"Star Wars: Vader Down" #1 marks the first event since Marvel Comics regained the franchise; in this first issue, Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato bring together the events of Aaron's series along with those culminating in Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca's "Darth Vader" title. Luke Skywalker's fledgling quest to learn the ways of the Jedi Knights crosses paths with Vader's own mission to track down his son on the ancient and deserted world of Vrogas Vas. Although given its own one-shot, this comic isn't really the start of anything new, but rather a natural continuation and convergence of dual storylines that have been developing over the course of the past year.
While this intro could have easily unfolded in either of the ongoing series, Aaron provides a succinct introduction that is nicely lettered by Joe Caramagna in the oft-used scrolling text style of the movies, which opens the issue to readers unfamiliar with the other "Star Wars" series. Along with colorist Frank Martin Jr., Deodato also stays faithful to the flavor of the films with a familiar view of Vader in the cockpit of his trusty TIE fighter on the way to Vrogas Vas. Deodato's shadowy style works well here, conveying the blackness of space, the ship's dark confines and Vader's own darkness.
With Aaron establishing the situation and Deodato setting the mood, the artist then opens up with the first and most beautifully dynamic of four double-page splashes, which immediately presents Vader's conflict. Aaron's device provides a seemingly insurmountable threat to the Dark Lord, and Deodato makes the magnitude of this threat all-too convincing. This sets up a lengthy space battle that both Aaron and Deodato capture with the same cinematic flair that the films are noted for; Aaron's pacing and his knack for banter between the rebel pilots give the battle that classic flavor, while Deodato's choreography and attention to detail successfully fit a big-screen battle onto a series of nice layouts.
Deodato does dip into the well a little too much, though; a second spread starts to make the story feels like it's being deliberately padded, and the third -- still within the scope of the same space battle -- is downright unnecessary and even gratuitous. At times, his art seems a little forced and inconsistent; his usual dexterity at rendering realistic facial likeness isn't always evident, and some appear as though he was just in a hurry to get to the next scene. However, Deodato does pull off the look on Vader's "face" when he realizes just who he's facing in battle.
While Aaron's script is largely solid and his take on both the movie characters as well as the newer ones are impressive, he sometimes struggles with just what words should come out of Vader's mask. Every other piece of dialogue is seemingly a one-liner to show how badass Vader is, which is something that's already well demonstrated by Vader's actions and demeanor. Too many quotes like "He no longer has a life with which to wager" and "the boy cannot hide from his destiny, or from me" begin to sound like cantina-fueled macho posturing after a while.
Aaron's cliffhanger ending again presents another formidable challenge for Vader, putting the Dark Lord in a position he rarely finds himself in, and one that is again captured convincingly by Deodato. Mark Brooks' standard cover is a beautifully faithful and imposing image of Vader that's both iconic yet representative of the happenings inside the issue. For all its bumps and blemishes, "Star Wars: Vader Down" #1 still comes across as remarkably strong, as both writer and artist demonstrate their aptitude for all things "Star Wars."