Darth Vader gets his first extended graphic novel series penned by Kieron Gillen and it gives us a look at Vader’s life between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Not surprisingly, Vader is a bad ass here.

I recently joined a Goodreads group called I Read Comic Books and every month a new graphic novel is chosen to discuss. I wished I had joined this group earlier as they have discussed many books that I have enjoyed and reviewed in the past. March’s vote strongly skewed towards this Star Wars selection and I happily decided to join in.

In this first volume,  the action picks  up soon after the destruction of the Death Star. The Emperor is far from pleased with Vader and puts him under the command of Grand Admiral Tagge, a man Vader looks at as simply a data cruncher with no vision. Vader knows he needs to watch his back so while doing the Emperor’s bidding, Vader decides to build his own droid army. He employs some familiar faces such as Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett as well as a dark haired Wookie. He also conscripts shady Dr. Aphra and two assassin robots, 000 and BT-1, to do his dirty work. Interspersed throughout are his memories of his time with Padmé, and in the end the bounty hunters give him his first clue in identifying Luke as his son.

Last year I read the excellent short story collection Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View and I discovered a character that I didn’t know before that collection is in this graphic novel.  Double checking my review, I wrote of the story The Trigger “Aphra is a dubious archaeologist who skirts the law on Dantooine. Captured by stormtroopers she talks her way out of trouble. She was an unfamiliar character to me, but her fleshed out backstory hinted that she plays more of a role in Star Wars canon, so I wasn’t surprised to realize she can be found in many Star Wars graphic novels.” And guess who wrote that short story? None other than Kieron Gillen! Gillen’s work in these Star Wars novels and The Wicked and The Divine series shows that he has an excellent handle on pop-culture.

The artwork was appropriately dark hued with black gutters. Artist Salvador Larroca ably recreated characters from the movies while creating new inhabitants in the Star Wars universe that fit in with the space look we have come to expect from the movies. I really enjoyed the cover art on chapter two from Adi Granov that showed Vader striding by a bunch of Stormtroopers and Tagge with his cape flying out behind him and the coloring by Edgar Delgado was spot-on.

This book fits in the approved Disney canon, but it didn’t move me as I am really only a fan of the Star Wars movies and I wasn’t invested in the narrative. Because all the action is between two movies you know the main characters will live while new characters will die, thus when Palpatine threatened Vader with replacing him with new apprentices, I was not worried in the least. So while I understand on one level that this is a well written and illustrated graphic novel, I will not continue with the series due to my personal preference for the movies.

-Nancy

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