STAR WARS DARTH VADER: VADER (2015) MARVEL COMICS
COLLECTING - DARTH VADER #1-6
WRITERS - KIERON GILLEN
ARTIST & COLOURIST - SALVADOR LARROCA, EDGAR DELAGO
MY RATING - 7 / 10
I want you to come with me to the Dark Side. Where our main character, our figure to get behind, is essentially a space adventuring Goebbels. This isn’t the tale of an anti-hero. Not by any shot. This is Darth Vader in his prime, this is Vader pushing himself to the front of the crowd, to be the first image you think of when you think of scum and villainy. This is VADER!
This book takes place at the end of STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE. The Death Star has been destroyed and of course there must be repercussions, and seeing as there is no one else alive to point the finger at, Vader finds himself the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons. Kieron Gillen (writer of Mercury Heat, Young Avengers, The Wicked & The Divine etc) pens the tale of a Darth Vader who is struggling to come to terms that he may not be able to take on the galaxy on his own and that when you’re on the side of elitist murderers, cheats and a dirty government, you may need to watch your own back…
Vader is not alone through this run. He has a team and, truth be told, to create an original diverse team full of personality is hard. That’s made even harder when you need them to centre around the unfeeling, emotionless looking Vader. Gillen does his best to band together a group of characters that would match Vader’s needs yet also create dialogue and chemistry out of thin air. However, he does this by essentially giving Vader a bizarro-world version of Luke Skywalker’s team.
Two of Vader’s team are made up of droids. 0-0-0, or Triple Zero, is a literally a sadistic, torturous version of C-3PO whilst BT-1 is R2-D2 cosplaying Marvel’s ‘War Machine’. Vader gets these two sado-masochistic bots through his meeting with Doctor Aphra. A woman who, on the surface, could be compared to being a cross of Han Solo and Princess Leia. But she is very far removed from that comparison, showing far more bravery and initial commitment to the Empire than Han did to the rebellion.
Aphra could have been a very hard character to write as she essentially plays a servant to Darth Vader but kudos to Gillen who never makes her come off as subservient or weak. In fact she is very smart and one could say she’s playing the best hand she can when she’s “recruited” by Vader. Gillen crafts Aphra as a perfect soldier with a lot of moxie and a lot of spirit…granted that spirit is on the side of the space Nazi’s but it’s spirit nonetheless...
This book is an entertaining read with some great insights into Lord Vader, however I found myself at many points having to look back at the page before or re-reading speech bubbles to truly get what was going on. An annoying habit that also comes with reading Gillen’s The Wicked & The Divine. It’s not a bad read, but it can be a hard read and for all the wrong reasons. Take the first chapter:
Vader is meeting Jabba. Simple right? Well throw in some unnecessary time shift where we then fast forward to the day before and sprinkle a dab of unclear artwork and I genuinely didn’t get past page 5 for several minutes because I wasn’t sure if I’d missed something.
By the way Salavdor Larroca is a fantastic artist, I just feel that his direction was very misguided in certain parts of this book. Like the script was changed AFTER the drawings or he wasn’t told what was ACTUALLY happening in some squares. And I have to admit that whilst his drawings are accurately portraying some classic STAR WARS characters beautifully, sometimes their faces lack emotion or feeling. Not a problem with Vader obviously, but it did make it difficult to really get excited about some scenes.
It’s actually a great comic. I feel it paints a very entertaining past to a character who, up until now, has just been slapped with a brush that is covered in sand that gets everywhere. And you get the badass Darth scenes too. One could also argue that those scenes aren’t very clear through the artwork and you could walk away from this feeling like Vader has lost some of his gravitas, showing weakness and some humanity behind the mask but that’s the risk you take when going further down the rabbit hole with any character. We’re going to discover some things, whether you like them or not is your own problem.
I feel though that this is a jump that needs to be taken by anyone who considers themselves a true STAR WARS fan. Whilst it’s not perfect, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong or bad. I would say for every time I was a little disappointed or confused, there were five times I was enthralled, surprised and felt for the Lord of the Sith. There were some nice cameos and interesting new characters introduced to the STAR WARS universe. I know that as soon as I put the book down I began looking at getting the second volume. And I began wondering what is to become of Triple Zero, BT-1 and the Doctor who is so obviously doomed from partnering with such a psychopath.
If you like the badass Vader moments of ROGUE ONE or just love the wave of STAR WARS at the moment you should pick this up, just don’t expect it to speak down to you. Hopefully it pleases you and you leave finding that a Darth Vader comic is quite operational…
By Jay Burdett - @ProJub