The original Dark Lord of the Sith stars in his first ongoing series! Ever since Darth Vader’s first on-screen appearance, he has become one of pop-culture’s most popular villains. Now, follow Vader straight from the ending of A NEW HOPE (and the pages of the new STAR WARS comic book) into his own solo adventures — showing the Empire’s war with the Rebel Alliance from the other side! But when a Dark Lord needs help, who can he turn to? As Vader pursues a very personal vengeance against the Rebels and investigates the Emperor’s secret machinations, he clashes with weapons scavenger Aphra and deadly Battle Droids, and returns to Geonosis to build an army. But some very powerful people don’t want him to learn the truths he seeks! Guest-starring Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett and more!
When The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, Star Wars comics moved from its home at Dark Horse Comics to Marvel. With this move came a monthly Star Wars issue as well as miniseries following favorite characters. However, the best news about the new Star Wars-Marvel comics is that they are all canon. Dark Horse Comics published stories that were never meant to be deemed gospel (what has since been referred to as Legends). That has all changed now. With all of the Star Wars comics released by Marvel, they must now all link in with the Original Trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and VI), the Prequels (Episodes I, II, and III), the Clone Wars Movie and TV show and Rebels cartoons, and the New Trilogy from Episode VII and beyond.
Darth Vader is just one of the miniseries Marvel has put out since it took over the Star Wars comics. Miniseries following the exploits of Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Lando, Han, and even Poe Dameron have all been released. Darth Vader #1 is my first foray into the Star Wars-Marvel match-up, and it hit comic stands in early 2015 with monthly installments for a 25 part series (plus an annual). All 25 comics have since been collected into a series of four paperback volumes:
- Darth Vader, Volume #1: Vader
- Darth Vader, Volume #2: Shadows and Secrets
- Darth Vader, Volume #3: The Shu-torun War
- Darth Vader, Volume #4: End of Games
What is so enjoyable about reading Darth Vader is that we get an entire series devoted to arguably the greatest fictional villain ever created that also fits into the bigger puzzle of the Star Wars universe and canon. This lends more meaning and weight behind each panel, every new character, and every story line. Series writer Kieron Gillen does a terrific job of lending weight and villainy to Darth Vader while also keeping things fresh without messing with the plots of the Original Trilogy. Series artist Salvador Larroca developed a Vader reminiscent of the films, an essential element in bringing fans right into that timeline.
The Darth Vader comic series begins after the events of Episode IV and follows Darth Vader’s pursuit of the identity and location of the young rebel, Luke Skywalker, who blew up the Death Stars. The series also examines Vader’s inter-workings with both the Emperor and the Military elites, which is particularly complicated following the destruction of the Death Star. I will not examine each individual comic or volume in great detail (mostly because I do not want to give away any spoilers), but instead, I will review some overarching themes, new characters, and issues in the Darth Vader series:
Visit Classic Characters, Locations, and Archetypes: Darth Vader, the Emperor, Grand General Tagge, Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, and many more make appearances in this series. We visit planets we are familiar with, such as Tatooine. We get classic Vader: clam, stoic, and ruthless.
Complicated Vader-Emperor Relationship: The Emperor is not pleased with Vader after the destruction of the Death Star and it puts their relationship to the test. We are now privy to Vader’s precarious interactions with the Emperor. Let’s just say Palpetine is not the most encouraging mentor one could have.
New Characters: Dr. Aphra, Vader’s secret ally, is a strong surprise. Dr. Aphra is a (mostly) morally bankrupt, in-over-her-head archaeologist who keeps the company of two killer droids, Triple-Zero and Beetee. Doctor Aphra reminds me of a morally ambiguous Indiana Jones, set in space. They even found a way to work in the line, “This does not belong in a museum!”
The new droids, Triple-Zero and Beetee, are fantastic; they are the doppelgangers of R2D2 and C3PO and offer a sick bout of dark humor and cheesy puns throughout the entire series. I cannot wait to read the Dr. Aphra series next because I cannot get enough of her or her two droids!
Complicated Vader Backstory Tied in With the Prequels: Towards the end of the Darth Vader series, we get a chance to jump into Vader’s mind as he travels back into the prequels – revisiting his hatred for Obi-Wan and his love for Padme. The Prequels are one of those things that we just have to tolerate (at least, for the majority of us who did not enjoy them), but I appreciate the new leadership at Lucasfilm working hard to tie them into the rest of the universe. And with a character like Vader, the Prequels are essential for developing his mental and emotional state in the Original Trilogy.
Don’t Miss Star Wars: Vader Down: This is a six part mini-series which crossed over with the regular Star Wars comic series as well – the six issue run began with Vader Down, Part I and continued in the comic series Star Wars and Star Wars: Darth Vader. Vader Down is considered the third story arc in the Star Wars series, and is written by Jason Aaron, author of Star Wars, and Kieron Gillen, author of Darth Vader. The crossover event brings together characters from both series as Darth Vader faces off against the Rebel Alliance on his own. Vader Down takes the Darth Vader series to its peak – showing readers just how powerful and mighty this Sith Lord truly can be.
In the end, all Star Wars fans will find something to enjoy in the Darth Vader comic series. You get to see Lord Vader at his peak; terrifying and powerful as he slices through Gamorrean Guards in the first few panels of issue #1. You will fall in love with new characters, such as Dr. Aphra and her killer droids, who are quickly winding their way throughout the lives of all of our favorite characters from the Original Trilogy. For those who want to dive into the new canon, Darth Vader is a great place to start in the new Star Wars-Marvel comic book canon.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Title: Darth Vader, Volumes 1-4
Publisher: Marvel (Issue #1: October 20, 2015)
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comic, Comic Book, Star Wars canon, Science Fiction
Read… in Greenlake Park while… soaking up the summer sun.