There was a lot of excitement with the return of the Star Wars franchise to Marvel Comics for the ongoing stories, after an extremely long (and amazing) run with Dark Horse Comics. When the announcement was made that the comics would return to the Marvel banner, no one knew exactly what that meant – what era we would get comics in again or anything. With the launch in January of the flagship Star Wars title, we got to see that the era in question is what takes place right after the Battle of Yavin in Episode IV. And the second title in the family to launch, Darth Vader #1, takes place in parallel to the first few issues of the universal title.
As the story opens, we simply know that Vader has failed the Emperor. How? Well, mostly he let the Death Star blow up… That’s gotta be a problem for the Empire. But Vader… Vader alone had failed. This is the first chapter in Vader’s attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of his master. Although the story is incomplete here, as it is just the first piece of the puzzle, it is the start of something that will help bridge the gap of Vader between episodes IV and V.
The story is written by Kieron Gillen. I first became aware of this writer during his run on Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery and Young Avengers, although reading back in my collection I saw his name on a number of other titles as well. But those runs stood out to me as something special, and his current series of The Wicked + The Divine is just as special. The story here in Darth Vader has the promise to be something special as well, but there are elements of everything in Gillen’s other work that seemed to bleed over here (very lightly) and I just don’t see it as being necessary in this type of book. For the most part, that would be a little sarcastic, snarky wording here and there. It is slight here, but it does not seem to be in the veign of Vader’s character. Although not uttered by our titular character, I hope that this is remembered and that we don’t see that attitude in Vader. The story itself, though, was damn good, and the lightsaber battle scene (it’s a Vader story – of course there was gonna be a lightsaber scene) was brilliant. It showed Vader’s “superiority” but also his need to show – even to himself – how powerful he really is. Without a single word uttered. Brilliant.
The art – pencils and inks – are performed here by Salvadore Larroca. Larroca is another artist I became familiar with during an epic run on various X-Men titles for Marvel, and it’s no surprise that he is involved with the new Star Wars series. However, I found the art to be somewhat problematic in the issue. The proportions just didn’t always seem consistent or even right, for lack of a better word. In some panels, Vader looms over others, shows how intimidating he can be; in others, the height factor just seems to be gone and he seems a little… scrunched. The consistency was not there and that visually takes away from his superior attitude. As well, the helmet seemed a little off, especially when you look at the eyes. One eye is significantly larger than the other from panel to panel and it seems to change – that does not happen with the character. When you are working with such a well-known visage, you need to get it right – especially if there are no true facial features. If you are making it look like an actor’s face, that’s one thing; a helmet that gives away nothing is another. I know Larroca can do better – I have seen it. Now, it does sound like I am saying the art was bad – it was not. There were elements that, as I turned the pages, distracted me somewhat but there was a lot of good as well, most specifically the aforementioned lightsaber battle. It was a multi-page scene and it was told entirely in visuals. And it was amazing. The additional visual enhancements – with Edgar Delgado on colours and Joe Caramagna on letters – really make the book (overall) a general pleasure to look at.
As this is a new Marvel series, let’s also not forget about something Marvel is doing more and more of: variant covers. It’s hard to credit the cover artist when there are SO MANY. Seriously. A few of them are shown throughout this article, including the cover I personally picked up – the Kenner Action Figure variant. But with other covers by names like J. Scott Campbell and Alex Ross, there are a lot of visually stunning covers out there to enjoy.
I am still not sure if I will add this title to my pull list. If anything, I am looking for reasons to trim the herd. However, I am curious about what Marvel has in play for this franchise and I am at least going to give issue #2 a look to see what happens there.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvadore Larroca
Colorist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Publication Date: April 2015