Don’t let the title fool you: this isn’t the first Darth Vader comic from Marvel Comics, but it is the first Vader comic set after Empire Strikes Back. Writer Greg Pak and artist Raffaele Ienco are taking the reins of one of the most consistently good series launched by Marvel. If this first issue is any indication, they are going to be re-exploring key moments in Vader’s history, many of which are deeply tied to family. Watch out Vin Diesel, Vader may just be learning a thing or two about the importance of blood relatives.
This issue opens with a solid black panel with the caption “Power” and below that the first-person perspective of Vader looking down at Luke Skywalker just before he cut off his hand. Following that is another solid black panel with a caption that reads, “Strength.” Pak appears to be blending Vader’s rage with his familial feelings for Luke even as he slices his hand and eventually watches him plummet down into a dark pit. Much of this issue is what happens right after that interchange, which jives nicely with Charles Soule’s Star Wars series as that is taking place immediately after this event too.
It appears meeting his son face to face for the first time has stirred something in Vader, and so his journey will connect dots all the way back to the first prequel. That’s an interesting track to take and one that will likely bring out some surprising twists and possibly even some cousins or other family for Vader to meet (and likely kill). There are some nice callbacks to films throughout the book you won’t want to miss, including a specific type of Stormtrooper that’s nice to see again.
This issue does well to introduce a new droid character named Zed Six Seven who is a data retrieval and analysis droid. He serves as a vocal narrator of sorts as he details what he sees to Darth Vader along their journey. He’s a very unemotional droid and his nature suits Darth Vader’s no-nonsense approach. The function of the character allows Darth Vader to brood and act which makes the book feel quite legit in its depiction of him.
Ienco is joined by color artist Neeraj Menon with letters by Joe Caramagna and it’s a good looking book. Darth Vader looks great no matter the angle and in fact, the first time we see him there’s a clever choice to make his eyes look frightening, yet somehow desperate for a family as he looks at Luke. Zed Six Seven is a cleverly designed droid who fits right in with the world. Speaking of the world, environments look the part when it comes to beat up and run down locations. Action is exciting–there’s a page with flames all over Vader that’s a show stopper–and the lightsaber action is suitable for Vader at this point in his life. This story is light on action, though, and some might find it too slow for their liking if they’re entering this story uninterested in Darth Vader clutching at his past acts as he digs up truths.
Editor Mark Paniccia ends the book with a nice afterword about his relationship to the series, the creators involved, and their direction. It’s worth a look for a hint or two about what they’re up to.
This is an interesting and valid new direction for the Darth Vader series. Pak and company are exploring who the man is now that he knows he has a child in the universe. That’s a frightening thing for Vader to realize and in that sparks a journey that will likely change the way he sees his identity. This is a Darth Vader story about a Sith Lord reclaiming their identity after all the pieces were shattered decades earlier.
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