Continuing the “Vader Down” crossover, Darth Vader #14 continues the incremental pacing, but does manage to widen the scope of the story as the end draws near. Picking up where the previous highly entertaining chapter left off, with Luke rescued from Vader’s associates by Han, Chewbacca and Artoo while Leia finds herself face-to-face, alone, with Darth Vader, this issue manages to resolve the Leia cliffhanger in a mostly satisfying way, using that widening of the narrative to both resolve the immediate cliffhanger and provide an interesting look at Leia’s character.
Kieron Gillen, who hasn’t had much of an opportunity to write the main Star Wars heroes during his time on this series, continues to show a strong affinity for their characterization, here putting Leia in the spotlight. In previous chapters, Leia was willing to sacrifice Luke to destroy Vader, something Han found deplorable. Yet here we see that Leia’s resolve was far from callous – in fact, she was asking no more of Luke than she asks of herself, as Leia puts into motion a plan that will not only kill Vader, but also Leia, willingly destroying herself to also put an end to Vader.
It’s nice bit of characterization amidst the sturm & drang of the crossover action, highlighting not only Leia’s admirable determination, but the way that headstrong determination can also be a failing (she’s willing to sacrifice anything to get Vader, including herself and Luke, never stopping to consider if the good she and Luke could do if they remained alive might balance out Vader’s evil, even if that means Vader escapes). Meanwhile, Salvador Larroca continues to show his effectiveness at likenesses, turning in a particularly strong Leia throughout this issue.
Amidst the central showdown between Leia and Vader, this issue also contains plenty of fun stuff on the margins, spinning out of the previous chapter’s mashup of the Star Wars and Darth Vader casts: Triple Zero continues to steal the show, and his confrontation with C-3PO in this issue is its arguable highlight, while the introduction of Black Krrsantan (another loose associate of Vader’s from earlier in the series) to the story promises some delightful Wookie-on-Wookie fights for the storyline’s next, penultimate, chapter.
In the end, this issue remains consistent with the others in the storyline: entertaining individual moments in service of a larger narrative that is barely moved forward by each individual chapter. This particular issue does build on Leia’s earlier characterization in the story to its benefit, and the arrival of a third faction into the mix (along with Black Krrsantan) at issue’s end suggests that, maybe, the overall plot will be widening as the end approaches. But for all the fun moments sprinkled throughout, “Vader Down” remains a storyline in which the parts are far greater than the whole.