“HE WILL BE MINE. IT WILL ALL BE MINE.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the volume. SPOILER ALERT!
When Disney decided to make the old Expanded Universe non-canon, many fans were understandably upset. However, this meant we were going to get a new, rebooted era of Star Wars comic books, novels and video games, better known as the New Canon. This reboot serves as a great jumping-on point for Star Wars fans like me, who found the old EU large, confusing and hard to start.
So every 25 days I will be reviewing another entry in the New Canon, starting with the first volume of both Marvel’s Star Wars and Darth Vader. Why every 25 days? Since it seems like the Star Wars movies have completely monopolized the holiday season for the next several years, it seems festive (you know, 25 days of Christmas?). Plus, I just like the number 25. In an effort to catch up with what I have already read, for the first four entries I will cover two entries at once. Next month, on July 19, I will be reviewing two New Canon novels, Lost Stars and Aftermath. So, without further ado, my review of Marvel’s Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader.
“Are you brave or foolish?” “That is not the question, Hutt. The question is are you?”
Following the events of Skywalker Strikes (specifically the first three issues), Darth Vader begins with Vader trying to track down Luke. After seeing that Luke was using his old lightsaber, Vader is curious just who this lucky pilot is and tasks Boba Fett with tracking him down and capturing him—alive. Meanwhile, Vader needs to redeem himself in the eyes of the Emperor. Understandably, the Emperor isn’t too happy about what happened to the Death Star and blames Vader, since he is the only survivor of the tragedy. Vader is put under the command of General Tagge, that fellow you may remember from A New Hope when Vader choked him for questioning the power of the Dark Side. But meek submission is not the way of the Sith. While appearing to submit to Tagge, Vader secretly looks into manufacturing his own army of droids with the help of newcomer Doctor Aphra. Using his new army, Vader invades a secret Imperial base that the Emperor was hiding from him and discovers a small group of would-be apprentices that have no Force affinity, but have been modified with a variety of technological improvements. The Emperor then appears and demands Vader and the experiments fight so that he can evaluate their effectiveness. After a short battle, the Emperor interrupts them and orders all to report to Tagge and not to kill each other unless they can do so without being caught. The volume ends with Boba Fett returning after losing Luke and informing Vader of his name: Skywalker.
“There is always something I can do.”
One of the issues with a prequel is the mistake of focusing the drama on the survival of the protagonist. We know that he or she must survive, since we have seen him or her in a future story. While this doesn’t necessarily ruin the story of the prequel, it makes it much less interesting since their is no drama. A truly good prequel focuses instead on exploring characters and answering questions the original story didn’t, and that is exactly what Darth Vader does. The story of Darth Vader answers questions that I didn’t even know I had about the time between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. How did Vader find out that Luke was his son? How did the Emperor react to the destruction of the Death Star?
Darth Vader also smartly never focuses the drama on whether or not Vader will survive. Both the audience and Vader himself know his power, and there is never any doubt that he will succeed. Instead, the story focuses on what Vader has to do in order to get back into the good graces of the Emperor, while also trying to find out more about Luke. Another huge plus is the portrayal of our antihero. Much like Skywalker Strikes, Darth Vader knows exactly how to approach the character of Vader. Instead of making him whiny and sullen like the prequels, Darth Vader makes Vader out to be a powerful and action-focused badass with a tragic history, one that is only ever briefly alluded to. Instead of trying to pretend the prequels never happened, Darth Vader instead has single-panel flashbacks to those events when Vader is reminded of them. This works to keep us focused on the present while also reminding us of the past and letting us get into the mind of Vader, if only briefly.
“Mind tricks are not of the Dark Side. We prefer force.”
The art of Darth Vader is simply perfect. Every panel pops with detail and life. Vader himself always looks flawless, his armor shiny and in full focus. It is nothing short of amazing that Salvador Larroca is able to convey so many different emotions on Vader simply by drawing the helmet from different angles and changing the way the light reflects off of it. The action isn’t quite as easy to follow as Skywalker Strikes but it is still excellent and engaging. If I had any complaints it is that the human characters, specifically Tagge and the Emperor, often look a bit too shiny, but this is only a minor complaint. I really couldn’t be happier with the way the comic looks.
Darth Vader validates its existence by answering lingering questions about this time period in Star Wars while also crafting an engaging tale of redemption and deceit, focusing on one of the most iconic movie villains in history. Vader also ties together the original series and the prequels by giving us insight into how the stoic Vader and the brash Anakin really are the same person without betraying our understanding of either. It is a must-read for any Vader fan and highly recommended for any Star Wars fan, new or old.
Have any suggestions for what I should read next? Which is your favorite ‘Star Wars’ comic? Tweet me (please) @adam_mcconnell. And be sure to follow us @YouNerded.
The Night Of: “The Call of the Wild” Review
Vice Principals: “The Foundation of Learning” Review
The Night Of: “Ordinary Death” Review
Joe Hill’s ‘The Fireman’ Review
How Speedrunning Changed My Perception of Games
Vice Principals: “Circles” Review
The Night Of: “Samson and Delilah” Review
‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ Review
Vice Principals: “Run for the Money” Review
The Night Of: “The Season of the Witch” Review