Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 follows the Dark Lord of the Sith himself a month after the Rebel Alliance’s decisive victory at the Battle of Yavin IV. After receiving the lion share of the blame for the destruction of the Death Star, Vader is tasked with a special mission that involves consorting with the galaxy’s most notorious crime lord, Jabba the Hutt.
Contains Minor Spoilers
Written by Kieron Gillen (Uncanny X-Men, Journey Into Mystery) with Salvador Larroca (Invincible Iron Man) on art, Marvel’s Darth Vader manages to deliver a compelling first issue that reminds comic readers and Star Wars fans alike that Vader is one of the most tragic and terrifying villains in all of fiction. As the central protagonist of his own series, Vader is presented as a broken villain trying to regain some semblance of respect after a series of failures that were out of his control. He has alterative motives of his own, but attempts to mask them with mock loyalty. His ambitions, as nefarious as they are, reveal a desperate character seeking some form of twisted redemption. Darth Vader #1 provides all of the things to whet one’s Sith Lord loving appetite, while including a few force chokes and the occasional lightsaber stabbing along the way.
As surprising as it might be, Gillen works hard to present Vader as a sympathetic figure. Yes, he’s the Dark Lord of the Sith and kills Imperial officers indiscriminately, but Vader truly is a shell of very lonely man. The enormous difficulty of conveying any emotion with Vader (a person who is a 7-foot tall cyborg clothed entirely in black) is a momentous task, but Larroca’s art manages to do it with relative ease. Whether it’s the slight bow of the head or a clenched fist, Vader’s many emotions are perfectly conveyed in scenes through his body language. There’s not a single moment when you don’t know what Vader is feeling or thinking.
This is done to great effect when the issue delves into Vader and Emperor Palpatine’s relationship. If Palpatine had any fatherly affection towards his apprentice in the past, all of those feelings have been erased with the destruction of the Death Star. Palpatine’s constant berating of Vader and his “failures” reveal a relationship that is based around mutual loathing and disdain. Vader is given no respect from his master, and is viewed as nothing but an instrument to be wielded against the Empire’s enemies. It’s obvious Gillen took inspiration from Return of the Jedi’s climatic scene, where the Emperor demands Luke Skywalker to kill his father and take his place as the apprentice. To Palpatine, Vader is simply a means to an end, a tool to be used and replaced if the situation calls for it.
Now while the issue delivers a healthy amount of character development, it also showcases why Vader remains an imposing and feared figure throughout the galaxy. His confrontation with Jabba the Hutt and his entourage on Tatooine is reminiscent of the Sith Lord’s dealings with past Imperial and Rebel soldiers. Although short, Vader receives an action scene that is obviously reminiscent of Luke’s first meeting with Jabba. It’s a suitably darker sequence than the young Jedi’s, and it quickly dispels the notion that Jabba is Vader’s equal in terms of authority. During such tense scenes, Gillen ensures that Vader’s words are always threatening, but is careful to add a layer of dry sarcasm to them.
Much like Marvel’s other ongoing Star Wars series, Darth Vader #1 quickly shows that Star Wars is in capable hands. Though only one issue, Gillen and Larroca obviously understand Darth Vader, and are careful to present him as a character that is deserving of fear and sympathy. With a Mark Waid Princess Leia series set to release next month, it’s clear that Marvel will be actively trying to expand its catalog of Star Wars comics for the foreseeable future.
What about you reader? Are you reading Marvel’s Darth Vader? Any Star Wars villains that you think deserve their own series? Let us know in the comments below!
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