Star Wars: Darth Vader #19 Written by Kieron Gillen Art by Salvador Larroca Colors …
Like Darth Vader #16, this issue picks up on threads left over from “Vader Down”, helping make that crossover feel more like a part of the overall narrative and not just a one-off stunt. It also features Sana Starros, the character introduced as Han’s wife in the series’ second story arc, which also helps add to the impression that these issues are part of a larger whole, and not just a series of self-contained stories.
January 2016 marked the one year anniversary of Marvel’s new Star Wars line, launched in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilm and the transfer of the comic book license to Disney’s in-house comic book company. In that year, Marvel has churned out comics on a level that is somehow both restrained and filled with gusto, in that, they released a ton of Star Wars comics in that first year, but at the same time, it would have surprised nobody if they’d released a whole lot more. The quality level of those comics, in three ongoing series (Star Wars, Darth Vader and Kanan: The Last Padawan) and five limited series (Princess Leia, Lando, Shattered Empire, Chewbacca, and one issue of Obi-Wan Kenobi & Anakin Skywalker) has remained remarkably consistent, maintaining a level of above average quality alongside some top notch issues and a (surprisingly) few out-and-out stinkers. Looking back over that first year, here are the ten best moments from across the line, the moments that made reading Star Wars comics this last year worthwhile.
Like most of the “Vader Down” crossover, Star Wars #14 is filled with plenty of epic moments, like BT taking out a squad of stormtroopers with a flamethrower, every time Darth Vader gets a line, or the fact that R2D2 has some kind of poison antidote needle in his chassis. And Jason Aaron makes these moments cohere into some kind of a whole with the shared Obi Wan Force Ghost voice for Luke and Vader. (For all of its fun, the Han and Chewbacca vs. Krrsantan plot is just filler in the larger scheme of things.) Add slightly improved art from Deodato and Martin, and the “Vader Down” finale can’t come soon enough. (It comes out today as well and will be quite the family affair.)
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.
Marvel’s Star Wars comic, featuring the continuing adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, etc. in the time following A New Hope and before The Empire Strikes Back, is clearly positioned as the flagship series of the company’s line of Star Wars ongoing, limited and one shot series. Yet for all the top-notch artists that have worked on the series and exciting moments that have unfolded in its pages, it has consistently played second fiddle in terms of pure quality to its sister series, Darth Vader. Comic books starring super-villains are routinely difficult to pull off, but in the fourteen issues released in 2015, Darth Vader has stood head and shoulders above the rest of the line. Here, then, are five reasons it is the best of Marvel’s Star Wars books.
Star Wars #13 has comedy, action, and holds Vader back to make him even more terrifying as Leia and her Rebel forces charge forward while the rest of the main cast of the comic is busy fighting the supporting cast of Darth Vader. Mike Deodato’s fight choreography isn’t blistering, but he excels at piecing noteworthy images together, like the progression of events where Luke wakes up from his coma, kicks the annoying BT and runs to comfort R2D2 as if he’s the family pet. “Vader Down’s” cliffhanger game continues to be on point with yet another duel of mind and body to take place in next week’s installment.
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.
Even if Mike Deodato’s art doesn’t fit the space battle portion of the comic, Vader Down #1 is an explosive start to Marvel’s first Star Wars crossover and will give Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen the once in a lifetime opportunity to show what Darth Vader would do once the chips are down. It’s best read while playing “Imperial March” on an endless loop.
For any Star Wars fan, it’s a familiar sight: a boy named Skywalker staring off into the distance under Tatooine’s twin suns. His past is a series of choices that were out of his hands to make and his future is as yet unwritten. He’s a kid from a backwater planet who will one day hold the destiny of a galaxy in his hands. You probably know the picture or recognize the description but in Darth Vader #7, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca turn the image upside down. Instead of an idealistic and young Luke Skywalker looking towards the future, Gillen and Larroca show us Vader in that very similar pose on the Lars desert homestead, where Tatooine is a past that he cannot escape.
Following the series’ initial, action-packed story arc, Jason Aaron and John Cassaday settle in for a relatively quiet fourth issue. This is a breath-taking issue, a chance for the creators to focus on characterization and set some plots in motion. To wit, there’s Luke Skywalker, dealing with the reality of his (non)status as a Jedi following his confrontation with Darth Vader in the first arc
With this issue, Jason Aaron and John Cassaday wrap up the inaugural story of Marvel’s new Star Wars series, an action-orientated finale finds the Rebels fleeing from the surging fury of Darth Vader aboard their purloined AT-AT walker, desperate to reach the Millennium Falcon, as Luke does his best to ensure their mission wasn’t for naught. As a single issue, it’s all a bit rushed (particularly in the subplot with Threepio losing control of the Falcon to a group of scavengers, which added a nice bit of tension to last issue but doesn’t really payoff much here), but it’s to the larger story’s benefit that it only runs three issues. Overall, there’s not much plot here (Rebel mission goes south in part 1, they try to escape in issue 2, they escape in issue #3), but thankfully it doesn’t get stretched out any further than three issues.
For obvious reasons, both the original Marvel series and Dark Horse’s various Star Wars titles generally tended to shy away from direct confrontations between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Such encounters were the province of the films, and even after the cinematic saga had (seemingly) ended, there was, presumably, a desire to not water down their existing interactions too much by writing in a ton of off screen battles. Both characters were staples of the Expanded Universe, but rarely interacted with one another directly.