Continuing our brief, broke interlude, here’s the companion title to Star Wars, Darth Vader. Once again, it’s dug up from the New to Comics vault, but with a little added writing so that it fits with the new style.
Outside of this, I’ve also been working on streamlining my other blog. It’s still got a fair bit of work that needs doing, but if you’re interested in film reviews from nerdy genres, then maybe check it out!
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Marvel’s Darth Vader comic is a companion piece to their initial Star Wars title, and as such, I would be foolish to look at one without the other. Ever since he first marched his way onto cinema screens back in 1977, Vader has been regarded as one of, if not the, greatest villains of all time. From his iconic design to his merciless attitude and his unspeakable power, Vader is the perfect villain, whose popularity has only grown over time.
That’s something to keep in mind as I take a look at Darth Vader: Book I.
Like its companion title, Star Wars, Darth Vader is set soon after the events of A New Hope. There is a slight time delay between the two series, as Darth Vader picks up after Vader’s initial confrontation with Luke Skywalker in the initial issues of the other series.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
The story runs concurrently with Star Wars, exploring Vader’s actions as he struggles to win back the faith of his master, Emperor Palpatine, and prove to everyone that he is still a force to be reckoned with – that his power and his worth haven’t dulled with age.
As such, the series sees Vader bartering with Jabba the Hutt, associating with bounty hunters like Boba Fett and Black Krrsantan and scheming alongside his new plucky ‘sidekick’, the breakout star of the series, Doctor Aphra and their homicidal droids, 0-0-0 and BT-1 (who are some of the funnest new characters to be added into Star Wars canon).
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
Like Star Wars, Darth Vader only really requires a knowledge of the events that have happened in the original film. However, your understanding of the various characters and references will be better off if you’ve seen the other films such as Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
You’ll also have a better reading experience if you’ve read or are reading the main Star Wars title.
SHOULD YOU READ IT?
Don’t let the words ‘plucky side-kick’ fool you. While fun, this tale is far from that of a joyful romp. It’s dark, morbid and filled with sadness and deception. And while Aphra’s presence does provide some humour, her primary purpose is to have someone for Vader to bounce off.
As you’ll know from the films, Vader is a man of few words. He speaks with his actions and his demeanour. Instead of raising his voice, he’ll draw his lightsaber. Instead of showing sadness, he’ll simply choke a sorry sucker out. And if there’s one thing Darth Vader loves, it’s choking people out:
Unsurprisingly, he also chokes someone out in this comic, but I’ll leave the ‘who’ for you to discover by yourself.
But with Aphra’s presence, you’ve got someone to bring the dialogue in what would otherwise be a very ‘quiet’ comic book. That’s not to say this wouldn’t work without Aphra. Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca are clearly keen students of the Star Wars saga, and that shows, not only in satisfying story that references and links to the Original Trilogy, but also to the Prequels.
This is why the prequels are so important. The stories they tell give future writers something to work off. Without Anakin’s relationships, Vader would be, for the most part, an unknown entity. And yeah, sure, a new writer could come along and build him up, but being able to go in with a fully formed character and put him in situations knowing his past makes those situations far more interesting. Whether that be the Emperor mockingly telling someone that the word ‘children’ brings up bad memories, or characters asking if Vader’s ever been to Tatooine.
In fact, the two scenes that are most rooted in the continuity of the prequels in this comic are the most powerful. Vader thinking back to his life as Anakin, and how it reflects his current situation can make him even more terrifying or tragic.
Furthermore, it fleshes out his relationship with the Emperor to a great degree, and really makes Palpatine seem like a right arsehole. Which, let’s be fair, he is. The very foundations of Vader’s apprenticeship are called into question in this comic, as both the Emperor and Vader’s various peers look down on him like a simple tool. They dehumanise him, and as a result, you find yourself empathizing with a villain, despite having just seen him do some pretty despicable stuff.
And the art. While I’m always a bit uncertain about how I feel about Larroca’s art, on account of it’s weird ‘realism’, but with a somewhat uneasy quality about it, here, I find, it really works. While John Cassaday’s art over on the other Star Wars title is pretty stellar; his Vader, among other things, have a tendecy to lean into being somewhat cartoonish. Larroca’s art here doesn’t do that in the slightest. It fits perfectly with drawing Star Wars characters, and his Vader looks like it’s been plucked right out of the movies.
Once again, the force is strong with this comic-book, and for that, I give it: