We all love Darth Vader. Sure, he’s complicit in the deaths of millions of innocent people on Alderaan—not to mention killing off those poor younglings and choking out all his subordinates just because they annoy him. He even cut off his own kid’s hand for crying out loud. But for some reason, we still root for him. He’s gone from villain to anti-hero in popular culture, and Marvel is savvy to that fact, which is why they gave the Dark Lord his own ongoing series.
Vader Down is Marvel’s first official crossover event between Jason Aaron’s ongoing Star Wars comic and the Darth Vader solo series from Kieron Gillen. Like both series, it takes place between the events of A New Hope and Empire Stikes Back. In this first issue, the Dark Lord of the Sith is tracking down Luke Skywalker, who he recently discoverd is his own son, to the Rebel stronghold on the planet of Vrogas Vas. At this point in the Star Wars chronology, Vader knows that Luke is his child, but the Emperor does not—and he’d like to keep it that way. As soon as he arrives on the planet, he ends up getting into a dogfight with a Rebel Alliance X-Wing squadron on maneuvers.
What’s super cool about the opening scene in this issue is that we see just how powerful Lord Vader really is, something occasionally forgotten by other writers. In it, he single-handedly takes on the Rebel squad in one solitary TIE Fighter like a scene straight out of the second season premiere of Star Wars: Rebels. To put it bluntly, Vader makes mincemeat out of them. And all in one solitary little ship. Nevertheless, Vader’s ship crashes on the planet, making him too temping a prize for the Rebel Alliance to ignore. Capturing the Emperor’s right hand man would certainly send the right message to the Empire. (Yeah, good luck with that.) Leia and the Rebel Alliance aren’t stupid, though, so they send a full battalion—including the Millennium Falcon—to make sure to Vader is captured.
Obviously, they fail—we’ve all seen The Empire Strikes Back by now, yes? Regardless, Jason Aaron does a great job of creating tension and excitement despite the fact we all know exactly how it’s going to turn out. Aaron captures the distinct voices of all of these characters perfectly here, just as he does in the regular ongoing title. He even does a great job on characters from Vader’s own solo title, like current sidekick Dr. Aphra and her droids (who are kind of an evil version of Artoo and Threepio). This trio of characters are Kieron Gillen’s creations, and yet Aaron writes them with a familiarity as if he created them himself.
Regular Star Wars series writer Jason Aaron is joined by artist Mike Deodato for this issue. And while I’ve generally been on the fence about Deodato as an artist, his work on this issue has won me over. The space battles above the planet of Vroga Vas are intense and well-paced, and the big X-Wing/Vader battle is like Star Wars battle porn. It’s just so well done. Also, his likeness of the characters from the classic trilogy is pretty much spot on.
Vader Down continues Marvel’s streak of excellence in regards to its Star Wars titles, and judging from this first issue, it might possibly be the best installment in the new Marvel Star Wars canon so far. The story continues in both the ongoing Star Wars titles over the next two months (Star Wars #13 and 14, Darth Vader #13-15.) so it promises to not drag on too long. There’s a lot of Star Wars to be excited about in December, like a certain new movie coming out, but every true Star Wars fan shouldn’t overlook Vader Down either. This one’s definitely worth your time.
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Image Credit: Marvel