It is a time of turmoil for the Galactic Empire. The ultimate expression of their military might—The Death Star—was destroyed due to the Rebel Alliance’s exploitation of an unforeseen defect in the moon-sized star-station’s design. With the Senate dissolved and The Rebel Alliance inspired to greater acts of defiance by this unexpected victory, the threat to law and order has never been greater!
All of this is of great concern to the Sith Lord Darth Vader, but he has more immediate worries than tracking down the Rebel pilot whom he sensed was unusually strong in The Force. For Vader alone survived the destruction of The Death Star and he alone lives to accept the blame for this setback. The Emperor is not forgiving but neither is he foolish enough to throw aside his star apprentice. Still, he feels that Vader is best employed as a weapon to be wielded rather than a commander in his own right.
To that end, Vader has been placed under the command of the newly-promoted Grand General Cassio Tagge. While Vader rankles at the demotion, he will not openly oppose his Master’s will. Instead, Vader assembles a team to help him secretly track down the Rebel scum responsible for his humiliation, Dr. Aphara, a rogue archeologist and robotics expert, and Triple Zero, a protocol droid and torturer par excellence, and BT-1, an electronic assassin cunningly disguised as a humble astromech. All shall aid Vader in his mission or know the price of failure.
When I first heard about Star Wars Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Vader, I was uncertain how much drama could be mined from a Darth Vader book set in the span of time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Vader’s ultimate fate in the films is clearly defined so there are no worries about his ultimate survival. And given the Star Wars fandom’s general annoyance with the prequel film’s focus on galactic politics, I was worried when the early chapters of this series appeared to be focused on Vader playing office politics.
Thankfully, writer Kieron Gillen knows that Darth Vader has always worked best as a man of mystery. Thus while Vader is the central figure of this book, we see him and his actions primarily through the eyes of other characters. A prime example of this is the book’s opening sequence, in which Vader pays a visit to Jabba The Hut and easily fights off every guard foolish enough to fire upon him. Only a few flashbacks sans dialogue give us any indication of Vader’s thoughts at any moment.
Kieron is wise enough to give us an engaging supporting cast through which to observe Vader in action. While Triple Zero and BT-1 may not be the most original concept on paper (paint C3-PO and R2-D2 black and make them evil!), the execution of the two characters’ interactions is marvelous. No pun intended, as they do actually execute a few people in the course of their duties. (“No BT-1! No! You cannot possibly do that! They are our masters! Also, who would clean up the mess?”) There is also far more action than politicking in this first volume.
The artwork proves the equal of the script in every respect. Salvador Larroca captures the appearances of the characters from the original Star Wars movies with photographic accuracy. Larroca is also a fantastic visual storyteller and fight choreographer, whose action sequences flow smoothly and naturally from panel to panel. Colorist Edgar Delgado also deserves praise for providing atmospheric finishes to the final artwork.
This volume is rated T for audiences 12 and up. I consider this to be a fair rating as the story contains nothing more objectionable than a few violent deaths. While torture occurs, it takes place off camera and there’s nothing depicted in this story that would be objectionable to anyone who has seen the original trilogy of Star Wars movies.
Star Wars: Darth Vader, vol. 1: Vader
by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Larroca
Marvel Comics, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: T (12+)