Darth Vader Volume 1: Vader and Volume 2: Shadows and Secrets

Darth Vader Volume 1: Vader and Volume 2: Shadows and Secrets
Kieron Gillen, 2015, 2016

Premise: After the destruction of the first Death Star, Vader has to rebuild his power and influence within a changed Empire. Collects Darth Vader #1-6 and #7-12.

This is a lot of fun, but I might advise people to hold out for the whole run.

So, I know a lot of people who loved the end Vader scene in Rogue One. Myself, I didn't quite get it. I've been told that it was satisfying to see Vader be a threatening, unstoppable force. I say it felt pandering. (I had already kind of checked out of this movie by that point, to be fair.)

I say, if you want to see Vader be Vader, read this comic.

What I think is really well done here is the balance between comic-book conventions and cinematic conventions. Vader is a quiet, menacing figure. He doesn't get thought balloons or narration, which keeps him slightly aloof and cryptic. We see full panel images when we need a clue to what memories are going through his head.

He's placed in a position where he needs to act outside of the Empire. He wants to figure out what happened at the destruction of the Death Star, and he needs his own power base because he knows the Emperor doesn't trust him (or anyone).

This story of factions, in which all the players are villains, is twisty and fascinating. Some levity is provided by a pair of homicidal droids and the breakout character: Dr. Aphra.

She's an interesting character, a largely amoral tech specialist whose natural habitat seems to be hazardous secret missions. I only wish she'd been introduced more clearly. It feels as though she was name-checked once and then immediately dropped out of a clear blue sky to become a core part of the cast.

She's important to have around, not just because she's interesting in her own right, but because her chatterbox nature balances the pacing when your lead character is often silent.

That reminds me, a shout-out is due to the art, which is dynamic, clear, and lovely.

As I alluded to at the top, the most significant fault I can find is that neither of these volumes had what I would consider an ending. You could argue that a surface-level plotline was closed at the end of each, but I read straight from the first to the second without even considering stopping, and really regretted that I didn't have the next one.

Note: The next one is not Volume 3, because comics are difficult. The next few issues are part of a crossover volume: Vader Down.

But it should tell you something about these books that I'm probably going to go buy that volume as soon as I finish typing this...

4 Stars - Very Good Books


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