Tag Archives: Darth Vader

Review: “Star Wars–Darth Vader Vol. II: Shadows And Secrets” by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larocca

Title: Shadows And Secrets
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larocca
Series: Star Wars: Darth Vader #7-12 (Official Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

New Star Wars comics! No time to chat!

Still reeling from the revelation that the pilot who destroyed the Death Star is named Skywalker, Darth Vader redoubles his efforts to track him down off the books. For that, however, he’s going to need funds. Staging a heist is easy. Getting away with it is less so….especially when he’s partnered with a genius investigator and ordered to solve the crime at all costs! Vader is soon forced to play a deadly game, one in which his catspaw Dr. Aphra may just become a pawn to be sacrificed….

This was a lot of fun. Watching Vader scramble to work both sides of an investigation and cover his tracks was interesting, and the interlude on Tatooine was great. It makes perfect sense, of course–Vader’s just learned that the boy he’s hunting is named Skywalker and hails from Tatooine. The logical starting point is the Lars homestead. It’s not every writer/artist team that can wring emotion from Vader’s expressionless mask, but Gillen and Larocca manage it brilliantly. Unlike the first volume, this one has no tie-in with the corresponding arc of the main Star Wars series. They still happen more or less simultaneously, but separately. That will change again next time, and I look forward with great anticipation to the upcoming crossover event: Vader Down….

CONTENT: Mild profanity. Moderate violence. Little to no sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars: Darth Vader” Vol. I by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca

Title: Vader
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larocca
Series: Star Wars: Darth Vader #1-6 (Official Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

Everyone loves a good villain, and few capture the imagination like the hulking ebony figure of Darth Vader. It is then appropriate that Marvel’s main Star Wars line is accompanied by another ongoing series focused on our favorite fallen Jedi….

Spinning out of the main Star Wars book, Kieron Gillen paints us the picture of a Sith Lord on the ropes. In the wake of Vader’s failures at the Death Star and Cymoon I the Emperor has placed his erstwhile apprentice several rungs further down the chain of command than he is used to standing, forcing him to take orders from those he sees as inferior and not even bothering to hide the fact that he is keeping secrets. Vader’s going to have to outmaneuver all the rivals clamoring to fill the power vacuum left by his fall and find a way to work his way back into his master’s favor, or else face being replaced….

As with the main Star Wars series from Marvel, I really enjoyed this. From the propaganda-laden opening crawl to Vader’s final understanding of his relationship with the Emperor, every bit of the story gelled. The writing was superb, and it’s always fascinating to peel back Vader’s helmet and get a peek into the thoughts of one of the more complex characters populating the Galaxy Far, Far Away. At the start of this book, Vader seems to have lost sight of how the Sith operate, following Palpatine with complete loyalty and trusting that the Emperor is likewise loyal. The six issues here will drive home how mistaken he is, and it is one heck of a ride. The side characters introduced here were fun, even if they were a bit derivative. I mean, murderous C-3PO! How can that not be fun? The art was always stellar, though there were a couple panels in certain action sequences that failed to convey the appropriate sense of movement and energy. I enjoyed how tightly this book tied in with the main Star Wars title, but some people may grow annoyed with everything happening off screen. Just read both and you’ll be fine! (In case you were wondering, the proper order is Star Wars #1-3, Darth Vader #1, Star Wars #4, Darth Vader #2-4, and then #5-6 of both series happen simultaneously, both culminating in the same scene from slightly different perspectives.)

CONTENT: Some violence. Mild profanity. Little to no sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars: Skywalker Strikes” by Jason Aaron & John Cassaday

Title: Skywalker Strikes
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday
Series: Star Wars #1-6 (Official Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2015

Okay, cards on the table: I loved the Dark Horse Star Wars comics. Almost all of them, especially anything featuring the team-up of Ostrander and Duursema. So I was very much saddened to see that company lose the Star Wars license. Not surprised, following the purchase by Disney, as that mega-company also owns Marvel. I figured it was only a matter of time, and that turned out to be the case. So I was saddened, just as I was saddened by the relegation of a bunch of my favorite stories to the status of Legends. But the one thing I never expected was that Marvel would drop the ball. I mean, it’s bleedin’ Marvel! If there’s anything they understand, it’s comic books. Now, having read the first arc of their eponymous Star Wars series, I can confidently state that my faith was well-founded.

We join our cadre of heroes as they attempt a daring assault on the Empire’s largest weapons factory, the entire planet of Cymoon I. Posing as a trade delegation from Jabba the Hutt arriving to negotiate renewed supply lines in the wake of the destruction of the Death Star, our heroes slip through security and set about rigging the automated factory’s reactor to blow sky-high. Everything is going to plan, until Darth Vader shows up to negotiate for the Empire….

I mentioned that this was amazing, right? The writing and art sync perfectly to sell you on the fact that you’re watching the continuing adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han. Luke is still a brash hotshot, still feeling his way with regards to the Force, and can be kind of whiny when he’s confronted with just how far he has to go. Han is just as sardonic and impulsive as ever, though the backstory they’re teasing for him may help ground him a bit. We’ll see how that one turns out. Leia is clearly in charge, driven to achieve justice for Alderaan and her family, and even Chewbacca knows to follow her orders. It’ll be interesting to see where they take her character in future arcs.

One potential point of annoyance for some readers is going to be how closely this series and the Star Wars: Darth Vader series that runs concurrently are tied. Events from one series are offhandedly referenced in the other with no explanation, and have major repercussions at times. For example, Vader fails to apprehend our Rebel heroes in this book, is chastised by the Emperor and hires Boba Fett in the Darth Vader book, and then Fett shows up in this book to try and capture Luke. Complicating matters further is the fact that there’s a particular order you need to read these in to get the whole story, and even then you’ll get ahead of yourself unless you stop in the middle of an issue at times. I wasn’t that annoyed by it, but I’d checked out the timeline first and knew what I was doing. (In case you were wondering, the proper order is Star Wars #1-3, Darth Vader #1, Star Wars #4, Darth Vader #2-4, and then #5-6 of both series happen simultaneously, both culminating in the same scene from slightly different perspectives.) This is set in the first year following the destruction of the Death Star, maybe a couple months at most.

CONTENT: Some violence. Minor profanity. Mild flirtation, and a few scantily-clad females in Jabba’s Palace.

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Review: “The Star Wars” by George Lucas, J.W. Rinzler, & Mike Mayhew

Title: The Star Wars
Original Rough-Draft Screenplay: George Lucas
Writer: J.W. Rinzler
Artist: Mike Mayhew
Series: Star Wars (Infinities)
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2014

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….

No, not that Galaxy Far, Far Away. This is a very different Star Wars than the one you and I grew up with. A maskless, non-Force-using Darth Vader leads the assault against Aquilae, the last holdout against Imperial power, whose military is led by the legendary Jedi-Bendu general Luke Skywalker and his apprentice Annikin Starkiller. Han Solo is a less-mossy version of DC’s Swamp Thing. Yeah, you read that right. This is an official comic adaptation of George Lucas’s original first-draft screenplay, and it bears almost no resemblance to the finished product. Some character names are the same, but their roles are almost all completely different. Other names and concepts would be dropped completely, only to show up later in a different place or form. The plot itself bears no resemblance to anything I’ve ever read, and I’ve read nearly all the Star Wars.

I want to say that this was awesome, but remember that part about it being the rough draft? Yeah, it’s still pretty rough. The dialogue is atrocious. The characters are a bit inconsistent in their behavior, from Annikin and Leia’s romance to one of the villains switching sides with little justification. Nevertheless, it is pretty fun to see what might have been….and the disaster that was averted. The art ranges from solid to incredible, and seeing the different designs for a different galaxy was pretty cool. Like I said, I’d like to recommend this, but I can’t.

CONTENT: Minor profanity. No sexual content. Some moderate violence, occasionally disturbing.

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Review: “Star Wars: Lords Of The Sith” by Paul S. Kemp

Title: Lords Of The Sith
Author: Paul S. Kemp
Series: Star Wars (Canon)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2015

New Star Wars! Always a pleasure. As you can probably tell from the title and cover art, this particular entry into the canon is focused on the most powerful duo in the Galaxy Far, Far Away: Emperor Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious) and his apprentice Darth Vader. Or at least it’s supposed to be, according to the marketing people. But since it’s really hard to write a book focused entirely on the villains, they share the spotlight with the rebellious Free Ryloth Movement. Also, the particular scene on the cover doesn’t actually happen therein–no AT-ATs appear, for example, and the Emperor doesn’t use the Force openly unless he’s assured there will be no survivors to let slip his secret. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive visual, and does accurately depict more or less what you’re in for. The details are wrong, but the impression is accurate. Clear as mud? Good.

It’s been five years since the end of the Clone Wars,* since the Old Republic transitioned to the Galactic Empire, and the turmoil across the galaxy is still settling slowly. On Ryloth, the Republic’s benevolent military occupation has transitioned into a much more authoritarian and exploitative arrangement, much as partisan Cham Syndulla feared. His dream of a free Ryloth is once more a long way from reality, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop fighting for it. So when word comes that the Emperor himself is planning to visit Ryloth along with his chief enforcer and mysterious right hand Darth Vader, it is an opportunity far too tempting for Cham and his Free Ryloth Movement to pass up. Without the Emperor and Vader, the Empire would be in turmoil, and Ryloth would have a chance to throw off the Imperial shackles it’s been forced into. Of course, to pull this off they’ll have to destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer, something that has never been done before, and even then there’s no guarantee that Vader and the Emperor would be taken out in the destruction. This is going to take all the resources the movement has managed to gather over the years, and even that may not be enough. Can they afford to take the shot? More importantly, can they afford not to?

As you can probably expect, I loved the book. It does have a few difficulties, though. From the title and cover, you’d expect more Vader/Palpatine focus than there actually is. Instead, while they are heavily featured, most of the novel is devoted to the heroes of the Free Ryloth Movement. You might remember them from one of the arcs of the Clone Wars television series, or because Cham Syndulla is the father of Hera Syndulla from the show Star Wars: Rebels and the novel A New Dawn. Newcomers won’t have that connection, but I think matters are adequately explained so they won’t feel lost. The book does an excellent job of getting inside Vader’s head and showing his damaged psyche, exploring how he has rationalized his past to justify his betrayal of all he held dear, every friend he ever knew. Unfortunately, we don’t get that same insight into the Emperor like I was hoping. Oh well. The other difficulty is that the ending is pretty proscribed. This is set before the original films, so Vader and the Emperor are going to emerge pretty much unscathed. There’s nothing anyone can do about that. Which means that the book really has to get you invested in the secondary characters to keep you engaged. For my money, Mr. Kemp succeeded in that, but I’ve seen some other reviewers who felt differently.

As for how this fits in with other works in the Star Wars universe, as part of the newly-rebooted official canon it’s undergone strenuous continuity checks to make sure it aligns with the rest of the works sharing that status. It ties in explicitly to The Clone Wars series, and I’m assuming the yet-unwatched Rebels series as well.** It does, however, depart significantly from previously-established Legends material. The Legends depiction of Ryloth was thrown out a couple years ago, with the planet’s appearance on The Clone Wars, and this is consistent with that, unsurprisingly. More notable is the change to the Empire’s attitude towards women. In the Legends canon, the Empire was fiercely sexist. Admiral Daala, despite her fierce ambition and competency, only got her position because she was Tarkin’s mistress. In contrast, Lords of the Sith gives us Delian Mors, a female Moff who isn’t even particularly competent. Maybe the Empire gets more sexist later, or maybe they’re discarding that element of the previous continuity. We’ll see. Mors also has the distinction of being the first homosexual character in the Star Wars universe, though that fact has almost no significance to the story.

CONTENT: Mild profanity. This is Star Wars, so they keep it tame. Strong violence, occasionally gory or disturbing. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing too explicit. There’s the implication that a character was a sex slave before escaping to the resistance, and we meet another character still in that situation.

*The opening crawl states that it’s set “Eight years after the Clone Wars ravaged the galaxy,” which would imply eight years after Revenge of the Sith, but an interview with the publisher made clear that this was referring to the start of the war, or Attack of the Clones. This makes little sense, either grammatically or thematically, so I’m racking it up to aftereffects of a change made late in the production of the novel. Maybe I’m wrong though, who knows….

**Since I don’t have cable, I’m waiting for the home release to catch up on that.

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Review: “Star Wars: Tarkin” by James Luceno

Title: Tarkin
Author: James Luceno
Series: Star Wars (Rebooted canon, though it would fit equally well with the Legends stuff)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2014

So, here’s the newest entry in the Star Wars publishing empire. This time we’re treated to a biography/character study of Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, the man behind the Death Star. You don’t remember him? He was the guy in Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope that got to boss Vader around without getting choked, masterfully played by the inimitable Peter Cushing. Cheekbones like razor blades? Ringing a bell? If Vader is the Emperor’s crushing fist, Tarkin is his knife in the dark–deadly, precise, and without mercy.

It’s been five years since the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Emperor. For most of that time, Tarkin has been occupied shepherding the Emperor’s pet project: the as-yet-unnamed planet-sized mobile battle station. Keeping such a large construction project on-task and supplied is no mean feat, even for one of the Emperor’s most trusted lieutenants. Keeping it secret is next to impossible–anyone who’s paying attention knows something is going on out by Geonosis, they just don’t know what. Fortunately, most everyone with enough information to know what questions to ask knows better than to do the asking, and that’s the way Tarkin likes it. Once it’s operation, the mobile battle station will render the Empire’s rule unshakeable. Until then, the Empire’s infallibility can only be maintained by meeting any and all dissent with stiff, merciless reprisals. A new order has been born out of the chaos of the Old Republic, and Tarkin will do whatever he has to do to safeguard it and nurture it to maturity.

James Luceno is known for his incredibly detailed entries into the Star Wars mythos. Earlier endeavors chronicled the rise of Palpatine and his master in Darth Plagueis, somehow showing the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to basically every single Expanded Universe entry set during the period leading up to The Phantom Menace. He’s given us the biography of the Millennium Falcon (yes, you read that right). He’s given us Darth Vader adjusting to his new role in Dark Lord: The Rise Of Darth Vader. Some have criticized a few of his works as being slow at times, which I can see, but I’ve never minded–the attention to detail is worth it. Here, however, nobody has room to complain. Luceno weaves together a pair of compelling narratives, balancing them and always keeping you guessing as to where he’s going to go next. On the one hand, there’s Tarkin & Vader’s pursuit of a suspiciously-effective rebel cell. On the other hand, there’s Tarkin’s backstory, the events that forged him into the Emperor’s finest weapon.

Just as interesting as the new information it provides is the old information rehashed. Why? Because most of it comes from sources that are no longer officially canon. However, thanks to the shout-outs in Tarkin, we can unofficially assume that the events of Darth Plagueis, Dark Lord, and Cloak Of Deception all happened more or less as stated. The books themselves aren’t canon anymore (or at least I haven’t seen anything reinstating them), but the events therein contained still happened. Funny, all those books were written by Luceno….

CONTENT: PG-grade profanity. Some violence, occasionally disturbing in its ruthlessness. No sexual content.

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Review: “Star Wars: Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison” by Haden Blackman & Agustin Alessio

Title: Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison
Writer: Haden Blackman
Artist: Agustin Alessio
Series: Star Wars (Legends Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2013

I shouldn’t have to preface these things with an explanation of my uber-fandom anymore, so I won’t. With no further ado, Darth Vader And The Ghost Prison!

The newly-minted Empire has only been in existence for a matter of months, but already cracks are beginning to show. General Gentis, Imperial hero and headmaster of the Academy, has orchestrated an elaborate coup. Strategically-placed explosives around the Imperial palace distract the guards while a powerful bioweapon is deployed, killing everyone inside with the exception of the Emperor who is barely able to sustain himself with the Force. Now the fate of the Empire is placed in the hands of Darth Vader, Moff Trachta, and young Lieutenant Tohm, fresh from the academy and one of the few cadets not included in Gentis’ plot. Coruscant is no longer safe for the ailing Emperor, and these three uneasy allies will have to seek out a secret Jedi facility in which to hide and regroup. It remains to be seen, however, how safe they can possibly be in a facility filled with prisoners deemed too dangerous to be turned over to Republic authorities….

Haden Blackman writes another stellar Star Wars adventure, following up his earlier successes and giving us yet another glimpse into the mind of Darth Vader in the early days of his new existence. In addition we gain some insight into the origins of Moff Trachta, the fan-favorite character first introduced in the first arc of Star Wars: Empire. Trachta’s run there was tragically short, but his character grabbed our imagination and even gained him an action figure eventually. New character Lieutenant Tohm rounds out the cast of protagonists, and is a character I was very much looking forward to seeing more from in later books. Add to this the chance to explore a secret Jedi prison, and there’s lots to love about the writing in this collection. Even better, however, is the artwork. Agustin Alessio turns in some really stellar work here, the kind of stuff I usually expect from Dark Horse and the lack of which I was complaining about in my last Buffy comic review. Anyone who can get Vader to show emotion (not easy, given the lack of facial expression his helmet imposes) can draw comics for me any day!

CONTENT: Quite a bit of violence, occasionally disturbing, such as the aftermath of the bioagent the conspirators release or the aftermath of a prison riot. No profanity, and little to no sexual innuendo. There’s some light flirting with a couple Twi’leks in a bar, but that’s about it.

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