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This review is spoiler-free, save for one obvious tenet: Darth Vader is a bad, bad man.

There’s no escaping the simple truth after reading the first issue of Marvel Comics’s Star Wars: Darth Vader #1: He’s a thoroughly evil and vile man-machine filled with paranoia, self-loathing and vindictiveness.DarthVader1Variant

In short, he’s just what the Empire needs to help stoke fear across its vast interstellar holdings, even if his failure to keep the Death Star from destruction has drawn the ire of Emperor Palpatine.

From the opening crawl of the first pages of Marvel’s first issue of Darth Vader, out Feb. 11 in comic shops, it’s evident that writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larocca aren’t squandering the opportunity to lay bare what makes Darth Vader who he is, why he is and why he’s struggling with it.

This is an an opening chapter into a deep, deep dive into the myriad of complexities that make Darth Vader who he is and how he’s striving to prove not just his loyalty, but his reason for existence.

There is a tone throughout the book that gives it the air of a government-run and state-sponsored propaganda mill, which is an effect that only ehances the disturbing fascination for something, and someone, so decadently evil.

Through the 44 pages of this issue, readers are shown a side of the Emperor only hinted at, and, at the same time, the direct sensation that no matter how much time  and energy Darth Sidious has put in to train his apprentice, there is no love or paternalistic feeling. Failure permeates and envelopes Darth Vader. Vengeance drives him. Vengeance on behalf of the Empire and, more Sith-like, vengeance for the face he’s lost in front of his master at the hands of the Rebellion and that pilot whose lucky shot destroyed the Death Star.

This review is spoiler-free, so I won’t divulge too much, yet it can be said that there are some familiar faces and organizations — think seedy crime lords (Hello, Jabba!) and syndicates — and places found in the first issue, along with some new ones, too, that will resonate not just through this series, but into the Star Wars monthly as well.VaderJabba

Gillen is a deft scribe and it’s clear his obsession for details, admiration for the saga — as well as his penchant for artful dialogue — are in full force. So, too, are the illustrations by Larocca whose style and efforts help push this story to an apex that will leave many, if not all, readers stunned by the end of the issue.

The comic is out Wednesday and can be picked up in comic shops or digitally here.

It goes without saying that Marvel is ensuring that its new wave of Star Wars titles are interlocking puzzle pieces, with events in one having effect in the other. Judging from the first issue, Darth Vader is poised to make one popular culture’s best-known villains even more villainous, complex and, frighteningly, sympathetic.


matt_at_logo_3Matt Moore has been perpetrating journalism since 1985, reveling in Star Wars since 1977 and reading comics since 1974.

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3 Comments

  1. James Worthington
    February 9, 2015 at 11:54 Reply

    Thanks for this review. Since I saw the preview pages in Star Wars #1, I have been struck by the symmetry in the stories and the shock that we will be delving into a dark place with little Ani. As you said, I am afraid that we will find this villain frighteningly sympathetic.

  2. Pam Bruchwalski
    February 9, 2015 at 15:06 Reply

    I. Can’t. Wait. Thank you for an evocative review!

  3. Lisa
    February 10, 2015 at 21:41 Reply

    I’m definitely picking this one up the day it comes out!

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