First, I’ll start off by saying I am a huge fan of the Darth Vader line in general. While I don’t think it’s as consistently great as some of the shorter lines (such as Doctor Aphra, Kanan and Poe Dameron), I definitely find it to be enjoyable more often than not and incredibly entertaining and interesting on a fairly frequent basis. And who doesn’t love Darth Vader? Consistently considered one of the best fictional villains ever created. He’s intimidating, dark, powerful and, yet, has depth and a meaningful story.
This new arc, though, is probably my favorite we’ve seen so far. I loved the first issue and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the Jedi Vader defeated to get his lightsaber (who honestly had a fairly generic character design and was sort of a letdown in terms of being a major part of Vader’s transformation into a Sith), I really have enjoyed Palpatine and getting more details of how the Sith work. I think this issue, however, has been my favorite. As a huge fan of Star Wars: Rebels, I have long wondered about the details of the Grand Inquisitor’s backstory, and while we only get a brief glimpse of it in this issue, it was great to finally get some information on someone who was so interesting and entertaining, yet only with us for a brief time.
I like the art in this comic a lot, I do think Palpatine looks a bit too sinister, even for Palpatine, but I think the style suits the Inquisitor very well, which is more than I can say for how he appeared in Kanan. And a lot of the detail work on Vader’s suit when parts of it break or the work on the droids or the lightsabers is absolutely stunning. A lot of the panel work is brilliant as well, which is rare for Star Wars comics, it’s almost like something I would expect out of one of the higher-end DC comics.
Honestly, this particular arc of Darth Vader (currently six issues in) can easily stand up next to the best of the Star Wars comics, and I think anyone who is a fan of Darth Vader and wants to understand more about how he really transforms from the man Anakin Skywalker into the brutal mechanical force that is Darth Vader needs to read this comic.
Now, to the fun part. Spoilers for the entire canon, just in case. In terms of how I see this comic as a part of the Star Wars universe, this comic is nearly indispensable in terms of understanding Darth Vader and the Empire. Everything about this comic really immerses you in this period in Imperial history and also Vader’s journey. You see a galaxy being forced to leave behind what it was as the Republic and Vader being forced to do the same with who he was as Anakin Skywalker, both carefully guided and controlled by the increasingly harsh hand of Palpatine.
This is more obvious in the issues that don’t deal with Vader getting his kyber crystal (perhaps another reason I am not a fan of those issues). The first issue has some great parallels, like I love how Vader wakes up and immediately hears Mas Amedda’s speech… which incidentally reminds me a great deal of the speech General Hux gives in The Force Awakens, just in terms of how it’s staged. And how just as Vader has put aside all chance of redemption when he corrupts the crystal, he returns to find Palpatine, Tarkin and Mas Amedda planning the Death Star, putting the galaxy on a inevitable path to the events of A New Hope.
This particular issue was also really great for me, and for anyone who is a fan of Rebels or just enjoyed Jason Isaacs’s spectacular performance as the Grand Inquisitor. Seeing some of what drives him (or at least what drove him at the beginning of the Empire) is helpful, because we only have bits and pieces of his backstory without a lot of explanation of his motivations or beliefs. Though honestly, it is really easy for me to believe that he just grew slowly bitter with the Order over time and felt somehow disillusioned with them and that was basically enough for him to change sides. His hatred always seemed more like a old coat he wore – comfortable and broken in, festering into disdain and bitterness, in contrast to Vader’s raw, powerful rage.
Anyway, for anyone who wants to understand more about the Dark Side of the Force, and any of its practitioners in the Galactic Empire, this comic is a must. I would also seriously recommend it to people who just love Vader and want to read more about him, because it has an incredibly deep and thoughtful personal focus on the character that I feel was sometimes missing from the previous Darth Vader arcs. For more of the darkest complexities of one of the greatest villains of all time, you need look no further than this comic.
Rating: 5 Stars
Art: 5 Stars
Dialogue: 5 Stars
Plot/Relevance: 5 Stars
Cover: 5 Stars
(W) Charles Soule (A) Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith (CA) Francesco Mattina