“Darth Vader” #1 begins with the comfortably familiar opening scrolls of the “Star Wars” films, inviting readers on an adventure in a galaxy far, far away. The story shows Darth Vader at his worst: an angry, spite-fueled husk of a man wielding the might of the Sith to his own misguided ends. He has a cause and he truly believes his cause to be just, but he has no inhibitions about the methods taken to achieve that end. Kieron Gillen succeeds in making Darth Vader the terrifying hammer of Palpatine that “Star Wars” fans craved since the concept of the prequels were announced decades ago.
Gillen sends Vader to Tatooine for an epic confrontation with Jabba the Hutt and also gives readers a sample of what Vader does on a planet when he has time to kill. The writer ties this tale in tightly to the events of Jason Aaron’s “Star Wars” and even weighs in on the repercussions Vader faced following the destruction of the Death Star. Most importantly, Gillen avoids wallowing in Anakin Skywalker’s past, choosing to focus on the menace of Darth Vader instead. In doing so, he gives readers the villain we’ve both loved to hate and fearfully admired since 1977.
Salvador Larroca’s art is masterful and glorious, filled with iconic images that seem lifted from celluloid frames or prepped for storyboards that have yet to be transformed into film. Edgar Delgado’s colors hit all the right notes and the duo gives readers brilliant homages to classic scenes from all three of the original trilogy installments, despite the fact that “Darth Vader” #1 is cleanly set in the time period immediately following “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” Letterer Joe Caramagna clearly had fun with this issue, even if the opening text is prescribed by Lucasfilm. The letterer crafts some slippery, mysterious text for Huttese and adds enough treble into Wookie speak to rattle the panels.
Larroca maximizes the “widescreen” feel of the story by making the panels stretch across the width of the page, but sometimes the framing of the action within a wide panel gets clipped. He has the luxury of an extra-sized, thirty-page issue with “Darth Vader” #1, so he is able to deliver a few shots in full double-page glory.
While many fans still lament the brand shift to Marvel, Gillen and company prove with this issue that the “Star Wars” franchise is in good hands. Darth Vader finally has a chance to become truly despicable and fearful, and Gillen and Larroca do a magnificent job of proving that to readers. Best of all, “Darth Vader” #1 is completely approachable, regardless of the depth of familiarity any reader may have with “Star Wars” or the Dark Lord of the Sith. That said, however, “Darth Vader” #1 is not a comic for everyone, as Gillen and Larroca make it very clear this character may be painfully beyond redemption.