Editors Note: We have a new contributor around these parts and I hope she sticks around for a while. Everyone, please welcome Bria LaVorgna as she embarks on comic book reviews, starting with "Darth Vader Volume 1:"
There’s a lot riding on the first volume of a new comic book. Will the first issue catch the attention of readers? Will the second issue live up to the promise? Will this first story arc tell its own complete tale but still leave readers wanting more? In the case of "Darth Vader," Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca had an even bigger challenge in front of them. "Darth Vader" was the second book Marvel launched after they took back the reins from Dark Horse and while their choice of creative teams certainly showed that they were taking this seriously, there was still a lot to live up when it came to fan expectations.
"Darth Vader" is set very soon after A New Hope and ties directly into the first few issues of the main ongoing Star Wars title. The Emperor is incredibly displeased with Vader and doles out his punishment even as Vader becomes obsessed with the pilot who blew up the Death Star and carries Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber.
Gillen doesn’t pull any punches with this first arc and simultaneously sets up what readers can expect for the rest of the series. By Issue #3, we have our core cast and it’s clear (perhaps more so in hindsight) where this story is going. The Emperor may have an Empire but Vader now has his own agenda. We’ve seen many a Vader book before but never one that approaches him from quite this angle.
The cast, by the way, is one of this book’s greatest strengths. Triple Zero and Beetee are obvious evil takes on Threepio and Artoo but still delightful in their own murderous ways. Dr. Aphra is the standout because she feels so genuine. She talks a lot when she gets nervous, she fangirls over Vader a little, and she has a realistic view of what any involvement with Vader might lead to. Despite us only knowing her for four issues thus far, she comes off as being as fully realized of a character as Emperor Palpatine. Gillen’s Palpatine feels manipulatively perfect and Cylo, Vader’s adversary, even has an appeal.
One of the best things that this series does is embrace the Star Wars saga as a whole. This isn’t a book that pretends the Prequels have no effect on the Originals and just sweeps them under the rug. This is a book the revels in them because they are painfully key to Darth Vader. Each flashback panel is used effectively and (frequently) like a stab to the heart. The last few pages of this arc are, without a doubt, some of my favorites in all of comics as Vader realizes that he has a son.
Salvador Larroca was a solid pick for the art especially with Edgar Delgado providing the colors. He does nice, consistent work that’s a good tonal fit for the book and he does fairly good likenesses. My only complaint is that occasionally some of the poses for Aphra feel a little too sexualized but it’s thankfully not something that’s happening every page. The facial expressions more than make up for it.
"Darth Vader Volume 1" is a solid 9 out of 10. Gillen and Larroca have brought something new and exciting yet familiar to this famed character: not an easy feat.
"Darth Vader Volume 1" is available now online and from finer comic book stores everywhere.
Bria LaVorgna is a geek who doesn't remember a time when she didn't love Star Wars and thrives on the nerdy life.You can find her on Twitter.