Let me start by saying that I will not be buying Star Wars Darth Vader #2. But it really has nothing to do with the comic. I just don’t like reading my comics issue by issue. I find that experience to be unsatisfying, the individual comics are too fragile and they don’t display well on the shelf. I far prefer the graphic novel format. So for Star Wars, Darth Vader and Leia, I will be waiting for the graphic novels before reading the full stories.
Having said that, there’s really only one reason (besides impatience) to buy single issues – cover art. And despite the silly complaining I’ve read in the interwebs, I’ve been greatly impressed with the incredible covers that Marvel has commissioned for all 3 new Star Wars series. My favorites by far have been Scottie Young’s covers, which connect the three #1 issues into an awesome piece of Star Wars art that I want adorning my wall soon.
I missed out on Scottie Young’s Star Wars #1 because…I’m lame. I made sure not to make that same mistake with Darth Vader #1. My feelings on the cover art are clear. It’s awesome. I’m also a big fan of the other variant covers, including the vintage toy variant (which I admit is kinda gimmicky but we Star Wars fans love our vintage!), the Alex Ross variant and the J. Scott Campbell variant.
Okay onto the actual content…SPOILERS!
Before reading the issue, I had a good discussion with a couple of great fellow fans on Twitter regarding Vader’s depiction in the issue:
@TimG311 yup! Story, art, character appearances it was all perfectly executed. Vader felt more like Vader than he did in the SW series.
— Matt, Radar Tech (@JaigEyes66) February 12, 2015
In my opinion, Vader is the single hardest character to write. Partly because his character is inherently complex, partly because not that many people fully understand the character (myself included) and partly because Lucas himself has gone back and forth on who Vader really is (I know…Lucas changed his mind on something…SHOCKING!). The main reason I dropped Dark Horse’s Dark Times series after the first arc was because I felt that the characterization of Vader was completely off. Now admittedly I don’t pretend to have some superior understanding of Vader. I couldn’t possibly write a good Vader story. But I do think I can tell when a writer didn’t get the character quite right.
That was my primary concern going into this book and series – does Kieron Gillen really know and understand The Dark Lord of the Sith? I was encouraged by Matt and Tim’s enthusiasm. However, I can’t say that I share that enthusiasm just yet. Below are my pros and cons to the first issue:
1) Story – Nothing really happens in the first issue. This is my objection to collecting single issues. The story ends with an interesting visual that seems more fan service than anything else. But ultimately all we get is: This story is taking place post-Battle of Yavin. Vader is a huge failure and he’s on a mission to redeem himself. That’s about it. What’s that mission? Not quite sure. Oh and Jabba and Boba Fett appear.
2) Fan service – In this issue Vader returns to Tatooine (?!) where he essentially mirrors Luke’s entrance into Jabba’s Palace in RotJ. There he does some Sithy things and pushes Jabba around (not literally…well, kinda). Then we see Vader hiring Boba Fett for what seems like the first time and Fett is accompanied by an evil Wookiee. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a playground story we all made up with our vintage action figures back in ’77? Paint Chewie black and you get…evil Chewie!!!
3) Tatooine – As I mentioned, this issue primarily focuses on Vader returning to Tatooine. The problem I have with that is that a certain New Hope was raised on Tatooine. So if Vader has no problem going back to his home planet then how did it make any sense for Obi-wan and Yoda to hide Luke on that planet? To this point, many fans speculated that Vader wouldn’t want to return to his home planet and thus it was the one place Vader wouldn’t look. Well that doesn’t seem to be the case. I just find all that strange.
4) Palpatine – An important part of the story is a “flashback” which shows Palpatine’s disappointment with Vader following the Battle of Yavin. Here I simply found Palpatine to be strange. He belittles Vader, mocks him and behaves in a way that I’m not sure is consistent with the character we see in the films and TV shows. In the films, the Emperor we see is actually warm and respectful to Vader. I still remember how shocked and curious I was when we saw the Emperor address Vader as “my friend.” I always saw the two as having a very interesting relationship that wasn’t quite what you would expect from the villains. In the comic, at one point they have an awkward exchange which amounts to Vader saying “it’s not all my fault!” and Palpatine responding “I know…but everyone else is dead so I have nobody else to blame!” Their relationship in the comic seemed a lot more cliche.
1) Art – I thought this issue was well drawn. The characters looked good, there were some very cool full page panels (including the Fett/Wookiee introduction) and the overall visual quality of the issue was great. I always felt that Dark Horse’s art was unreliable so I hope that Marvel can keep up this quality. Star Wars is very much a visual medium so the art is extremely important.
2) Potential – Again, this is the first issue of what is likely planned to be a long series. So it’s a bit unfair to judge the story on just this first issue. I will say that it does set up some interesting potential storylines. It definitely raised some interesting questions that I’m looking forward to seeing answered. And as much fan service as Boba and Evil Chewie are…they’re still pretty cool. So yes, I want to see Evil Chewie do some bounty hunting!
3) Vader – I’ll put this as a semi-warm pro. I liked Vader here. I’m not sure he’s quite right, but he’s close. He’s a badass. He’s evil and he’s not taking junk from anyone not named Palpatine (and apparently one other random guy who was sitting in Palpatine’s office). He puts Jabba in his place. I like that kids reading this comic before watching RotJ could potentially see that parallel and genuinely wonder if Luke has gone Dark Side at the start of the film. I need to read more before making a conclusion but so far they seem to be on the right track.
I realize that the review seems to skew negative. I’m not negative as a whole on the comic but when it comes to Vader, my expectations are very high. I want this comic to be awesome. I hope it will be. I think it can be. But right now it’s too early to tell. Overall I enjoyed it. It looked great and the story has potential. It’s enough to make me still want to pick up the collected volume when it comes out. And ultimately that’s the most important thing – to keep the reader interested enough to come back.
See you guys for Leia #1…