Published: July 3, 2019
Rating: Rated T
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Penciler: Marc Laming and Cris Bolson
Cover Artist: Nic Klein
THE HUNTER! DARTH VADER is on the hunt for a mysterious criminal syndicate operating outside of THE EMPIRE’s rule. But little does he know he’s being hunted by a group of the galaxy’s deadliest bounty hunters, hired by the syndicate to take out Vader once and for all. Led by fallen Imperial Officer BEILERT VALANCE, this ragtag group of assassins will stop at nothing to kill the biggest bounty of their lives.
Another new mini-series by Marvel. It doesn’t have the best track record for these, until very recently, where the calibre of the stories has risen a lot since they first took the comic license back. One of my favourite ones to emerge recently is Imperial Cadet; Robbie Thompson did an incredible job of telling Han’s tales at the Imperial Academy. After the series came to a close, I was thirsty for more. Thompson told a very captivating story that seemed far too short. After being wasted on the Solo adaptation, I was eager to see what else Thompson had in store.
We’ve had two Vader series from Marvel, both of an extremely high quality. Before I even started reading, I had my doubts, do we really need another Vader comic? From issue one, my argument would be yes. This doesn’t appear to be a Vader comic, but instead a Valance comic. If you’ve read my previous reviews, you may remember me saying that I didn’t read the original Marvel Star Wars series. Lately, Valance has made a resurgence and I’ve had to quickly learn who this character is. Not only did Thompson reintroduce him in Imperial Cadet, but he was also featured in Star Wars #108. This character is making a huge come back. In Imperial Cadet, although I didn’t know the character, I liked his portrayal. From what I’ve read, how he is here, is far more in line with how he originally appeared forty years ago. He has the same prejudices and look from the Marvel series. As someone who invested time in Imperial Cadet, I’m thrilled to see where Valance ended up. Likewise, I imagine fans of the original character, will like his expansion in the new canon.
Although I say this doesn’t appear to be a ‘Vader’ comic, the Dark Lord still steals the show. The opening scene to the comic is simply incredible; I had goose bumps reading it. The atmosphere, the way Vader acts, the artwork, all of it works so perfectly that what you have is something that just feels flawless and effortless. But just like this opening scene, Vader is seen rarely, which is exactly as it should be. Thompson uses the character very minimally but to maximum effect. I do hope it stays like that throughout the rest of the series. As we’ve seen from Rogue One, you don’t need to see much of Vader for him to leave a lasting impression.
There are lots of little nods to Star Wars throughout this issue (some I’m sure referencing the Marvel series that flew over my head!). The mention of Level 1313 brought a smile to my face, perhaps one of the few times we’ll ever see this once highlighted area. The appearance of Dengar is also very welcome, as other than Vader and the Emperor, he is our only familiar face from the films.
The artwork by Laming and Bolson is some of the best I have seen in Star Wars comics. The crisp lines, the attention to detail, it complements the issue perfectly. The atmosphere they are able to conject onto the reader is fantastic. Dare I say, it reminds me a lot of Jan Duursema’s work on Dark Horse’s Star Wars Republic, and I mean that as a huge complement. There are parts, particularly with Vader, that really capture you, the reflection of Palpatine’s holo on Vader’s eye lenses had me looking on in amazement. Too often in these mini-series are we given sub-par artists, thankfully not here.
This does exactly what a first issue should do: it opens with one incredible opening, to then introduce us to the main thrust of the story and the characters and leaves us wanting more. And yes I want more! The premise of the story is an interesting one, yet it is the characters that Thompson has decided to use that really sell it. To bring back Valance satisfies both fans of Imperial Cadet and the original Marvel series. And Vader? If he is used wrong, then it could ruin the entire series. Based on this issue, Thompson knows exactly how to best utilise him, which is why I’m so eager for issue two. Combine that with incredible artwork from Laming and Bolson, and you have a series that right from the beginning promises to be as good, if not better, than Imperial Cadet.
Target Vader is a six part series available from Marvel. This issue is available via the Marvel App and all good comic book stores. This issue retails at $3.99.