Darth Vader, vol. 4

Summary: Darth Vader has been secretly pursuing his own agenda, but now it is time for the End of Games. As Inspector Thanoth returns with some startling information, it seems that Vader may have passed his master’s tests. But even after finding favor in the eyes of the Emperor, the Dark Lord’s schemes may yet prove his undoing… Plus, the killer droids Triple-Zero and Beetee wreak havoc in their own homicidal adventure! Marvel’s in-depth exploration of the Dark Side of Star Wars goes from strength to strength! 

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Darth Vader, vol. 4, by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado 7.5

After reading volume 3 of Kieron Gillen’s ‘Darth Vader’ series, I started to wonder if the set was destined to move the character along after all, properly filling the gaps between ‘Star Wars‘ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘. Since that volume had essentially been filler material, I was doubtful.

Volume 4, which concludes the series with volumes 20-25, hasn’t shaken my feeling that ‘Darth Vader’ has been redundant. I suppose that the point was to show how Vader rose from the ashes of the Death Star and became more than just an enforcer, how he graduated to being the Emperor’s number one.

I’m not sure that Gillen succeeded. The first volume sets the stage, the second volume finds Vader second banana in his own book, the third is essentially a stand alone story that doesn’t change much to the story arc, and this fourth one is nothing more than a wrap up of all the loose ends.

Literally.

Volume 4 basically consists of Darth Vader killing off all his leftover rivals and liabilities. In other words, it’s a collection that cleans itself up so that there aren’t any discrepancies when it concludes its run, nestled comfortably against the opening scroll of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

All the while leaving room for spin-offs, of course.

The set opens with the Emperor telling Vader that, despite his apparent betrayal, he’d been discreetly trying to weed out Cylo and that he’d been championing Vader all along. Thankfully, Vader has none of it, and tells him so (of course, how he can possibly still respect his master is beyond me).

Vader also meets with Thanoth, who provides him with information about Dr. Aphra’s whereabouts, admitting he knows that Vader needs her to find Luke. The reason he helps Vader is that he wants Vader and Luke to rise to the top, being of the opinion that the Emperor has been a weak leader.

I’m not sure that I buy this argument. And the notion that he’s only just awakened to all the clues that were right in front of his eyes all along is absurd. Hmph. As for his logic in being executed, it seemed a but loose and short-sighted to me. Really, it’s just a dramatic tool for Gillen.

And that’s emblematic of the series: ‘Darth Vader’ is entertaining, but it isn’t entirely convincing. Gillen has done a stellar job of cleanly filling the gap between two chapters in this legendary series, so that his story doesn’t come into conflict with what’s canon. Bit it’s inconsequential.

It’s also unessential: if Disney decide to reboot the comics, Gillen’s work can easily be swept away without any lingering effect. It could easily be replaced by any other author’s alternate storyline and his work wouldn’t be missed; it doesn’t really tie ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Empire’ organically.

But, again, it’s entertainment. And, if little thought is put into it, it is enjoyable. Bolstered by Larroca and Delgado’s truly breathtaking artwork, it remains a notable entry in an expansive franchise that’s forever expanding. I just wonder if, ultimately, it’s truly worthy the Lord of the Sith.

To quote Vader himself: “The Force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet.”

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