Vader Down

Summary: Two of the biggest titles in comics collide in the first crossover of the new Marvel age of Star Wars! When Darth Vader accidentally finds himself facing off against the Rebel Fleet on his own, he is sent crashing onto a nearby planet. Will the Rebels seize this opportunity to put an end to one of their greatest enemies – or will they be made to feel the full power of the Dark Side? The Sith Lord may be down, he isn’t out! All your favorites are here, old and new, good and evil: Luke! Vader! Leia! Aphra! Han! Threepio, Artoo, Triple-Zero and BT-1! And, in a hair-raising battle of the Wookiees, Chewbacca versus Black Krrsantan! Roooarrgh ur roo!

COLLECTING: STAR WARS: VADER DOWN 1, STAR WARS 13-14, DARTH VADER 13-15

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Vader Down, by Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Mike Deodato and Salvador Larroca 7.5

‘Vader Down’ is a Marvel Comics ‘Star Wars’ crossover mini-series. Published at the tail end of 2015 over the course of six issues (a standalone special, ‘Star Wars’ vols. 13+14, ‘Darth Vader’ vols. 13-15), it pits the Lord of the Sith against a small Rebel fleet as he tries track down Luke Skywalker.

Though the fleet itself is no match for Vader, he’s taken down by Skywalker himself when the young pilot Kamikazes his X-Wing into his opponent’s Tie-Fighter. Now marooned on the planet’s surface, Vader decides to track down Skywalker while the latter is drawn to a nearby Jedi Temple.

When their respective allies come to help, the Sith really hits the fan.

I really like the idea of a crossover event between the two series, giving us two perspectives on the same story – though I would have hated to read the individual issues, as I’d have had to collect both series to keep up. Still, I’m not 100% convinced that the result couldn’t have been better.

Admittedly, writers Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron had to conceive of a story that wouldn’t railroad their plans for their respective series (which, in Gillen’s case, at least, also had to fit snugly between ‘Star Wars‘ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘), and that’s certainly not an easy thing to do.

But you’d think that two writers would improve a series’ quality assurance, simply by virtue of the fact that “two heads are better than one” and because, as writers, they deconstruct things uniquely, with rare overlaps. Unfortunately, a number of moments left me slightly incredulous.

  • Firstly, there’s Vader’s attack against three, three, Rebel squadrons. That’s a lot of targets for him to peck off, but it’s also dozens of skilled fighters against just one person. And though I know he’s Darth Vader, I have a difficult time imagining that the Rebels are as poor marksmen as Stormtroopers.
  • When Luke goes all out and decides to ram Vader, sacrificing his own life, I wondered why he didn’t fire all his guns as he approached, to give him a greater chance of defeating Vader – perhaps even before crashing into him. Maybe there’s a good reason, maybe he’s just impetuous, but it’s not clearly illustrated here.
  • To capture Luke, Dr. Aphra spray paints 000 to make him look like C-3PO. Oh, sure, she just so happens to have a can of gold paint on her. And it looks metallic, just like Threepio. And the paint dried immediately so that no sand/dirt stuck to it. And she was 100% accurate and painted around parts that shouldn’t be painted – like the eyes, which are suddenly a different colour. Basically, now 000 was C-3PO and Luke couldn’t tell them apart. Um… pull the other one! Afterwards, 000 simply repaints himself grey. Good thing they had a can of that too.
  • ‘Star Wars’ vol. 13 is a slightly annoying issue, being more of a comedy. It’s not even in keeping with the sillier aspects of ‘Return of the Jedi‘:

BeeTee and Artoo have a cursing match.

BeeTee pops out enough armament to start a war. And it all fits inside its shell – it doesn’t need space in there for motors, wiring, computer parts, …etc. I mean, it’s a funny scene, and all, but it makes the book feels like ‘Droids’, not a serious ‘Star Wars’ entry.

Luke kicks BeeTee off of a cliff. Haha. Forget the fact that, in the previous panel, BT is something like 50 meters away. Or that they’re nowhere near a cliff.

Han and Aphra have a shoot-out which completely devolves. That there are wasp-worms above both Han and Aphra is already too coincidental. That they run into each after both being swarmed is too slapsticky. And the fact that neither are harmed is absurd.

Yeah, this issue was too silly for me.

  • So, after being incapacitated by 000, R2 is charged with giving Chewbacca an antidote… but forgets. Really? How does that happen? And how convenient: otherwise, Chewie’s fight with Black Krrsantan would otherwise have only lasted seconds!
  • Though I loved that Threepio got his arms jacked by 000, it’s a bit simplistic. After all, 000’s arms had been torn and lopped off, so there would have been damage to the joint/socket areas. So how could BeeTee do the transplant so easily and quickly?
  • Also convenient is the fact that Commander Karbin arrives and lets his ego supplant Vader’s getting annihilated by the Rebels; he interferes so that he can do the job himself. It’s so stupid – especially after having just said “whoever loses (I am) victorious”. Silly bunt.
  • And isn’t it just a bit unlikely that Leia would not shoot while she has Vader in her sights, after having made all sorts of tough decisions thus far? I understand that her friends need help, but it’s just one shot! Take it! Then run to help. What would she have lost by shooting? A whole three seconds?

Otherwise, though, the character of Leia is pretty solid throughout: she’s a confident leader and fighter not afraid of trading sacrifices for long-term gains. It’s very much the way that you’d expect her to be. In fact, most of the characters are well-written, speaking and acting appropriately.

From an art standpoint, it’s a nice book, though I must say that I’m much more fond of Salvador Larroca’s work than Mike Deodato’s. Combined with Edgar Delgado’s colours, his art is clean, accurate and pops off the page. Deodato’s looks sketchier, muddier. Still, on the whole, it’s pleasing.

And that’s my general assessment of ‘Vader Down’: it stumbles along the way, has its challenges, but it’s certainly entertaining. But, given how difficult it is to create new adventures within a constrained space, between two movies and in conjunction with another series, it’s good work.

I’m sure that most ‘Star Wars’ fans would be pleased with it.

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