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This can't be
happening. How
is he doing this?
It's just one man!

Star Wars: Vader Down is crossover between Marvel's main Star Wars (2015) comic series and the Darth Vader limited series. In graphic novel form, it consists of the one-shot comic of the same name as well as two issues of the Star Wars comic (13, 14) and three issues of Darth Vader's comic (13, 14, and 15). The three Vader issues are from that book's regular creative team of writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca. Vader Down and the two Star Wars issues are by writer Jason Aaron and artist Mike Deodato. The two teams mesh very well and the result is one seamless story.

In this collection, Darth Vader has followed a lead to a planet where he hopes to find the pilot who destroyed the Death Star. By this point, Vader has put together the clues to the pilot's true identity, although he continues to refer to him only as 'the boy.' But unknown to Vader the planet houses a large rebel base. Lord Vader's custom TIE fighter emerges from hyperspace right in front of three squadrons of X-wing fighters*. Someone's in trouble. (Clue: Look back up at the top.)

As you might guess from the title, Vader ends up crash landed on the planet, alone and surrounded by rebel troops.

All I am surrounded by is fear.

And dead men.

Uhm...thanks for that clarification, Lord Vader. His confidence is not misplaced, and the rebel leadership dispatches a large force to apprehend him. The primary 'original trilogy' heroes are, of course, included.

Chaos ensues. Various confrontations take place, including Threepio and Artoo encountering their evil twins, Leia face to face with Vader, Han Solo versus space-Indiana-Jones-wannabe Doctor Aphra, and even some hot Wookiee-on-Wookiee action. What we don't get is Darth Vader confronting Luke, because we know that has to wait for The Empire Strikes Back. Instead Commander Karbin, one of Lord Vader's rivals, joins the fray. Karbin is basically General Grievous crossed with Admiral Ackbar, and he wants to take Luke to the Emperor himself. This puts him and Lord Vader at odds, and allows dramatic lightsaber combat to ensue. They seem evenly matched, but Lord Vader commands the Force, and has allies.

Crossovers generally end with exeunt omnes and this one's no exception. The main characters all exit more or less intact, some violently dis-armed protocol droids not withstanding. The Malfunction soars away in a full-page panel as Vader watches** from the ground, and the stories continue in their own books.

Recommendation

Sometimes crossovers become Frankenstein's monsters when combined in a graphic novel, but this one doesn't. The story fragments into many threads but they pull together reasonably well, and in the meantime we get lots of fantastic art. I don't follow the main Star Wars book but the artists do well by the characters. Leia is especially well done, capturing a young Carrie Fisher quite well. Each artist gets a full-page take of Darth Vader looming over Leia, both are excellent. Story-wise, Vader's unstoppability is a bit overplayed at first, but mooks exist to be wantonly slaughtered.

We could always murder everyone we encounter.
— Triple-Zero.

Thanks, evil Threepio. The dialog is perfect Star Wars, and there are lots of fun character moments, and the crossover moves the Vader arc along without messing it up, so it works for me. It's not as grand as the previous Darth Vader: Shadows and Secrets or the next Darth Vader: The Shu-Torun War, but if you want to collect the whole set of Lord Vader's solo adventures, it's an essential part of the story.


Followed by: Darth Vader: The Shu-Torun War.

Lord Vader and Triple-Zero's words, and the rebel's outcry that serves as the simulated opening crawl, are taken from the reviewed work.

* In this book, space is as crowded as the shopping mall just before Christmas. Sigh. It's space opera, suspension of disbelief is de rigueur.

** Vader brought down an Imperial Lambda-class shuttle earlier in the book in a similar circumstance by using the Force. I assume that using the Force to damage the Malfunction is more challenging, either because he doesn't know its systems or because he thinks that it might well explode, depriving him of his prize. As well it might.

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