Comic Review: Darth Vader (2017) #1

The Creative Team:

Published By: Marvel Comics
Released On:
June 07, 2017
Rating: Rated T
Writer: Charles Soule
Penciller: Giuseppe Camuncoli

The Synopsis:

The most fearsome villain of all time returns with an all-new series! When Anakin Skywalker fell, both to the pull of the dark side and to the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi, he rose back up, more machine than man. Having lost everything that was once dear to him, the former chosen one must take his first steps into a darker world…as Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith!

The Plot:

When this book was announced a few months ago, I was immediately both excited and anxious.  We just had a great Vader run and I was sad that it ended.  But a Darth Vader book set immediately after Revenge of the Sith? Sounds amazing; like a fanboy dream come true.  But with the amazing story potential also comes the pressure of making sure this story is RIGHT. And I mean RIGHT down to the details. Vader is one of the most iconic characters of all time and must portrayed accurately and within the character continuity we have seen.  If he is not written right it is immediately noticeable and will easily be cast aside.  So let’s get to the issue to see how it did!  SPOILERS!!!!!

The issue starts out at the Vader transformation scene at the end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. After destroying the medical droid and pulling off the brackets that hold him to the transformation table, Vader remembers what he did to Padme.  The flashback panel shows an emotional Padme holding her neck from the point of view of Vader.  Vader lashes out with the Force while screaming the infamous “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”  As Vader lurches off of the table in anger, he displays a big outburst of Force power and in doing so throws Palpatine up against the wall forcefully. (Pun intended)  Vader then confronts Palpatine saying you said you could save her.  Palpatine responds stating that in Vader’s anger he chose a different path.  Palpatine also goes on to explain that Padme died and even the power of the dark side could not bring her back. Palpatine further explains that in her death, she gave Vader a gift…..the gift of pain.  Palpatine questions Vader in whether he plans to accept and use that gift or will he die?  Vader chooses to live.  Palpatine shares his pleasure with that choice….and then blasts Vader with force lightning.  While using the lightning, Palpatine asks where Vader’s lightsaber is and Vader explains that he lost it in his fight with Obi-Wan.  Palpatine yells in displeasure with that answer then explains that that blade belonged to another….a jedi.  Vader is now a sith and needs a different weapon.  Palpatine stops the force lightning and ignites his saber on Vader.  He tells Vader that he understands Vader has had a traumatic time but if Vader uses the force on Palpatine again, he will “finish what Kenobi couldn’t.”  Palpatine shares that he can feel Vader’s need for revenge but there will be time for that later.  Palpatine states now there is work that the Empire needs done and to follow him.

The scene then moves to outside of what appears to be the old Jedi Temple and now the Imperial Palace. Mas Amedda is explaining to the public that the Jedi tried to assassinate Palpatine and that they were no longer going to fear the Jedi. There is this massive chamber that clones are loading something into and it turns out to be lightsabers.  Palpatine and Vader are watching from a window in the Palace and Palpatine asks Vader if the Jedi taught him why the Sith’s blades were red.  Vader states that Jedi teachings on that were… incomplete.  Palpatine laughs saying that the Jedi were foolish and they were uncomfortable facing the darker truths and for those things they paid the ultimate price.  Palpatine states that their blades are no different except they make them bleed.  The scene flashes back to Mas Amedda and the clones dumping a bin of lightsabers into the large chamber while Mas Amedda explains that the Emperor saw through the Jedi’s treachery and everyone is now safe. Mas Amedda explains that never again will these instruments of oppression be used against the galaxy.  Palpatine then explains to Vader that the blade is made to bleed when anger and pain is poured into the crystal.  When that happens, the crystal shines red….the color of rage.  The scene then cuts back to Mas Amedda holding up a saber and proclaiming that everyone has entered a new age of freedom.  The saber is then tossed into the chamber. Palpatine is watching and tells Vader that no one understands freedom but the two of them.  The chamber is then closed and begins heating up and a beam of energy shoots out when the kybers blow inside the sabers. Palpatine and Vader then continue their conversation and Palpatine tells Vader that the saber of a sith cannot be given, but must be taken.

The issue then transitions to a scene with Palpatine and Vader in an Imperial Shuttle going towards a planet in the Mid Rim.  Palpatine asks Vader about his armor and Vader says it is acceptable.  The shuttle lands and Vader asks why they have come to this planet and Palpatine tells Vader that he has high expectations of what they can do together but first Vader needs a saber.  Palpatine directs Vader to seek out a Jedi and take his kyber crystal.  Palpatine explains that will be no easy task since they have worked to eradicate them from the galaxy.  Palpatine expresses faith in Vader and advises him to give in to the Dark Side for it will provide him with what he needs. Once this happens, Vader’s power will become endless and they will rule the galaxy as one.  Palpatine also explains there was a vessel there for Vader to use but it appears it has been stolen. Vader watches Palpatine leave and looks to the horizon.  He changes what appears to be the lenses in his helmet from crimson to white/purplish.  There is a mechanism on his belt that he uses to alter the lenses.   He then settles on a pinkish hue that allows him to see tracks in the dirt and he goes on his way through the desert. A pair of scavengers are out looking at a beautiful ship (looks like an updated version of Darth Maul’s Sith Infiltrator). The scavengers explain that they could sell it if they could get past the encryption.  A piece of equipment slams into one of the scavengers and Vader appears demanding that the ship belongs to him.  A fight ensues and Vader is asked why he was there and he says, “Only this” as he is watching the last body hit the ground…

There is a back up tale called No Good Deed by Chris Eliopoulos and Jordie Bellaire.  It is a short story showing Vader with a mouse droid who serves him.  Vader is failed by several different Imperial Staff.  Vader calls on the small droid to help get rid of the failures when he is done with them.  After the final staff, Vader commends the droid and the droid gets excited and accidently hits Vader’s leg. Vader then destroys the droid as he gets into his meditation chamber.

The Review:

Cover Art:  The standard cover is a nice splash of Vader with his lightsaber ignited, drawn by Jim Cheung.  I foresee Marvel making a poster out of this cover. This issue also had some great variant covers.  I normally do not pick up variants but I did get a copy of the Noto variant where Vader is getting his helmet put on for the first time.  I also liked the more exclusive variant done by Mark Brooks where it looks like a vintage comic with Vader holding Padme’s limp body.  I wish that one wasn’t so pricey or I would have snagged it for sure.  There are several other great variants including the action figure variants so there’s something for everyone.

Story:  The story was very well done overall.  Charles Soule, the writer, shared that the first arc was going to be about Vader getting his red lightsaber so I knew what to expect plot wise here.  It was also shared by Soule that the issue would start at the Transformation Chamber scene from Revenge of the Sith so I expected that scene as well.  I liked the addition of Palpatine being thrown during Vader’s Force outburst and the dialogue afterwards really helps establish the baseline for the Palpatine/Vader relationship moving forward.  Palpatine makes sure Vader knows he’s the boss.  What left me doing some research was the force lightning use.  I always had in my head that Vader would get his suit fried if he used or was hit by force lightning.  I even went back and re-watched the end scene of Vader vs Luke in Return of the Jedi to see what happens there.  When Vader picks up Palpatine while he’s shooting out the force lightning, after a few seconds you see sparks on Vader’s chest plate after the force lightning hits it. I will go with the premise that in this instance none of the lightning hit the chest plate itself and Vader’s suit was fine afterwards.  I think it is cool that sometimes reading these comics makes you want to double check with the original material to make sure things are consistent.  I liked the scene of Mas Amedda talking to the public; someone had to publicly slam the Jedi and it makes sense to me that it was Amedda as he was the Emperor’s senate right hand man.  The lightsaber that he holds up has been confirmed to be Yoda’s so we find out here what happened to it after the battle in the senate chamber.  That was a really cool little nugget thrown in. I also liked that it showed that Vader can change his lenses.  That also helps explain why in A New Hope there was a crimson tint while in the later movies it was black or charcoal. I really liked the overall story and just thought it was a great start to this arc.  It wove in elements from the movie, added in story beats they did not get to show that added depth to the characters, but also moved things forward for the upcoming issues.

Dialogue:  I thought the dialogue in the issue was really good.  Soule has done a great job finding the voices and speaking patterns of the various characters.  His Lando mini series was great and his Poe Dameron series really sounds like Poe talking.  Vader is a man of few words.  He does not speak much A) because he does not need to and B) probably because it is painful because of the damage the lava did to his lungs and body.  I think Soule nailed that.  His Palpatine was menacing and manipulating which is exactly how the Emperor should be portrayed.  Very solid overall.

Interior Art:  I like Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art a lot.  I found him first while he was drawing Superior Spider-man and his art has stuck with me since then.  He has a cartoony look but it is not over the top.  His Vader looks like a blend of Rebels and the traditional movie look to me.  His Palpatine is menacing and creepy and he just hits the nail on the head there. Cam Smith does a great job inking the book and David Curiel does a solid job coloring the issue as well.  Overall the art is well done.  I initially had some restraints on the more cartoony look of Vader here but that was because we just got a great run of art from the last Vader series by Salvador Larroca.  But after having read the issue a few times, Camuncoli’s art definitely fits and it embodies a different era for the character.

Pacing:  I thought the pacing of the book was good especially for a first issue. There were three major scenes and everything flowed well.  This issue was a $4.99 comic with extra pages.  I believe we got about 3 extra pages of art from a traditional sized book and then the back up.  My only real nitpick with the issue was that I wish the back up would have been solicited or the creators would have been listed on the cover.  I had the impression this was a full length story feature and when I got to the end of the main story, I felt a little cheated because there were pages left but that was the end.  The back up was humorous and fun but I felt let down by it initially.  Maybe this is something Marvel can work on in the future.

Overall:  I really enjoyed the issue and felt it was a great issue # 1.  I liked seeing what happened with Yoda’s saber and Vader’s lenses.  I thought those were cool little nuggets in the issue and help build the overall SW continuity.  This issue really felt like a Star Wars story and not as much of a comic set in Star Wars.  I feel some of the other titles and issues have fallen into the comic set in Star Wars rather than them being a Star Wars story.  I’m ready for issue 2 and I’m glad I only have to wait a couple of weeks to see what Soule and Camuncoli et al. have in store for my favorite SW character!  Any thoughts or different opinions?  Please let us know on our social media channels!

Issue Preview & Cover Variants:


Availability:

Darth Vader is an ongoing comic series available from Marvel.  Issues #1-6 will also be collected as a trade paperback (6th December 2017) entitled: Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord Of The Sith Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine  You can order it now from the following link:

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Randall Cody
Husband. Father. Star Wars fan. Yep that's about it. Randall has loved Star Wars since his parents took him to see Return of the Jedi in theaters when he was 2. It is one of his first memories. Randall has been a comic collector since 1999 when he started having some disposable income. He gets SW comics, novels and Insider. He shares his love of Star Wars with his 4 kids who are all avid Star Wars fans themselves. He lives in Oklahoma, U.S.A.