Review: Darth Vader #17

Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca are back with the next installment in the Darth Vader as the book takes its turn as a political maneuvering story. Or rather, it’s a story with political maneuvering and a wrench called Vader in the middle. Despite his history with Shu-Torun and Queen Trios, Vader doesn’t really care about the planet and its unique political system. He’s more concerned with making sure it remains loyal to the Empire and that he gets the job done. Everyone is working around him towards their own goals with varying levels of success.

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Review: Darth Vader #16

Have we all recovered from Vader Down yet? No? It’s okay, me neither. This week, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca take us on a brand new adventure to the planet Shu-Torun where the ore barons are rebelling and being very inconvenient for the Empire. Who else would the Emperor dispatch to deal with the situation but Darth Vader?

While it’s probably not completely mandatory, I strongly suggest picking up and reading the Darth Vader Annual before delving into this arc as it provides all of the backstory. The dynamics between Vader and Queen Trios are what really make this issue stand out to me. In a way, it’s like a mirror to the dynamic between Vader and Palpatine in that you have an individual who is used to having power and to having their orders obeyed who is then faced with a stronger individual that they must defer to. I’m curious to see how far it’s taken and how far Trios and Vader can push each other before one of them snaps.

The shift from Skywalkers to royalty is certainly a welcome one at this point in the series. It’s a nice change of pace in the book’s second year before that storyline became stale. Plus, Shu-Torun also gives the creative team a chance to expand the universe and create another monarchy for a particular brand of Star Wars nerd to geek out of.

Of course, this review wouldn’t be complete without expressing A LOT OF CONCERN IN REGARDS TO THE SAFETY AND WELL BEING OF DOCTOR APHRA. (I’ve got my eye on you, Gillen. I’ve read too many of your comics to think she’s safe!)

Oh and also? The cover of this issue by Mark Brooks along with the one teased at the end of the issue is drop death gorgeous.

Darth Vader #16 is a worthwhile follow up to Vader Down and I’m excited to see where the story goes!

Review: Darth Vader #14

Look.  Do you know what’s not okay?  That cover to the right by Mark Brooks because MY HEART STARTED POUNDING WHEN I THOUGHT THAT JUST MAY HK-47 WAS BACK BUT NOOOOOO IT’S JUST SOME OTHER RANDOM DROID.  *breathes*

Vader Down is back this week with Darth Vader #14 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca.  When last we left our heroes, Leia was facing off against Darth Vader… which always goes well for people.

Despite this issue being action packed, it felt a little bit slower in comparison to the last few.  That’s not a bad thing though because honestly? I can only take Vader terrifying me so many times in a row.  What Darth Vader #14 does do really well is put some solid character moments into the mix.  I recently read an interview from Gillen where he mentioned that Vader Down is testing out how some of the characters react to each other in this three year gap between films and no where was it more evident than with Leia and Vader.  Not only is there a difference between how they react to each other now but this is an incredibly telling moment for Leia.  In just a few pages, her commitment to the Rebel Alliance coupled with the permanent weight of Alderaan that she carries around have never been more evident.  It’s very well done.

The levity breaks are still around in this issue.  As per usual, the Murder Bots are turning out to be worth their weight in gold and poor Threepio is going to need a vacation after this.  Gillen did a good day’s work when he came up with the idea for Dr. Aphra and the Murder Bots.  (That’s the name of my cover band, by the way.)

Vader Down continues to be fantastic and I can’t wait to pick up the next issue!

Review: Darth Vader Annual

Another week of me making sad faces because this comic does NOT pick up from that awesome Vader Down cliffhanger but I shall quickly change that sad face into one of glee because this issue of Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen and Leinil Yu has EVERYTHING. It has a brand new royal court! It has the Murder Bots! It has Vader getting to be badass and ruthlessly efficient! Truly, this is New York’s hottest club.

Vader travels to Shu-torun, a planet both rich in ore and noble court traditions in order to emphasize the power of the Empire. His guide and escort upon reaching the planet is the youngest princess, Trios, who stands to inherit no major position upon her father’s death. Meanwhile, the Murder Bots are sneaking around trying to complete their own mission, which will, unsurprisingly, probably end with blood.

I can truly say without reservation that I loved this issue. According to Gillen’s social media, this Annual serves as a lead in of sorts for the next story arc after Vader Down concludes which is, in itself, intriguing. Plus, it’s hard to turn down an issue in which Vader gets to just destroy people who stand against him. But what I really really loved about this was the royal court and traditions of Shu-torun. What’s not to love about a court where formal wear involves glowing things on your fingertips? I love that we’re getting to see not only more new planets but also new planets that have monarchies.

Princess Trios is an interesting character. As Vader himself notes, she’s “admirable” and the issue certainly sets her up to have a future role in the Star Wars galaxy along with an intriguing dynamic with Vader.

Oh? And that gift that Vader brings to the Royals of Shu-torun? Stone. Cold. Cruel.

Vader Annual gets a hell yeah! on my scale of enthusiasm along with a strong recommendation that you read it.

Review: Darth Vader #13

Look, let’s be honest: Vader Down is essentially Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen sitting across a table from each other while grinning diabolically and going “Oh, you had your artist draw Vader doing that cool thing? JUST WATCH WHAT I’M GOING TO HAVE MY ARTIST DRAW!” Alternatively, just imagine this as a Pokemon fight with Larroca and Dedato as the Pokemon and Aaron and Gillen as the trainers.  (I should probably admit that I never played Pokemon or watched it or… this metaphor has gotten away from me.)  (Ten thousand bonus points go to the first person to photoshop this.)

Point is, Vader Down continuing to be an awesome crossover event with the release of Darth Vader #13 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca.  As you may have guessed from the opener, this comic is filled with plenty of instances of Vader being badass.  Moments like these really emphasize why people are scared of the Dark Lord of the Sith.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a Vader issue if we didn’t get more of Dr. Aphra and the Murder Bots.  They have some particularly fun parts in this issue that I won’t spoil for you.

One of the best moments in the comic was when Gillen got to play with characters he previously hasn’t been able to: Han and Leia.  Their disagreement about whether to go after Vader or to send a rescue mission for Luke really just nails the essence of who they are especially in these early months after the Battle of Yavin.  Leia is focused on the Alliance’s mission and vengeance for her people while Han’s more concerned about this farmboy he’s taking a liking to.

Oh yeah.  And did I mention all those glorious pages of Vader just stomping all over everyone?  Because those were pretty great.

Review: Darth Vader #12

You know what’s a good sign that a comic book is awesome? When you turn a page and audibly say “OH $#!*” Darth Vader #12 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca not only has one of those moments but it’s a sequence that would make the Battlefront game jealous.

It’s difficult to point to one element that makes this book work more than any others. Is it Gillen’s great grasp of Vader? Is it the supporting cast of characters? Is it Larroca’s artwork? Is it how Palpatine’s manipulating hand can be felt in so many of the pages? Is it how badass Vader is? Is it Dr. Aphra’s ridiculous facial expressions when things aren’t going the best?

Darth Vader has been a beautiful example of how an entire team can come together to make a book gel. I’ve been remiss in mentioning everyone on that team in the past so let’s rectify that now and give some accolades to Edgar Delgado on colors, Joe Caramagna on lettering, and the editing skills of Jordan White and Heather Antos. This is the last issue before Vader Down kicks off and it feels like a good time to look back and appreciate how virtually flawless this book has been.

This issue may not have had the emotional impact of the ones where Vader realized Luke was his son but it certainly packs a punch. All the pieces are moving into alignment and, like I said before, it’s hard not to see Palpatine sitting back to see what all of his pawns will do next. I’m particularly interested to see how things go with Thanoth and to see if he’ll eventually become wise to Vader’s plan.

Darth Vader #12 is another well-down issue by the entire team that perfectly sets up the forthcoming crossover and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Oh and those pages. Those amazing four pages. You’ll know them when you see them.

Review: Darth Vader #11

Right so let me explain to you a thing: Kieron Gillen is clearly in league with Chuck Wendig to give me multiple heart attacks in the space of mere minutes while reading their work. Darth Vader #11 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca is out today and is definitely a high stakes and stressful ride.

With each passing issue, Darth Vader shows itself to be more and more of a character study; taking it up a notch from a book that could’ve just been Vader killing things for 22 pages every month. Gillen highlights Vader’s strengths and his weaknesses without hitting readers over the head with it. This current arc has been reinforcing that while Vader is smart, he’s not the smartest person in the room and it’s only a matter of time before that has consequences… consequences that he may or may not have to personally pay the price for.

On the other side of things, Dr. Aphra continues to be a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe and Triple Zero and BeeTee are delightful despite being homicidal. There’s just something about them being in a book as a contrast to Vader that works incredibly well. It would be interesting to have seen more of Aphra from before she started working with Vader and see if this is how she’s always worked and been. I suspect the answer is yes but still. She’s smart and she can adapt to a situation fast. It’s a good combination but I can’t shake the feeling that it will also contribute to her eventual downfall

There’s nothing new to say on the artist front because clearly Larroca is still rocking it. He did, however, draw the BEST Dr. Aphra facial expression ever a little less than halfway through the issue. If that face doesn’t show up as at least one person’s Twitter icon within a week, I’ll be shocked.

Darth Vader #11 gets another Hell Yeah! on my new sliding scale of enthusiasm.

Review: Darth Vader #10

Following up on last issue’s mic drop, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca show no signs of slowing down or lessening the quality of this great book with the release of Darth Vader #10 today.

Darth Vader #10 is the issue that really lets Dr. Aphra shine. Readers have certainly gotten to know her for the last six or so issues but this is the one where it really made sense to me why she is the way she is. Or, in other words, why she continues to work for Vader. We’ve known that her character was grounded in the idea of a darker version of Indiana Jones but never has it been more evident than here. Not only do we get some of her backstory but we get a little more clarity into how she views the galaxy. Her conversation with Than is absolutely fascinating. My only question is how Commodex Than knows everything that he knows. (It’ll make more sense when you read the issue.)

Larroca clearly had a ton of fun with getting to design a Naboo house and it makes me wish we could see more of the planet more often. My only artistic complaint is that there’s one really weird panel with Aphra’s butt that just looks… odd and unnecessary? Oh. And I’m pretty sure that taking selfies is canon in Star Wars now unless I interpreted a panel completely wrong. So that’s cool. (Not a complaint, just a comment!)

The issue isn’t all Aphra though. Inspector Thanoth is going to be a problem and that in turn is going to be a problem for him. Just wait… I can feel it.

Gillen and Larroca continue to knock it out of the park and #10 gets a very strong recommendation from me this week.

Review: Darth Vader #9

Not content with all the new Star Wars material we got on Force Friday? Good because Marvel has plenty more to share. Out today is Shattered Empire #1 (which we’ll be reviewing once it’s collected in November) and Darth Vader #9. Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca return to the adventures of Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra, and the two lovable murderbots.

Vader is still under the thumb of Admiral Tagge after his failure at Yavin 4 and must work with Thanoth instead of devoting himself to his own side project. Thankfully, he has (for now) an ally and useful tool in the form of the one and only Aphra who is running down some leads for him at a very expensive rate…

And then Kieron Gillen dropped the f*$&ing microphone. Thus ends the review. Dear Marvel: Give me issue #10 right now.  Please.

(No seriously. That’s all this review is going to say. Go buy Darth Vader #9 either at your local comic store or through a digital shop right now. Trust me.)