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‘Star Wars: Darth Vader Omnibus’ (review)

Written by Charles Soule
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Published by Marvel Comics

 

For some, the starting point of this Darth Vader story will arguably be the most cringe-inducing moment of the entire Star Wars Skywalker saga.

Revenge of the Sith’s, the birth of Darth Vader scene’s, say it along with me…

“Noooooooooooooooooo!”

But, don’t let that deter you. What follows are satisfying answers as to how that newly created Darth Vader came to be the ominous Darth Vader of the Original Trilogy.

We journey with the greatest villain in cinema history as he recreates himself in the aftermath of his defeat at the hands of his master, mentor and friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Darth Vader earns his lightsaber, erects his Mustafar fortress and establishes his reputation as the most fearsome foe in the Galaxy.

We also learn that regret is what drives Darth Vader.

Regret over the loss of his love, Padme Amidala, and his obsession with discovering secrets of the dark side of the force that could bring Padme back from the dead.

This is where I get tripped up within the ever-expanding off-screen Star Wars universe. While I find the history of the Sith and the dark side, the spirituality and the power of the force compelling, there’s a point where these concepts thematically cross into Star Trek territory,  which doesn’t quite sit well with me

Not that I don’t like Star Trek. It’s just that Star Wars and Star Trek are completely different tonally and approach these high concepts in their unique ways.

Also included in this focused storyline are, Darth Vader Annual #2 “Technological Terror” written by Chuck Wending and the charming, Darth Vader: No Good Deed, written and drawn by Chris Eliopoulos.

Darth Vader Annual #2 is more or less a procedural mystery that leads up Darth Vader’s involvement in Rogue One. Darth Vader: No Good Deed is a satirical look at Darth Vader’s unforgiving reputation seen through the eyes of a Mouse Droid with Calvin and Hobbes-esque art to boot!

This collection is well worth reading. However, as with much of Charles Soule’s work, the ideas are solid, but the execution leaves me wanting.

That execution mainly comes down to dialogue. Soule fails to capture the tone of our two most important characters, Darth Vader and The Emperor.

With Darth Vader, less is more. In any given panel, about half of Vader’s dialogue could and should be cut and none of his meaning or intention would be lost. There’s also an overuse of indefinite clauses in Darth Vader’s comic book voice here.

When Darth Vader uses the word “perhaps” in the films, it’s a threat.

“Perhaps you feel you are being treated unfairly?”; “Perhaps I can find new ways to motivate them.”

We’re struck with terror.

In the comics, “perhaps” and words like “seems” are used in everyday conversation. When uttered by Darth Vader, these indefinite clauses take the bite out of his ferocity and makes him feel more like an incompetent admiral he would throttle rather than the overconfident persona of evil we all grew up with.

The Emperor comes off more like Seth McFarlane’s Robot Chicken Emperor than the vile puppet master Ian McDiarmid delivered.

The argument could be made that comics are written to speak to a certain age group. That definitely worked for DC and Marvel before the modern comic book age. It’s what gave the golden, silver and bronze ages their charm.

But, this is Star Wars. Star Wars has a tone. Star Wars is ageless.

The original trilogy had its fair share of silly moments, (I’m looking at you R2-D2 and C-3PO running right through in the middle of a fierce fire fight) but the films certainly didn’t pull any of the punches they could have and were rock solid in transcending becoming dated.

The highlight of this collection is undoubtedly issue 25, the final issue of a 7-issue story arc (and last issue of the collection) that beautifully climaxes into a poignant and exciting finale. And barely a word of dialogue is written. This is Charles Soule at his best.

The art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, though not my favorite style for Star Wars, goes well with Soule’s material. Characters are drawn just a tad too muscular and the colors too vivid.

However, in spite of my criticism, I will say this; the storytelling, dialogue and art come together perfectly to produce a tone that precisely captures the prequel trilogy, which succeeds or fails depending upon your opinion of those films.

 

 

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