Written by: Charles Soule
Art by: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Published by: Marvel
You just can’t keep a good Sith Lord down. Coming just a few months after Kireon Gillen wrapped up his outstanding Darth Vader series, Marvel have attempted to make lightning strike twice with a new one courtesy of Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli. While the series has a tall order to live up (and doesn’t quite fill), taken on its own, it serves as an enjoyable debut that leaves much room for future issues to be truly great.
Taking place right at the climax to episode 3 (including a recreation of some classic cringe), Palpatine has been elected to power and Anakin has been imprisoned forever as Darth Vader. His training is not yet complete, however. His lightsaber has been lost and he must replace it to complete his turn to the dark side. I’ve mentioned before how much I love Marvel not shying away from the prequels and that remains the case. Rewriting some of the worst moments of Episode 3, while not completely ruining the sting, does at least start this comic in a better position. Seeing some of the stuff Palpatine does directly after seizing control, such as burning the dead Jedi’s lightsabers, is a fascinating look into the early days of the Empire and really shows some of the crushing hopelessness they bring.
Seeing Darth Vader before he earns his reputation is also a very interesting prospect. While Gillen’s run showed a dark lord feared and respected by common people, here he’ll have to build a reputation from scratch. Having to use his power to carve a name for himself is really cool (including seeing him fight without a lightsaber) and could lead to some really interesting scenarios going forward. It’s also cool to see Vader a little unsure of himself, and there’s definitely still some Anakin left in his dialogue.
I never could quite reconcile in my head Anakin and Vader being the same character, so I hope this series can bridge a bit of the gap.
I’m usually mixed on Camuncoli’s art with a slight lean towards the positive. He has a very specific style I usually associate with the more traditional Marvel House style, so I wasn’t sure how it’d fit the Star Wars universe. Thankfully it is, for the most part, pretty terrific. While his Emperor has that certain square-faced quality that affects a lot of his characters, he draws an absolutely fantastic Vader (and believe me that helmet is not an easy shape) as well as delivers a very authentic Star Wars feel. All the locations, droids and aliens feel like they’re ripped straight from the screen.
That said, as a debut this issue is a little run of the mill. There’s certainly a lot of promise for issue’s later down the line, but there’s nothing here that’ll blow your mind. I also don’t think Soule has quite the right handling on the Emperor’s voice. He calls Vader a “friend” on a few occasions, which feels wrong given their master/apprentice relationship is much more manipulative than a genuine friendship. Vader calling his suit “acceptable” is also a bit strange considering it was designed to be painful, but that’s mostly a nitpick.
What is a little less forgivable is Marvel’s insistence on inserting yet another pointless backup to jack of the price. The offering by Chris Eliopoulos and Jordie Bellaire is cute enough about one of the mouse droids on the Death Star, but it’s totally unsuited . Soule attempts to tell a serious, tragic, and at times occultist story in the main body while this back up treats Vader as a punchline to a joke that just isn’t very funny. I may be unnecessarily grumpy about something so harmless, but including a back-up that flies in the face of the main story simply to jack up the price is just annoying to me.
While not a perfect read though, this new volume of Darth Vader is nonetheless a decent enough one that has plenty of room to improve over time. With a gap of 17 years there’s plenty for Soule to work with and, given time, he will hopefully achieve greatness.