Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Release Date: 20th October, 2015
One of the most iconic villains in the history of cinema, Darth Vader has been given his own ongoing series as part of Marvel’s re-acquisition of the Star Wars license. Picking up after the events of A New Hope, this series sees Vader coming to terms with his failure at the Battle of Yavin; a failure which led to the destruction of the Death Star. Being able to witness these events from the ‘Dark Side’ perspective is intriguing, as is the internal politicking of the Empire, and Vader’s ongoing attempts to solidify his position as the right hand of the Emperor provide the backbone of this series.
Writer Kieron Gillen makes some interesting storyline choices along the way, some of which land beautifully (the addition of droids “0-0-0” and “BT-1”, essentially a homicidal C3PO and R2D2), with others feeling a little forced (the inclusion of Doctor Aphra, a spunky female sidekick who continually geeks out about her association with Vader). For the most part however, the story flows smoothly as Vader’s schemes and machinations gradually come to fruition, leading to a tense showdown as the past, present and future of the Empire collide.
Gillen also has some fun along the way, providing some affectionate fan service with the inclusion of characters like Boba Fett and Jabba The Hutt, and he lays out the story in a decidedly cinematic style, filled with animated conversations, startling reveals and glorious splash pages where you can practically hear John Williams’ iconic score swelling in the background. There are also some great moments of characterisation scattered throughout the book; single panels of introspection where were are given a brief flashback to Vader’s past, and these moments provide more insight into his emotions than mere dialogue ever could.
The artwork is solid enough for the most part, but it sometimes appears as though Salvador Larocca is trying a little too hard to be photorealistic, resulting in some awkward facial expressions and an occasional ‘wax work’ aesthetic. Vader himself looks absolutely stunning however, and Larocca does a truly impressive job with the aforementioned splash pages, providing several poster-worthy visualisations of Gillen’s key storyline beats.
Overall, aside from a few minor niggles, there’s no doubting that the force is strong with this one, and Gillen and Larocca have put together an impressively intriguing look at the Dark Lord of the Sith that should have fans rubbing their hands together with glee. While it isn’t without its flaws, the sheer affection that the creators seem to have for the subject matter carries this one through, and provides an eyebrow-raising look at the transition period between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]