Darth Vader #13
Written by Kieron GillenArt by Salvador Larroca
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
The second chapter of the “Vader Down” crossover between Marvel’s Darth Vader and Star Wars books, this issue makes it clear that this is going to be a narrowly-focused story – that is, chiefly concerned with one specific narrative rather than a story spanning multiple threads across multiple books. That said, regular series creators Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca turn in an exciting second chapter of the story, one which moves the overall narrative forward (however incrementally) but also puts the spotlight on the book’s regular supporting cast.
In the aftermath of Vader crashing onto the planet Vrogas Vas in Vader Down #1, this issue finds the Rebels stationed on the planet (along with the newly-arrived Han and Leia, making their first appearances in this series and thus giving Larroca his first opportunity to draw them) desperately trying to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity of Vader being alone, isolated from the Empire and with minimal resources at his disposal. Leia, meanwhile, is so obsessed with getting Vader that she’s willing to sacrifice Luke (who, after downing Vader in the previous chapter, crashed not far from him) to do it, something which doesn’t sit right with Han. However, the Rebels quickly discover that even after surviving a crash and working alone, Darth Vader is still a supremely powerful force of nature, and he cuts through the Rebels sent after him with relative ease (and increasingly-innovative and amusing methods).
In that regard, this chapter of the crossover is very much like the first – it’s essentially all about the Rebels sending wave after wave of superior numbers at Vader, and Vader finding clever or simply powerful ways to kill them, with an air of apparent ease, all depicted via relatively static art, which, like the Mike Deodato art in the first chapter, is effective and engaging on the level of a single image, but is somewhat staid when it comes to telling a sequential story.
Where this issue really stands out is the use of the supporting cast of Darth Vader. Bringing a book’s specific cast to the forefront is an effective way of keeping a crossover chapter accessible to regular readers of the book while still servicing the overall narrative, and Gillen deploys Aphra, BeeTee and Triple Zero well here, making their subplot the most entertaining part of the story. Aphra, the closest thing Vader has to a friend, concerned that he’ll construe the Rebel attack as a move on her part to eliminate him, is desperate to reach Vader before he destroys all the Rebels in order to prove she didn’t set him up. But as the only other person in the galaxy to know just how driven Vader is to find Luke Skywalker, in the course of the issue she discovers a new way to get back in Vader’s graces, and to that end, she deploys Triple Zero, in a way that is both obvious and clever, to hilarious results.
Larroca’s art works best outside of the action scenes; given the chance to draw Han and Leia, his likenesses of both are spot-on (on par, in terms of photo-realism, with the work of John Cassaday in the first six issues of Star Wars). Similarly, Gillen picks up on Jason Aaron’s characterization of Han as someone who, at this point in time, is chiefly motivated by his friendship with Luke rather than his feelings for Leia, sticking with the Rebellion mostly to watch out for Luke in a big brotherly sort of way, which is on full display here as he chides Leia for putting Luke’s well-being second to going after Vader.
So while the overall plot of the crossover is only moved ahead incrementally, there’s still plenty to recommend and enjoy here as Gillen smartly deploys his regular cast to maximum gain, naturally integrating them into the story while still keeping the focus on the heroic Rebels of Star Wars and, most of all, Darth Vader himself.