Doctor Aphra takes the lead as Vader slips into the wings of his title in Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s “Darth Vader” #8. The Sith Lord doesn’t even appear until halfway through the book, at which point he is more set decoration than active participant.
Therein lies the problem with “Darth Vader” #8. Gillen is doing a fine job of establishing Vader’s corner of the new (and officially sanctioned) expanded universe, but he seems to be losing sight of the draw for this series: Darth Vader himself. Vader’s majesty is undermined by his dependence upon Aphra and cooperation with the crew crafted by Doctor Cylo, reducing the menacing machine man to little more than a high-tech mob boss, cutting deals with Hutts and negotiating terms with bounty hunters rather than ruling through fear and crushing his foes with an iron fist. Perhaps the failing of this issue is that, eight issues into a series, readers should know Vader a bit better, but it’s just not there. This would be more appropriately titled as “Darth Vader and Crew” or “Vader and His Amazing Friends.”
There’s plenty of dialogue and action for Bossk, Beebox, IG-90 and Krrsantan, the bounty hunters on a heist. Likewise, Grand General Tagge — who is portrayed as more of a heavy than Vader — insists Cylo’s crew handle assignments Vader feels worthy of his might alone.
The art, like the story, is solidly constructed but lacking spirit. Larroca’s drawings are technically sound, his storytelling clear if somewhat stiff, but the characters lack emotion in their facial expressions and body language. The quartet of hired guns doesn’t have a wide array of characteristics or special moves, as one might expect a Wookie to move differently than a Trandoshan, but both are rigid and measured. Sound, but not exciting.
Letterer Joe Caramagna does a nice job shaking things up and providing variety. When Krrsantan speaks, his words burst out of the word balloons and Bossk’s speech is rough and bumpy, not unlike his scaly skin. Larroca provides ample spacing for Caramagna to capitalize on, as the two creators work nicely together. Edgar Delgado’s cinematic coloring anchors this story in the Star Wars universe nicely, shifting lighting as predicated by the tale and giving the characters identifying hues.
“Darth Vader” #8 continues the investigation off the beaten path. I can appreciate that Gillen is investigating an unpredictable route, but I am hesitant to continue to invest time and money in this book that fails to deliver on the promise of Darth Vader. I’m not saying every panel should have lightsaber-powered dismemberments or Force-choke murders, but Darth Vader is more than the thug he comes across as in “Darth Vader” #8. He’s a legendary villain, and this should be where we see that legend being constructed.