Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol.1 – Vader

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Salvador Larroca

Colouring by Edgar Delgado

Kieron Gillen’s ‘Darth Vader’ series was one of the flagship titles when Marvel began publishing the Star Wars comics in 2015 and I initially didn’t pick this up. I stuck with Jason Aaron’s ‘Star Wars’ title.

What I didn’t realise until I saw a preview of the Vader series is that the two series were linked by some events. Eventually I got the first TPB called ‘Vader’ which collects Issues 1-6.

This overall story is great. It really kicks the series off with a bang. The Emperor is displeased with Vader after the destruction of both the Death Star and the weapons factory on Cymoon (as seen in the Skywalker Strikes story arc in the Star Wars comic) and is sent to deal with Jabba the Hutt personally to make a deal for supplies. Vader hires two Bounty Hunters, Boba Fett and Black Krrsantan and sends them on missions, Fett to find out who destroyed the Death Star and Black Krrsantan to find a scientist called Doctor Cylo-IV who is working on a secret project for Palpatine.

Vader is being given orders by Grand-General Tagge and under the observation of one of Tagge’s underlings, he intercepts some Pirates who have stolen supplies and traces then back to his observer before going and finding an Archeologist called Doctor Aphra who is on her own mission to locate the personality matrix for a Droid called ‘000’ who wakes up a ‘Blastromech Droid’ called BT-1. Vader saves her from being interred and she becomes his ‘assistant’.

She takes him to Geonosis where the last Geonosian Queen has begun creating Droid/Geonosian hybrids. Vader destroys her and they steal the Droid creator part of her, using this Vader has Aphra Build an army after Black Krrsantan brings Doctor Cylo-IV and 000 tortures him to get information.

Vader and his new army go to Cylo-IV’s base of operations where all of his Droids are destroyed, Cylo-V arrives, being another body where the Cylo mind can inhabit. Vader arrives in an arena and begins fighting with two ‘enhanced’ twins who have undergone scientific changes to enhance their abilities. Cylo-V reveals more ‘enhanced’ beings as Palpatine arrives to witness the creations. Their purpose to potentially become Vader’s replacement.

Palpatine has the creations and Vader fight to the death, one of the creations is killed by another and the Emperor orders they to cease. He says that he will find use for the creations and has Vader leave with him. Palpatine scolds Vader for being a disappointment.

Later, aboard Aphra’s ship she tells Vader that Boba Fett is getting in touch to report to Vader.

Fett tells Vader that the pilot who destroyed the Death Star is called ‘Skywalker’. Fett leaves as Vader begins to reminisce about his previous life and Padmé as he realises that he has a son. Using the Force he cracks the viewport he is looking out of and proclaims that the Empire will be his.

This story arc works really well in setting up Vader after the Death Star’s destruction. He’s going through the motions, obeying his master blindly. It’s not until the appearance of Cylo-IV that Vader feels any sort of motivation.

The reintroduction of Tagge is a great idea, knowing that one of the Imperial Council from A New Hope made it off the Death Star and his disdain towards Tarkin and the Death Star project echo his thoughts from the film and it’s good to see a more familiar face amongst the nameless Imperials we see.

The introduction of Doctor Aphra is great, in an almost ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ sequence where she has to evade traps only to be captured is good fun and her subsequent team-up with Vader is one that will bring a few smiles to fans faces.

The secondary characters, both familiar (Fett) and new (Black Krrsantan, 000 and BT-1) really helps flesh the world out. We get the first encounter between Vader and Fett which really makes their scenes on Bespin that bit more important. The ‘murder-droids’ are the antithesis to C-3PO and R2-D2 but they take the comedic role of their Light Side counterparts and it’s hilarious to see how many weapons an Astromech can hide and whenever 000 speaks all I can hear is C-3PO’s voice and I just want to see more.

Gillen has written a brilliantly conflicted Vader, no longer battling his past as Anakin but conflicted by his future and his master’s plans for him. Palpatine is looking to replace him and he needs to prove himself or die. Even when the battle in the arena is over, Vader still lacks the motivation he needs to finally put an end to Palpatine as is the Sith way but as soon as he finds out about Luke Skywalker we a build up that leads us to this brilliant moment.

It also has some fantastic repercussions for the Original Trilogy. Vader knowing Luke is his son this early really makes the Emperor’s and Vader’s relationship in TESB and ROTJ more antagonistic and Vader trying to turn Luke more of a longer plan than something he’s concocted during the events of TESB.

Larroca’s art, for the most part is brilliant. There are a couple of panels, specifically featuring the Emperor that don’t look all that great but Vader looks spot on in every panel in which he is featured and his action sequences flow phenomenally. The same goes for Delgado’s colours, they are fantastic and really bring Vader to life, especially seeing as his outfit is almost completely black. Just look at that panel above, the art and colours are brilliant.

There are a couple of bumps along the way, the worst being the obvious plot point of Tagge assigning someone to observe Vader and that person turning out to be a spy for a group of pirates was just a bit too convenient and the Geonosian Queen breeding cyborg Geonosian creatures was a bit out there for me in terms of Star Wars but that being said it led to a fantastic action sequence so there’s always a silver lining.

As an introduction to Vader’s post-Death Star life this run of issues really sets the tone for the series and is a must read for any and all Star Wars fans who want a bit more insight into Vader during this time period and it’s connections to the main Star Wars title really keep the comics grounded in a specific time frame rather than having them bounce around the timeline and getting confusing for all us Canon-junkies who like to know when all of these events are occurring (this storyline occurs between Issues 3 – 6 of the main Star Wars comic).

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