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‘Star Wars: Darth Vader by Gillen & Larroca Omnibus’ (review)

Written by Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron
Art by Salvador Larroca, Mike Norton,
Max Fiumara, Leinil Francis Yu
Published by Marvel Comics

 

Kieron Gillen’s take on the of greatest villain of all time exceeds expectations.

It’s a near perfect mix of action, adventure, and most importantly, character.

Taking place in the aftermath of the destruction of the first Death Star, we learn that The Emperor did not simply elevate Darth Vader to supreme commander of the Imperial war machine in reward for failing to both protect the Death Star and wiping out the Rebel Alliance.

No. Vader was tested.

Not only proving to The Emperor that he’s the best baddie to ever exist, but to us the reader as well.

There’s also the minor matter of discovering the identity of a certain rebel pilot who destroyed the greatest weapon the galaxy had ever known.

This collection of issues is an engaging read that pays homage to the original Star Wars film while introducing new characters who fit well into that far, far away galaxy. Particularly noteworthy is the very first appearance of the alluring Doctor Aphra and her psychopathic droids Triple-Zero and BeeTee.

While Darth Vader is clearly the star and focus of this series, Doctor Aphra steals the show in nearly every panel she appears in. As for her droids, imagine all the eccentricity of R2-D2 and politeness of C-3PO but programmed for torture and murder. They’re fun.

The art by Salvador Larroca is gorgeous and a perfect fit for Gillen’s material. They capture the look and feel of the original Star Wars trilogy beautifully in terms of color palette, panel composition and layout.

This volume also includes Darth Vader Annual #1, The Misadventures of Triple-Zero and BeeTee and Coda, all written by Gillen, and Star Wars #13 and #14 and Vader Down written by Jason Aaron who collaborates with Gillen in this collection and is the lead writer of his own Star Wars series (with whom Gillien collaborates.) All take place within the overall 1-25 timeline and serve to complete the story succinctly.

My general gripe, which is my consistent go-to with Star Wars comics, is dialogue.

Graphic mediums are certainly a different storytelling animal than cinema and broadcast, but words always have and always will command great power and respect.

What makes Darth Vader formidable are his words. In the original Trilogy, each word was crafted with laser precision and performed with classical perfection by the legendary James Earl Jones. Often, it was what Darth Vader wasn’t saying that spoke louder than any words. He doesn’t even utter a single word in his first on-screen appearance for crying out loud!

Darth Vader’s dialogue is without a doubt one of the toughest to perfect. As I read, in an effort to hear the fearsome Darth Vader speaking to me, I found myself mentally re-writing many of Vader’s lines or deleting dialogue all together.

This goes for The Emperor as well. Ian McDiarmid knew how to chew the scenery and was equally effective in making each scripted word count.

Here, The Emperor feels too cartoon-villainesque at times, over-expositioning.

Dialogue issues aside, it’s the strength of the storytelling makes this collection well worth adding to your collection.

There’s lots of well-crafted scheming. Everyone has clear and relatable agendas; Vader, Aphra, The Emperor and every adversary. No one is a bad guy for the sake of being a bad guy. Power, rage and self-preservation motivate every action. Fights don’t happen just to move the story along, they happen because someone needs something.

My favorite story is the appropriately named final issue, “Coda”, specially written for this collection. It’s a simple tale of Tusken Raiders telling a campfire ghost story about the galactic boogieman Darth Vader. It’s a perfect moment that captures the mythology of Darth Vader and the terror he commands throughout the entire galaxy.

And not a word of dialogue is written.

Of course, all the enjoyable extras you’d expect such as alternate covers and cover art sketches are included. I especially appreciate Gillian’s notes explaining his thought process in writing this series. They made my reading experience all the more enjoyable.

It’s easy to forget that first and foremost, everyone involved in these projects are huge Star Wars fans. They approach the material with sincere reverence and immense pressure to deliver that which pleases not only themselves, but die-hard fans like myself.

This fan certainly gives his approval.

With a fair amount of envy.

 

 

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