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Review: ‘Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1:–Vader’

Star_Wars_Darth_Vader_TPBStar Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1–Vader
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Marvel Comics; $19.99
Rated T for Teen

Marvel’s second monthly ongoing Star Wars series is also the first to star Darth Vader, although the Dark Lord of The Sith has been the protagonist of several excellent miniseries created by the franchise’s previous license-holder, Dark Horse Comics.

Despite having a different writer in Kieron Gillen, the series is tied so incredibly closely to the Jason Aaron-written Star Wars ongoing that Vader’s storyline seems to criss-cross in and out of them both. In the pages of Vader, we see some scenes that feed directly into the Star Wars comic, others that serve as the result of what occurred there, and the last moments in both trade collections are the exact same scene told slightly differently: Vader being informed of the last name of the rebel pilot who blew up the Death Star and, more recently, embarrassed him by helping destroy an Imperial weapons factory right under Vader’s nose…er, respirator.

Vader is, obviously, not the ideal candidate for his ongoing comic book because, despite the prequel trilogy’s attempts to make him a sort of tragic figure, he’s still the bad guy. And he’s not a particularly emotive, talkative, expressive or colorful bad guy. He’s a sheath of black metal and fabric, wearing a frozen mask and speaking only when necessary.

Writer Gillen attempts to make Vader a somewhat sympathetic figure by making him seem like a victim of his master, The Emperor, and thus scheming against The Emperor. It works okay, but then, that’s what every writer of every Darth Vader comic book has done before. Gillen ups the ante by having The Emperor heap more scorn than usual on Vader, as he makes him the sole scapegoat of the fiasco at the end of the original film (“You are the only one still living to suffer my anger,” The Emperor tells him).

And so Vader runs some errands, including visiting Jabba The Hutt and his palace and negotiating with the slug-like crimelord, gets repeatedly chewed out, and then makes some much-needed friends, friends who give the book the colorful supporting cast it needs. These include Doctor Aphra, a sarcastic but ingenious weapons and computer expert, and a pair of droids. These are 000, “Or Triple Zero,” if you prefer, a black-plated, red-eyed protocol droid that is a complete sadist (a deliberate attempt by Gillen and Larroca at creating an evil opposite of C-3PO), and BT-1, a black, bullet-shaped “Blastomech” droid, which is basically a heavily-armed, evil version of R2-D2 that is, in Aphra’s words, “entirely homicidal.”

With his own rag-tag crew, roughly echoing that of the rebel heroes, Vader seeks to create his own personal army and stumbles upon some of The Emperor’s strange experiments at engineering a potential replacement for him.

Larroca’s sample-heavy art style is better-suited for a book like this, where almost every panel is full of characters, objects, and places that an artist like Larroca can easily find plenty of images of, although he fares far less well when it comes to depicting the collection’s relatively few un-masked human characters (just Aphra, a pair of the Emperor’s servants, and a handful of Imperial officers, really). Larroca’s style is also fairly stiff, even when compared to that of Star Wars’ John Cassaday, whose work is more posed and stately than fluid and dynamic.

It likely won’t matter. This is clearly the secondary of Marvel’s two ongoing books, not only in terms of importance but also in quality, but the fact that it is tied so closely to the primary Star Wars comic–lashed to it, really–means its relative drawbacks should prove negligible to its very wide and enthusiastic audience.

Plus it’s got the cacklingly, gleefully evil versions of the benign, even anodyne heroic droid characters going for it.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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