The past several months have seen fan-favorite writer Greg Pak pen a series of Star Wars comics focused on the various heroes and villains of the original film trilogy under the banner Age of Rebellion. The latest one-shot special focuses on the most iconic character of them all: Darth Vader.
With artist Ramon Bachs, Pak weaves a tale of the Sith Lord dealing with a vengeful bureaucrat within the Galactic Empire in a story about Vader's twisted sense of duty. However, Pak and Bachs have also provided a clear window into the former Anakin Skywalker's conflicted psyche, delivering a tale that hints at just how rage-fueled the fallen Jedi is under his black armored surface.
Set at an unspecified point in the original trilogy as the Galactic Civil War rages on between the Empire and Rebel Alliance, Age of Rebellion: Darth Vader #1 has the Sith Lord earn the ire of a high-ranking Imperial governor after disobeying direct orders.
In response, Emperor Palpatine commands his protege to follow the governor's subsequent orders to the letter, putting Vader in a precarious position under the Imperial officer, still very much holding a grudge and eager to put his new charge through hell because of it.
Pak's depiction of Vader isn't as verbose as he has had been in past comic book adaptations of the character. Instead, he makes it clear that there is much frustration and anger constantly boiling within Vader, fleshed out by brief flashbacks of Anakin's own temper and feelings of injustice growing up, without betraying Vader's masked poker face. Instead, Pak uses the one-shot as a chance to show off Vader's more manipulative side as he dutifully carries out his orders while waiting for a moment to gain his own revenge.
What really elevates the story is Bachs' artwork, at once immediately iconic and recognizable within the Star Wars Universe and filled with plenty of space opera action that has endeared the franchise to millions around the world. Paired with colorist Stéphane Paitreau, the art team knows that Vader speaks more through his actions and posture than words. They deliver through the Sith Lord taking increasingly dangerous missions at the behest of the Imperial governor and Vader silently glowering, waiting for his next assignment.
At first glance, the issue comes off as another day in the life of the eponymous Sith Lord as he combats the Rebel Alliance across the galaxy, but Pak and Bachs take the opportunity to provide a greater window into Darth Vader's psyche and his place operating within the Galactic Empire's more traditional military forces. In doing so, they reveal Vader to be more than a powerful enforcer with a lightsaber and the ability to choke opponents with his mind by playing on Anakin's tragic past.
For the most part, the Star Wars: Age of Rebellion specials have been solid, relatively low-stakes one-off stories starring the classic characters of the franchise's original trilogy in brand-new adventures. Pak has used the one-shots to explore what makes each respective character tick in ways unseen by the films and this one is no different, this time focusing on Darth Vader.
With Pak poised to take over writing duties on the main Star Wars ongoing comic series this summer, the comic book incarnation of that galaxy far, far away appears to be in safe hands judging by this wave of specials.