The Sith Lord has been put under the command of Imperial officers that he could eliminate with a literal wave of his hand, but that doesn’t stop him from using both the Force and his own scheming to further his own ends as much as the Empire’s in “Darth Vader” #2. Writer Kieron Gillen “gets” Vader, as does artist Salvador Larroca, who draws not only an imposing and threatening Dark Lord but a beautifully detailed array of ships, droids and familiar alien species. This second issue of “Darth Vader” delivers that old-school, classic vibe of the “A New Hope” era, and the back-to-basics approach makes it plenty accessible to old and new fans alike.
It also delivers a deeper dive into the trappings of the “Star Wars” universe, introducing a new officer — who has some motives of his own — given the unenviable task of observing Vader on his latest mission. A more familiar face from the Imperial ranks, General Tagge, apparently wasn’t blown to bits along with the original Death Star like many believe, and Gillen uses this reprieve to further the dynamic between Tagge and Vader. The upper hand granted to Tagge by the Emperor is an interesting turn, sure, but Tagge’s arrogance and gloating run a little thin, both with Vader and readers. The biggest surprise might be that Tagge is still around when the issue ends.
Gillen characterizes Vader pretty well, though; while Vader states at one point that his “patience is not without limits,” Gillen’s portrayal of Vader as a fallen servant of the Empire is actually one that clearly shows he is more than patient and willing to bide his time while using his cunning to advance his own position. Vader makes an astute observation about droids at the end of the story, one that not only further establishes his devious nature but is also a possible acknowledgement of a far more innocent time in his life.
Adi Granov’s lavishly attractive cover captures the tension between a grandstanding Tagge and a dismissive Vader. Larroca turns in a no less lavish and faithful rendering of Vader, Tagge, Imperial Star Destroyers and just about all of the characters and technology that comprise this issue’s content. It’s just as faithfully colored by Edgar Delgado, who — between Vader and the blackness of space — doesn’t have a lot of room to add his touch but nonetheless does as he keeps the issue from looking overly dark and muddy, helped greatly by Larroca’s incredibly crisp and precise inks. Larroca’s layouts are a little confusing early on; Vader appears to presumably play the unlikely role of rescuer as the issue begins, although whether or not he succeeds isn’t readily clear from the art.
Despite that artistic ambiguity and some characterization that borders on shallow, “Darth Vader” #2 is a very attractive and compelling chapter in Marvel’s new “Star Wars” line.