Review – Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 (Marvel)

star_wars_vader_granov_covPublisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Release Date: 11th February 2015

Darth Vader has been covered in-depth many times in novels and comics; as recently as last year, Dark Horse’s Cry of Shadows miniseries explored the relationship between the Dark Lord and how he inspired (and repulsed) his own followers. This begs the question, what is there left to do? Well now that the Expanded Universe has been swept aside, the source material for Vader’s character has been stripped back to the original trilogy. This means fresh ideas can be explored about the heavy-breathing Sith Lord.

Story-wise, this title was granted ‘too big to fail’ status even before I read it. With the world godfather of all things Wicked and Divine, Kieron Gillen, at the helm, Marvel essentially guaranteed the highest quality of writing possible from the get-go. With the story taking place just after the first Death Star was torpedoed, Gillen has explored the aftermath of the Rebel’s success from the Empire’s perspective; in that Vader is the only man of any importance left alive from the fiasco, and so must be the target of blame and of the Emperor’s anger.

In an interview with Wired recently, Gillen explained the series further: “…it’s the fall and rise of Darth Vader, the guy at the end of Star Wars becoming the guy at the beginning of Empire… a guy in power who gets slighted and starts using tactics he’d never had used before to get his own back.”

The actual dialogue in the book is used sparingly, indeed there are only eight words spoken (in English/Galactic Basic) in the first three pages. This is ideal, as it allows Salvador Larroca’s subtle and utterly atmospheric artwork the chance to glide the story forward like a cruising Star Destroyer. Moreover, it perfectly reflects the suspicious, contemptuous way the unsavoury characters of Vader, The Emperor, Jabba the Hutt and the rest would speak to and threaten one another.

Larroca’s triumph for me is his portrayal of the Emperor. While the man is obviously a cracked and maniacally cruel creature, there is a danger of his being included as a dimensionless evil baddie. Larroca manages to make the Emperor’s twisted personality peer through the wrinkles, with his infinite strategic patience, intellect and sadistic humour all wonderful to behold.

And speaking of art, I must admit that I was suckered into buying a variant this time. Adi Granov’s flagship cover is nothing to turn up one’s nose at, but I couldn’t help being drawn to the Mike Del Mundo variant of little Ani timidly peering from the mask of his horrifying future self.

I believe that this first issue has equalled and eclipsed the Star Wars launch of last month. Like Vader and the Emperor, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca are a powerful combination. I cannot wait to see the dark directions this series will take and how the Dark Lord grows in power and menace, and for further brilliance from this writer and artist’s collaboration.

Rating: 5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Lewis “Daft Vader” Campbell
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