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Look upon
your inevitable
fate. End this
before I end you.

Darth Vader is a 25-issue Star Wars comic series from Marvel, written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Salvador Larroca. This graphic novel follows the events of Star Wars: Vader Down, and incorporates Darth Vader annual #1 (drawn by artist Leinil Yu) and issues sixteen through nineteen of the Darth Vader series.

This installment of the graphic novel series takes Lord Vader to the world of Shu-Torun, a world of precious metals and minerals that are key to the ambitions of the Emperor. Increased demand—prompted by a certain recent setback—have led to rebellion by some factions, and Lord Vader and some of his remaining rivals are dispatched to restore order. Vader deals with politics, betrayals, and uprisings with brutal effectiveness, fulfilling his mission without regard to collateral damage. He also spends quite a bit of time dangerously close to magma, which you would think might give him pause, but does not slow him in the slightest.

This story is fairly self-contained, starting in the annual and wrapping up neatly by the end. The very last page of the book connects to a thread left dangling at the end of Star Wars: Vader Down, and you could probably skip over this one without much impact to the narrative. But you'd miss some strong character moments, including Vader giving the Emperor some sass, giving leadership advice to a young queen, and of course dispensing the Empire's justice liberally. But there's no strong foil for Vader to spar verbally with, so we never quite get that resonant gem of dialog that gave other entries in this series their mojo.

The annual's art has a touch of throwback to old-school Marvel Star Wars, as artist Leinil Yu gives Vader the massive shoulders that I recall from those early comics. He also has numerous panels with amazing use of red reflections on Vader's mask, recalling the classic red and black of the early red Return of the Jedi posters. When we switch back to the regular issues, the tight style of Larroca returns, and Lord Vader stops looking so much like a linebacker. It's solid throughout, but there were fewer specific panels that struck me as awesome, unlike the previous books. I did enjoy the full-page panel in the scene that opens issue sixteen ("I found him.") and I quite liked a dialog-free multi-panel page from the annual where Vader calmly escapes from a deadly magma trap with no more fuss than you or I on the morning commute.

Recommendation

I liked it, but I didn't love it. It advances the secondary plot a bit, further pruning the field of Vader's rivals. The art makes extensive use of the warm colors, so if you like lots of orange, you'll be happy. There are some clever dialog moments, but also no single moment of transcendence. The story seems to tread...magma...in this collection, and perhaps the standard of excellence that has been set is simply too high to sustain. But once the arc wraps, Vader has accomplished his mission and his rivals are dead or fleeing, and we get back on track with Vader's own quest, and great things are in the offing. Useful for completists, but not essential. This is a good one to borrow from the public library.


Followed by: Darth Vader: End of Games.

Lord Vader's words, that serve as the simulated opening crawl, are taken from the reviewed work. Even here, I struggled to find the winning pull quote.

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