Editor's Note: We have the second guest review from Bria LaVorgna. This time she breaks down the second volume of Darth Vader comics from Marvel.
Vader’s hunt for Luke Skywalker continues except now he’s a little more focused on figuring out the truth than the pilot’s location. In Shadows and Secrets (an apt title if there ever was one,) Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca pick things up almost exactly where they left off in the last issue.
Second story arcs have their own trials for success. A first arc can be perfect but if the second isn’t just as engaging, it can be a sign that a book will struggle. Wisely, Gillen doesn’t try and do something completely out of left field but rather smoothly continues the story so it doesn’t feel like a distinct entity. Vader chafes under the control of Tagge, eager to return to his own affairs and avoid the watchful eye of Inspector Thanoth. Over the course of the arc, he is forced to revisit reminders of Anakin Skywalker’s past starting with visiting the Lars farm and then recalling Padmé Amidala. It’s odd yet fantastic to see him standing in the middle of the familiar moisture farm before he destroys it.
Dr. Aphra becomes firmly established as Vader’s secret lieutenant within the underworld, managing his shadier dealings so no one else knows that he’s involved. While no alliance with a Sith Lord can ever be certain, we start to ease away from the question “Is he going to kill her right now?” at the end of every page. He even has to make several deliberate moves to ensure her continued survival. Aphra and the murderbots are definitely here to stay.
There’s a lot going on in this arc which gives it a chaotic feel while you’re first reading it and when you go back with 24 issues under your belt, the long game becomes far clearer. It’s a testament to Gillen’s writing that he is able to build up so many characters over a long time without it feeling like blatant character development. It’s also a testament to Vader’s intelligence that he can manage to both run his own secret operation and also follow Tagge’s orders. Generally speaking, he’s viewed more as an intimidating warrior (both in and out of the story) but Gillen makes sure that we remember that Vader is smarter than many give him credit for. If he wasn’t, his secret agenda would have already failed. That’s another strength of this book: we’re seeing Darth Vader more and more as a complete person and as a force to be reckoned with. He’s bringing a new depth to a character that we already know so well.
“Darth Vader Volume 2” gets an 8 out of 10. It’s a hair less fantastic than the first arc but only just. It's widely available at your favorite local comic book store or to order online.
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.