Sunday, 14 June 2015

Marvel Star Wars: Darth Vader, Volume 1 Review (Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca)


The second title in the 2015 Marvel Star Wars relaunch is Darth Vader, the most iconic character in the series and one of the best villains of all time. And the book is… just ok. 

Like Jason Aaron’s Star Wars series, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s Darth Vader takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and even links in with Aaron’s book by showing what Vader got up to in between his appearances there. 

The premise of this series makes sense but it’s also quite weak. The Emperor is displeased that Vader failed him by allowing the Rebels to blow up the Death Star; Vader must prove himself worthy by defeating the Emperor’s potential replacements for him. 

It’s weak because we know Vader isn’t replaced - he’s in Empire and Return of the Jedi - so there’s no real tension over whether or not he’ll triumph. 

Gillen introduces some new characters but they’re derivative of other, more well-known characters. Dr Aphra IS female Indiana Jones. Her introduction is exactly like the opening sequence to Raiders of the Lost Ark but Star Wars-ified, and she describes herself as a rogue archaeologist. There’s also 0-0-0 (Triple Zero) and BT-1, two droids who look exactly like Threepio and Artoo but with black plating because they’re EVIL. I’m not sure if they were meant as comic relief but they’re not funny and were distracting for being such unimaginative creations.

One of the things I was hoping these comics wouldn’t do was reference the heinous prequels. I really wanted them to be forgotten like the nightmares they were and Marvel would just focus on the original trilogy and beyond, like the forthcoming Force Awakens movie. Jason Aaron adopted this approach but Gillen disappoints by referencing the prequels throughout this book. 

There are flashbacks to Vader as Anakin with Padme in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, references to Mustafar, Geonosis and Vader’s hatred of the Sandpeople; he even resurrects the tired old theme of building a secret army and we see the Nubian royal starship (the silver spaceship from Phantom Menarghhgh - couldn’t say it!) that Vader still uses as his own private ride (out of sentimentality?). A couple shots even looked like they were taken from the prequels, specifically those long, boring CGI shots of interiors on Coruscant - ugh!

Did any of that make the book better, or was any of it even necessary? Nope! Just stirred up bad memories once again. Up yours, Kieron Gillen! 

Salvador Larroca’s art is gorgeous though, drawing the familiar characters beautifully, even presenting the comic like a movie with wide panels and splash pages. Adi Granov’s covers too were absolutely fantastic, as always. 

But, like I said, this title merges with Jason Aaron’s so certain moments like Vader on Tatooine meeting Jabba, hiring Boba Fett to track down Luke, and that final shot, are repeated. That doesn’t mean you need to read this to appreciate the other though - in fact, given how ordinary this book is, you could skip this entirely and just read Aaron’s far better Star Wars book instead and not miss anything important! 

I’m sure most people will read this book because who can resist a great villain, especially one as cool as Vader? But it’s not a great story, though it has fantastic art. Star Wars works as an ensemble piece - break that up and focus on just one element and even the strongest piece, like Vader, seems weak and unimpressive. Gillen proves that with this average book by not really knowing what to with the character alone. 

The Force is mediocre with this one!

Marvel Star Wars: Darth Vader, Volume 1

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