Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith, is now the focus of his very own comic from Marvel. While this is only the first issue, I am pretty pleased and am looking forward to seeing where the rest of the series is going.
The comic picks up shortly after the events of Star Wars #2 and not long after A New Hope, with Vader trying to enforce the Emperor’s will after the destruction of the Death Star. The book opens with Vader paying a visit to the notorious gangster Jabba the Hutt on behalf of the Emperor, after Jabba’s emissary was intercepted and replaced by Han Solo in Star Wars. Vader is a day early, however, and has a personal matter which he would like to address with the Hutt gangster. Kieron Gillen seems to understand Vader’s character much more than Jason Aaron does with Star Wars. Vader acts and talks exactly the way I would expect him to. In a franchise series like this, where the characters are so well known, it really stands out when characters act and sound contrary to the established norms and it really takes away from the story for fans. The reason that fans buy comics like this is that we want further adventures of our favorite characters. In order for that to work, they need to be recognizable.
I also really enjoyed the back and forth between Vader and the Emperor later in the book. While Vader may be a Sith and one of the Emperor’s greatest servants, it is obvious that the Emperor doesn’t completely trust him, especially after the disastrous loss of the Death Star. More than once the Emperor insinuates that it was Vader’s fault that the battle station was lost and how convenient it was that he happened to be the sole survivor. The additional fact that Vader is made subservient to Admiral Tagge really gets under the Dark Lord’s skin and you can see his frustration in his further interactions with Jabba, Jabba’s associates, and the other Imperial officers that Vader deals with. Even twenty years after the fall of the Old Republic, Vader is still playing second fiddle and it is beginning to get to him.
I really enjoyed the art in this book. Salvador Larroca has a great handle what the characters look like and is able to replicate that smoothly, as is not always the case when dealing with characters from movies. One panel in particular that caught my attention was one of Vader and the Emperor looking out of a window on to Coruscant. Both characters are actually shown through the reflection of the window and Larroca makes really awesome use of this perspective and the mix of colors it allows for. Given the large amount of black and gray that the Imperials wear, it was a particularly striking panel.
The one place that Larroca falls short is in linear story telling. There are a number of panels that look good, but it’s difficult to tell exactly what is happening from one to the next, except for the fact that Vader is hacking things up with his lightsaber. In part I think this is due to the fact that the panels are too close to the action. Much like modern American action movies, the shoot is framed far too tightly, only giving a quick snippet of action before rapidly jumping the next, whether or not it is connected to the previous. In a universe like Star Wars, where the reader are already familiar with how the general flow of action goes, it’s not nearly as bad. If this were a different book however, it would make things difficult, especially for new or young readers who don’t have the same level of experience that others might have.
Overall I’m reasonably pleased with this series after one issue and it certainly appears to have a promising future. With the next issue only a couple weeks away, I’m looking forward to the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite Sith Lord. 4/5 Death Stars