Crimson Reign is the latest Star Wars story spanned multiple series, including Darth Vader. Trade-waiting readers can now purchase Darth Vader Vol. 4, which collects the Crimson Reign tie-in stories. In it, Darth Vader is trying to weed out Crimson Reign, who has infiltrated the Empire. Nothing like a bit of house cleaning.
Collecting Darth Vader #18-22, this story features some brand new characters as well as some familiar ones, like Ochi as well as Sabé, Padmé’s lookalike handmaiden from The Phantom Menace who now seeks to kill Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Ochi works for Vader, but the true purpose of Ochi is revealed in this collection, further tying Qi’ra’s Crimson Dawn organization into the comics narrative.
This collection is, for the most part, a war comic, with characters fighting in large fields and many dying. Darth Vader is fighting a war at the start of this collection that’s very much involving full-fledged attacks. Still, by the end, he’s also taking out allies of the Empire that are so entrenched they’re standing feet from the Emperor.
Darth Vader’s motivations are very clear from the start, as told via some key flashbacks to scenes we’ve seen in the prequels. All his life, he has wanted order. When he was still a Jedi in training, we see him telling Amadala he wishes politicians would work out differences, or later we see him carry his mother’s dead body. In both cases, he wanted control of the situation, and it went out of hand. In this story, he’s trying to bring order to the Empire and reflecting on all the times he failed, which seems to increase his intensity and ferocity to destroy the Crimson Empire.
Ochi continues to be an odd but unique addition to the Star Wars mythos. The character isn’t very serious and talks in a casual way, setting him apart. He may be an assassin, but he’s also a goof. Similarly, the robot Sabé interacts with has plenty of character, pulling off comedic relief and exposition as needed.
Leonard Kirk draws the first issue, with Guiu Vilanova drawing the second and Raffaele Ienco drawing the last two. Early on, many characters are packed into panels conveying the chaos of war, and it’s done well. Ienco’s art stands out as some of the best in the collection, drawing in a clean and detailed style that suits the sci-fi surroundings and Darth Vader himself. This series leans into the anthropomorphic animal characters with giant humanoid bugs running about and lizards. It’s something you don’t often see in cinematic Star Wars because it’s so hard to pull off, but it adds complexity and a nice layer of weirdness to the sci-fi locations.
Probably a plus for some, Darth Vader never seems to be in danger or lacking in control in this series. Sure, he’s going through personal issues and remembering some horrific moments in his life, but in general, he’s never even near a threat. Since he’s rooting out spies, there’s never a definable threat to face. The stakes are further reduced since we know this story takes place before Return of the Jedi when, presumably, Crimson Dawn is no longer active or at least not a threat big enough to be mentioned again. While the war scenes and action are well rendered–Vader properly slices and dices a lot of folks in this one–it’s more of a low-stakes adventure than an edge-of-your-seat action frenzy.
Star Wars: Darth Vader by Greg Pak Vol. 4: Crimson Reign should delight fans as it delves into Darth Vader’s psyche and desire for order in his life. Crimson Dawn is a major bug that needs squashing and this collection follows Darth Vader’s journey in properly destroying them for good.
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