In Review: Darth Vader #23

An action packed issue with a terrific cliffhanger.

The covers: Interior artist Salvador Larroca and interior colorist Edgar Delgado have created a very dramatic cover with Vader doing battle with Morit Astarte on some construction beams next to the Executor. The scale of the piece is what really sells the battle, recalling Anakin and Obi-Wan’s fight at the end of Revenge of the Sith. The perspective on the beams are great and the coloring outstanding. I love that that the Executor’s engines are going and the sun behind the pair highlight them. This is a really cool cover. The Variant cover is an Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher that looks like a lost Kenner action figure still on the card. This is the one I had to pick up because it’s an original character, BeeTee-One (BT-1), one of the killer droids that’s been in several issues of the Star Wars comics. I love the look of the figure and the giant picture that shows him in close up is super. I really love this. Overall grades: Regular A and Action Figure Variant A+

The story: Dr. Aphra regains consciousness after being taken down by a gas that was dispersed by BT in a holding area to knock out some stormtroopers. Once up, she realizes the ship is moving. Triple Zero responds, “If I’m not mistaken, someone is stealing the Executor, and is presumably responsible for all the chaos.” Cylo wants the ship for himself because he helped to make it. With Vader presumably killed last issue (Yeah, right), nothing can stop him from taking the vessel. That’s when the engines go dead and a familiar voice sounds. “Vader to bridge…You have lost control of the engines. You will not be escaping. I am coming for you.” That’s enough set up from Kieron Gillen to get this issue going. Several threads are in motion: Aphra has to get off the ship before Vader kills her, Vader is coming for Cylo, and Morit wants a shot at taking out the Sith Lord. There are several surprises in this issue, first and foremost being the location of where Morit and Vader battle. This type of battle hasn’t been in a Marvel book since they’ve reacquired the franchise and it’s fun. An ally, for the moment, is revealed to be present to assist Aphra in getting away and I’ve really grown to appreciate this character and look forward to seeing him pop up. The action done at the bottom of 17 is great, as Vader hasn’t had an opportunity to do this in a while, so it was cool to see. The final three pages have one character playing his final card against the Sith. It’s a great moment, both shocking and ominous. I’ve read practically every Star Wars novel or comic. I’ve never seen this done before and it definitely falls under “This should have been done a long time ago.” It’s brilliant. It’s a shock and and will have the reader holding his or her breath, because when this situation is resolved, it’s going to be really bad. Overall grade: A

The art: Salvador Larroca continues to make this a great book to look at. Several pages has Larroca using long panels, often five on a page. However, the book starts with three, focusing on Aphra’s awakening. Having her shown in a lower position than the droids shows her weakened state and shows the power the droids have over her, which was made more than clear last issue. The reveal at the bottom of the third panel is really creepy, with Aphra’s reaction being undoubtedly similar to the reader’s. The second page have the five long panels begin, with the center panel being a slick way to show the jarring movement of the ship. The third page is a full page splash (with a small panel inserted) that nicely shows the reader where the ships are in relationship to each other. Page 5 has an excellent introductory panel for Cylo, showing him looking at the reader, with his face looking damaged and arrogant. The fourth panel, like the third on 2, nicely shows the sudden action of their ship. The slow close up to Vader on 6 is cinematic, and having cut wires sparking behind him intensifies his threat. Pages 10 and 11 are a true double-paged splash, with the lightsaber wielders beginning their fight. The individual going after Vader looks good, posed like someone from a classical painting, while the Sith also looks good, leaning slightly backward to end this battle immediately. The setting is also tremendous on these pages. There’s a firefight on 12 and 16 that’s really well done; Larroca moves the point of view around to make this engagement exciting. The exit on 15 is the only nick I have in the visuals because it occurs too far from the reader. After all this character has done, for over a year, I wanted to see “this” up close. That may just be a sick kink in my nature, but I really wanted to see this. The final page is also a full paged splash and it’s a “Wow!” moment. The stance of the character in the foreground was a terrific shock. Larroca is making gold. Overall grade: A

The colors: The coloring is also well done on this book. Edgar Delgado makes the droids’ eyes gloriously bright in crimson and utterly terrifying; Triple Zero on 2 and 3 is ghastly. I also like how he almost bleeds into the background, reinforcing for the reader his dark nature. The third page is beautiful in its use of green for the background, highlighting the energy bleeding out of structure. These greens are used repeatedly for the exterior scenes and highlight both combatants as they battle. The gold that graces the collar of Cylo’s top gives him an arrogant air. The blaster shots on 12 and 16 have a great glow and command the strength they need when firing on the page. The cool blues used for the interiors on 17 – 19 are awesome and I hope that they get used again in similar structures. Overall grade: A+

The letters: A scene setting, Triple Zero speech and transmissions (the same font), BeeTee sounds, dialogue from a weak individual, normal dialogue, a character’s unique speech that begins on 12, and a scream are created by Joe Caramagna from VC. I’m not happy when dialogue balloons define speech rather than the lettering, and that happens in this book. The scene setting is too large and garish for this book. Again, there aren’t enough sound effects in this book: it’s somewhat laughable to see that a small device’s KLLK makes a noise, while several blasters are painfully mute. Caramagna can do better, if he’s allowed to do so. Overall grade: B-

The final line: An action packed issue with a terrific cliffhanger. Vader is out for payback, and it’s good. Good for fans and the curious of Star Wars. 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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