base is gone, there were no Imperial casualties, and the surviving Rebel doesn’t know the location of the facility. Feeling relieved that they’ve done very well, Tylux relaxes in his quarters to be interrupted with news: “The Emperor is delighted to hear of you success. Lord Vader is en route to personally retrieve the captured Rebel spy. Please prepare the ship to receive him.” Tylux is terrified. A flashback shows him as a lieutenant witnessing Vader killing five Imperial officers because “Failure is unacceptable.” Terrified that he will be deemed a failure for not catching the spy, Tylux orders his ship to pursue the criminal. The issue follows his frenzy and the heavy losses he’s willing to endure to get this spy before the Sith arrives. I enjoyed this, even though Vader only appears on a few pages. His presence is enough of a threat to motivate Tylux to do anything to get this man to save his skin. I like that Hallum has fleeting points of view from the Rebel, providing some entertaining commentary on what’s occurring. Pages 12 and 13 show an epic blunder on Tylux’s part that he increases at the bottom of the latter. If one thinks it can’t get worse, nothing will prepare the reader for 14. Page 18 is a brilliant repercussion of these actions. The ending has the perfect conclusion. This is the best Darth Vader story I’ve read where Vader is barely present. Overall grade: A

The art: I admit to not being keen on the visuals by Brian Level initially. Going back to give the book a second read, I realized how wrong I was. Level’s art reminds me strongly of Bernie Wrightson’s character work, especially in Tylux. Every time the commander screams, grits his teeth, or looks lost I see a lot of Wrightson’s style. However, one shouldn’t mistake this praise as stating Level is a Wrightson clone; the book is definitely his own. The opening panel of the Rebel ship zooming past the destroyed ships looks great. The panel that introduces Tylux is fantastic: he is smashing one fist into the other, angry at not catching the Rebel. The spittle that comes from his mouth in the penultimate panel on Page 2 is a wonderful way to show his anger. This anger increases on the next page as he’s trying to relax and is interrupted. Look how smart Level is for splitting the third image on the page into two panels, allowing the reader to see his anger before moving to his verbal response. The bulging eyes that end the page are brilliant. The flashback sequence is perfect in showing Vader’s ferocity. Ending this memory with Tylux in a cold sweat is killer. The layouts of the pages are great, with Pages 7, 9, 16, and 19 outstanding. I love the lean into the window at the bottom of 11. Tylux is a raging maniac on 13 and the Bellicose is enduring so much damage in the bottom panel. Page 15 is the only full-paged splash of the issue, but deservedly so; this is something never before seen in a Star Wars book and it’s awesome. Notice how the panels on the following page are in organic wavy shapes that remind the reader where the story has gone. The splintering of the panels at the bottom of 19 is genius. These bits of panels comprise the panels on the final page, which, again, are brilliant. Dear Marvel, please get Level on another Star Wars tale. Overall grade: A

The colors: I was surprised by the light colors on this issue by Jordan Boyd. They’re not bad, but they are different. I’m used to seeing Imperial settings, especially those involving Vader, fairly intensely colored. Look at the use of browns in the second and third panels on the opening page: none of the objects with these colors are what one would expect. I love the vibrant oranges behind Tylux when he appears; they make him a monster. When he begins to fear Vader’s arrival the colors go a very pale orange which is what’s used during the flashbacks. It’s different. When the TIEs go after the Rebel ship they’re very pale. All of 14 is very pale. Brighter colors might have punched up what’s occurring, which is already looking good, but the washed out colors lessen the action. There are some creative colors on 16, due to the location, but things go really blasé after this when the interior of the Star Destroyer is shown. The colors are still fairly pale on 19, but they pop out because there’s a lot of white under them. The last page has too much orange. It makes all the panels a blob, with the last image not great at all. I’m not disliking these colors, but I’m not loving them. Overall grade: C

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates the dialogue, yells, droid speech and transmissions (the same font), sounds, and the two word conclusion. The droid speech and transmissions are fine as the same font because they both represent electronic speech. I don’t believe Caramagna does all the sounds of the book: his look great with an fairly heavy outline, while the others, which I believe are by Level, are sloppy looking in comparison. They would have looked much better had Caramagna done them all. Overall grade: B+ 

The final line: This book brilliantly shows how Vader inspires terror among the Imperials. The story is extreme, the action massive and surprising, and the ending fantastic. The visuals are striking for the horror and unbelievable situations created. This is a fantastic, frenzied tale. Overall grade: B+

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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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