I was one of the few people who didn’t enjoy Star Wars #1 (you can read my review here), so of course I decided to pick up Darth Vader #1! How could I not? It’s Darth Vader in his own book! Did I have the same problems I did with the main title? Read on and find out.
Previously in Darth Vader: The rebels blew up the Death Star. Now someone has to take the blame and considering Darth Vader let them get away with the plans, it’s not looking good for him.
MAN, DID HE GET A TOUNGE LASHING!
Kieron Gillen has the difficult task of writing this book. How do you tell stories about a well known villain whose past has been explored numerous (some would argue too many) times already? The answer is tell one where Vader’s emotions are actually explored. I must say, I was impressed.
As with Star Wars #1, the book starts with the classic scroll and it’s a nice touch Marvel is using consistently throughout the titles. Taking place after the Episode IV, the Emperor is extremely mad about the destruction of the Death Star by the Rebels. Who gets the blame? None other than main man himself, Darth Vader. Having no one else left alive Vader is forced to take the full responsibility of the failure. It’s an interesting dynamic Gillen writes between the two and it’s clear the “love” and appreciation Vader’s master once had is all but gone. This isn’t the evil scary Vader he evolves into later. The berating Vader takes from the Emperor clearly has an effect on him and reads as if some sympathy is to be had. Don’t be fooled though; he’s still a bad mo’fo’. The opening has him calmly walking into Jabba the Hutt’s palace, killing two guards that stand in his way. When Jabba mentions this Vader replies “I only killed two.” Not someone to be trifled with.
What I’m most interested in seeing play out is Vader’s discovery of the existence of his children. He can tell something isn’t right and needs to find out what it is. It’s something I don’t remember being touched before and will be intriguing to see what Gillen comes up with. The same problems I had with Star Wars #1 continue with this book and are due to the setting. By bringing in characters whose stories we know the endings to it limits the writer in what he can do. While I loved seeing Boba Fett show up at the end, the implied fight between his partner and his bounty won’t have the same effect as it would with new characters. In all honesty it’s less of a problem in this book but was still in the back of my head. In the end I really enjoyed this issue and its new look at Darth Vader. Some may be upset at seeing a human side to Vader but if you haven’t gotten over that by now, you never will.
HE IS SWINGING THAT LIGHT SABER ISN’T HE?
I really dig Salvador Larroca’s art and remember loving him on Invincible Iron Man. He really nails the look and tone of Star Wars and Darth Vader. His style is one like John Cassady on the regular book, where he uses stills and photo references. The upside is that the characters look spot on and are unmistakable but it seems Larroca leaned too heavily on reference. Some shots are straight out of the movies and can be pinpointed where they’ve been lifted from. While Vader’s entrance into Jabba’s palace is clever in that it mirrors Luke’s from Return of the Jedi, there is also an uncomfortable air of familiarity. Action is where Darth Vader #1 suffers the most. There is zero motion to the panels and aside from a few motion lines, it’s near impossible to tell who’s moving what. While Darth Vader is supposed to be deflecting laser blasts and swing his light saber, none of that is translated and instead looks as if he’s holding it awkwardly. It passes this issue because it’s more dialogue focused but I worry the next issue will suffer as it looks to be action packed.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A NEW LOOK AT VADER
I really enjoyed Darth Vader #1 more than I was expecting. Kieron Gillen does a great job portraying Vader as both an evil villain as well as someone who now has a huge burden put on him. The interactions between him and the Emperor are something we haven’t seen before and is the standout scene in the issue. Larroca’s art is extremely detailed and looks wonderful but suffers from lack of movement. I suggest giving this one a read at first and see where it heads because it has the chance to be great.
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