In Review: Darth Vader #20

Paying an extra buck is sapping my enjoyment, Marvel.

The covers: The Regular cover is a sensational piece by Mark Brooks. It’s set in the Emperor’s throne room. Vader has his hands on his hips, standing in the foreground. Behind him to his left is the Emperor, creating some Force lightning. Four crimson members of the Emperor’s guard are behind the pair of them. The window and its view is terrific, as are the stairs. When was the last time you had stairs get a shout out in a review. A spectacular cover. The Action Figure Variant cover is by John Tyler Christopher and it features an original character from this series: Thanoth. The Inspector looks great in his oversized image on this fictional card and the figure has me wishing that this was a real toy. This is another cover to track down. The final cover is titled The Story Thus Far and features several characters, all illustrated excellently. Vader is front and center with his lightsaber out, the Emperor’s smiling cloaked head is over his right shoulder, Dr. Aphra is over his left shoulder — looking at him with indifference, below her is Chewbacca, Luke, Liea, and Han, the two killer droids are to the heroes’ right, and Cylo’s creations line the bottom of the illustration. A lot going on, to be sure, but Reilly Brown makes it great. Overall grades: Regular A+, Action Figure Variant A+, and The Story Thus Far A 

The stories: “With the unrest on Shu-Torun subdued” Vader is summoned to Kuat to meet with Emperor Palpatine. Upon arrival he and all those aboard his Star Destroyer see Tagge’s new flagship, the Executor. Aboard the ship is his Master, who continues his teaching of the Dark Side with his apprentice. The Emperor reveals how he climbed to power and how Darths Maul and Tyranus served their purposes. He also comments on Vader’s failure at Mustafar and why the cyborg Sith must go after Cylo. Before leaving on his mission, the pair share a creepy moment of understanding. Before going after Cylo, Vader goes to Anthan 13 to confront Inspector Thanoth, who has learned too much of the Dark Lord’s secret dealings. Their conversation is incredible, with what the man puts in the monster’s head amazing. The droids are given their own mission by Vader at the issue’s conclusion and it will be the source of conflict for next month’s installment. This story by Kieron Gillen is excellent, with Vader primarily listening to others, though his presence and resolve are never questioned. This story bears repeated readings for all that’s said. There’s also a ten paged back up story from Gillen titled “The Misadventures of Triple-Zero and BeeTee.”  This has the droids getting an upgrade and running into trouble. This is a nice way to show the droids on their own and reveal a little backstory on the pair. Also a terrific read. Overall grades: Both A

The art: No one draws the Emperor like Salvador Larroca. He’s an absolute horror in this book, which is exactly the way he should look. If there’s any character that should be more fearsome than Vader, it’s this Sith Lord. The double-paged spread of 2 and 3 is a spectacular introduction to the iconic ship from The Empire Strikes Back that will, soon, become Vader’s personal ship. The Emperor’s chamber on board the Executor is familiar to that of the second Death Star to create the same ominous feeling, but is different enough to be engaging–with that staircase being awesome. Vader’s arrival on Anthan 13 is great, accomplished by Larroca in five panels. There’s no text, making the entrance all the more tense. Thanoth’s conversation with Vader is beautiful, with Larroca showing his exceptional understanding of lighting. The second story is drawn and inked by Mike Norton. This artist needs to get his own book immediately. His work with the droids is strong, giving them a great emotional range with just a slight tilt of the head or a tight focus on a character. There’s also a human in the story and he looks great. The setting is in a workshop and it’s littered with some fantastic odds and ends. The best panel of the story is unquestionably the second one on Page 6: it’s dramatic, frightening, and just all out awesome. Both stories look outstanding. Overall grades: Both A+ 

The colors: A different colorist worked on each story in this issue. Edgar Delgado is responsible for the “The Shu-Torun War” and David Curiel did the droid back up. The double-paged splash on 2 and 3 is really impressive for the use of green on Kuat; this makes the silver ships stand out really well. The Emperor’s yellow eyes bore into the reader each time Palpatine flashes them. When the Emperor activates a hologram projector, the room gets a rose color that makes his discussion with his apprentice all the more sinister. Red is used for Vader’s lightsaber when he speaks with Thanoth, which stands out brilliantly against the blue and violet backgrounds. Triple Zero’s eyes blare out in red-yellow at the reader in the second story and dominate a panel when he begins to give orders. The yellow shock of hair on Ruen has the human standing apart from the machinery around him. The explosions at the conclusion of the story are very impressive for their colors. Both artists did a tremendous job on this book. Overall grades: Both A+

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna is responsible for the lettering on both stories. His contributions included scene settings and ship identification (the same font), droid speech, dialogue, a yell, BeeTee sounds, and the title and credits of the second story. The scene settings continue to be a mismatch for the story and the dialogue is too flimsy to hold any power in the characters’ words. Only when Vader yells at a character does an individual’s speech pack some punch. Overall grade: B+

The final line: I enjoyed this issue, but, again, the price was a dollar more than usual. The extra ten pages were good, but I would rather they had been in another book published at a later date. Paying an extra buck is sapping my enjoyment, Marvel. 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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