Darth Vader, vol. 1

Summary: The original Dark Lord of the Sith stars in his first ongoing series! Ever since Darth Vader’s first on-screen appearance, he has become one of pop culture’s most popular villains. Now, follow Vader straight from the ending of A NEW HOPE into his own solo adventures – showing the Empire’s war with the Rebel Alliance from the other side! But when a Dark Lord needs help, who can he turn to? As Vader pursues a very personal vengeance against the Rebels and investigates the Emperor’s secret machinations, he clashes with weapons scavenger Aphra and deadly Battle Droids, and returns to Geonosis to build an army. But some very powerful people don’t want him to learn the truths he seeks! Guest-starring Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett and more!

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Darth Vader, vol. 1, by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado 7.75

I’m no great ‘Star Wars’ fan anymore. Between George Lucas’ endless facelifts, his prequels and the franchise’s near-omnipresence, what made the originals special has gotten buried in a barrage of lesser carbon copy. But when I discovered that Kieron Gillen, the genius behind the ‘Phonogram‘ series, wrote a Darth Vader storyline, I felt that I should give it a chance.

‘Darth Vader’, which ran for 25 issues from 2015 to 2016, begins where ‘Star Wars‘ ends: in the aftermath of the destruction of the Death Star. It finds the Sith Lord having lost the respect of his master, the Emperor, who is upset at having lost 20 years’ worth of strategizing in one swoop; he blames his apprentice, who has a difficult time accepting any responsibility.

It’s an intriguing place to start with, because, as Gillen says in an interview published on starwars.com, Vader essentially has to rise from the ashes to become the powerhouse that we find in ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘; whereas he was a mere enforcer in ‘Star Wars’, through this series he has to regain the Emperor’s trust, bolster his position and develop his powers further.

After all, Darth Vader is a much more powerful character in ‘Empire’ than he was in the original film.

Personally, I really like how the series takes off, with these first five issues: I found it quite interesting to discover that Vader is demeaned by the Emperor, calling him a blunt instrument (shades of ‘Casino Royale‘ anyone?) and then forcing him to report to his rival, Grand General Tagge – who also adds to his humiliation by having all of his communications monitored and vetted.

You can feel Vader fuming inside his black metallic shell.

I loved watching Darth Vader making his own plans in the background, serving his own interests; it seemed so in character for Anakin or the Sith Lord. Here he’s trying to put together his own army, now that he doesn’t have access to one, and he’s trying to find out what secret plans the Emperor is up to. And, boy, is he up to something: Vader will not be pleased.

Unfortunately, the dialogues don’t always resonate as true for Vader. For Anakin, maybe, but the Vader we knew in ‘Star Wars’ was less verbose and insecure; I imagine him as a silent, ominous presence more than anything else. Here he interacts a bit more than what is likely; in many instances I would imagine him remaining silent instead of fueling the exchanges.

Nonetheless, Gillen is mindful not to overdo it.

One thing that amused me was seeing an evil Wookie work with Boba Fett, given that Boba Fett is sort of Han Solo’s counterpoint. Thankfully, it’s not overdone: Black Krrsantan is just a side character with little panel time. I also liked 000, a protocol droid skilled in torture and murder, but who maintains C-3PO’s bright disposition; he’s a twisted version of the golden droid.

Heh heh… I like it.

Its killer side-kick, BT-1, however, left me indifferent – down even to its design. That’s not to say that Larroca isn’t a skilled artist, I just would have taken a different approach, is all. In all honesty, the art is actually quite good: slick and, for the most part, accurate. Larroca really brings the world of ‘Star Wars’ to life, and he made it a very pleasing to read on all counts.

All told, I’m enjoying ‘Darth Vader’ more than I’d expected to; there are some interesting twists and developments, though I’m not 100% sure that they’re in keeping with the original series. And this book feels a bit gimmicky, what with (for all intents and purposes) an evil Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2D2 already injected into it. We’ll see how it develops in the next few books.

I’ll take at least another trip on the dark side with Gillen and Larroca.

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