After an exposition-heavy opening issue and a one-off adventure in the second issue, I wasn’t expecting an immediate continuation of the overarching story. Writer Kieron Gillen made it no secret that Darth Vader would be a slow, meaty boil, frequently citing the anti-hero-centric television shows Breaking Bad and House of Cards as his influences for the series. Vader’s priority is still to find that blond kid who had his old lightsaber, but he’s making very careful, calculated moves to make sure it stays off of the Emperor’s radar.
The selling point of this issue was new character Doctor Aphra, a devil-may-care archaeologist with sketchy motives. She’s sort of Indiana Jones in space, but with a darker flavor. She’s more interested in weaponry than our Doctor Jones, however, and has a bizarre admiration of Darth Vader (more on that later). She will undoubtedly serve as Vader’s talkative, vivacious foil, similar to Ahsoka Tano’s role in The Clone Wars. Her positive attitude makes Vader look even grumpier, but he treats her so much warmly than any other characters. Anyone else would get a red lightsaber through the belly if they so much as looked at Vader the wrong way, but Vader’s only response to Aphra’s confidence is, “You are overly fond of talking.” I would very much like to see Gillen explore the idea that Vader sees a bit of Ahsoka in Aphra, and therefore cuts her more slack, but that would involve mentioning Ahsoka’s dubious fate, which is yet to be determined after her surprise appearance in Star Wars Rebels. Vader employs Aphra’s services after a murderous display of force, and we are even treated to the acts of violence it took for Vader to find her. This is the most black humorous moment we’ve seen in the series thus far; Vader is so extreme and formidable that of course he found her. Again, the only thing Vader has to fear in this quest is the Emperor.
The droids in this issue also provide an excellent opportunity to explore not only Darth Vader’s experiences during the decidedly more droid-heavy Clone Wars era, but their presence in this series will provide an insight into Vader’s deteriorating humanity. As Obi-Wan Kenobi so famously told Luke Skywalker, “He’s more machine now than man.” And, up until this series, we haven’t seen Vader interact directly with droids much at all. This is another fresh element that proves that these comics have a distinct place and purpose in this new age of Star Wars. That being said, Triple Zero and the blastomech BT-1 are definitely the “evil” C-3PO and R2-D2. I can’t wait to see them interact more with each other and with Vader. There are also more old Vader-wounds to reopen as the “team” heads to Geonosis to salvage some battle droids for Vader’s new secret army. Darth Vader does run the risk of opening too many wounds; he has already been to Tattooine, now Geonosis, and, as much as I would appreciate the fan service, I have my fingers crossed that there are no trips to Naboo planned in his itinerary (and if anyone has a completely over-planned itinerary, it’s Vader).
I do have two nitpicks with this issue that I’m hoping are due more to my own absent-mindedness than the actual storytelling. First, why does Aphra admire Vader? At first, I thought she was just being her sarcastic, no-filter self, but she kept on with it. Aphra seems pretty single-minded in her quest for rare droids and the like, so where would any interest in Vader come from? My other issue is much more minor, but how exactly did Vader determine the activation code for the protocol droid? I know he has experience building protocol droids with C-3PO, but this would imply that all protocol droids have the same restriction codes. I’m not sure what exactly was going on there, but perhaps some re-sequencing of the panels or some added nuance on Vader’s face would help to fill in some blanks. The subtlety of Vader’s facial expressions (or lack thereof) are definitely weaker in this issue than they have been in the previous two.
A permissably slow issue, Kieran Gillen and Salvador Larocca introduces us to some great new characters and some always-impressive photo-realistic artwork in a chapter that is planting the seeds for the ultimate Darth Vader: fear, machines, and manipulation. Darth Vader is shaping up to be the strongest series of Marvel’s latest offerings, and, considering how much fun Star Wars and Princess Leia have been, that’s saying quite a lot. I have every confidence that these slow issues, as enjoyable as they are, are building up toward something massive that will enhance every fan’s viewing of the Star Wars films.
4 out of 5 starsPowered by Sidelines