Star Wars Comics: Darth Vader #4 Review


WARNING: Spoilers for Star Wars: Darth Vader #4

Plenty of Star Wars spinoffs are often criticized, and rightly so, for making the universe feel small by retreading over familiar ground, both literally and figuratively. The various TV episodes and novels and comic books have taken fans to Tatooine so many times they’ve given us sunburn, and most of the time it’s not really worth the trip all the way to the Outer Rim.

More from Darth Vader

Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader series is certainly guilty of this, but what exonerates it from these lazy storytelling crimes is how it reflects the traditional Star Wars tropes through a twisted prism, which is only fitting when the focus is on the franchise’s darkest, most tortured character.

Last issue, Vader linked up with a few new characters, including archaeologist Dr. Aphra and the homicidal droid duo of Triple Zero and BT-1. This group may function as a team, but it still fills out the equation for the usual Star Wars family. There are two quirky droids, a spunky heroine and a super-powerful yet troubled hero. And even though they’ve been mostly absent so far, you could substitute Boba Fett and the Wookiee Black Krrsantan as Han Solo and Chewbacca.

That’s why it doesn’t feel tiresome when our travelers land on Geonosis at the start of this issue. For one thing, we see something that’s often brushed over in the Star Wars universe: the consequences of war. It’s revealed that the Empire performed some type of bombing on the planet to wipe out the Geonosians, presumably to hide the existence of the droid factories.

But that’s exactly what Vader has come here for, as he needs an army of robots for some unknown purpose. It leads to a confrontation with the Geonosian hive queen, who’s been forced to attach herself to the workings of a droid factory to continue to produce children.

The scenes in the droid factory are probably the series’ best so far, as artist Salvador Larroca really create a sense of dread and horror throughout, especially upon first glimpse of the queen’s droid babies. The only downside is that Vader and Co.’s escape from the queen is a little rushed and hard to follow, in terms of both action and dialogue.

Back aboard Vader’s ship, Dr. Aphra acknowledges that since their mission was successful Vader has no more need of her. But in an interesting scene, the Dark Lord displays some mercy, although he spins it as his being practical. There’s an interesting relationship developing between these two, as though Aphra respects and fear Vader, she’s not letting it overtake her, and a part of Vader probably recognizes that.

The issue ends with a visit from the Wookiee bounty hunter Krrsantan, who’s captured the Emperor’s agent that Vader sent him after in issue #1. After some painful coaxing from Triple Zero, the man dies, but not before revealing the location of the Emperor’s secret – which is apparently where he’s training Vader’s “replacement.”

Like I said, the artwork is still stellar here, especially on Geonosis, where it really brings out the apocalyptic horror that the planet has become. There are plenty of shades of Aliens and Mass Effect in the scenes there, which promises that the series has set its course for a darker, more mature direction. And it’s great to see every member of the team, even the crazy “blastomech” BT-1, get in on the action throughout the issue.

This is quickly becoming my favorite of Marvel’s contributions to the Star Wars universe, mostty because of Gillen’s writing. He’s finding new ways to explore familiar territory, not just of the Star Wars universe, but also of one of the most iconic and rehashed villains in pop culture.

Random thoughts:

  • “Ever been to Geonosis, Lord Vader?” Aphra asks, thrusting Vader into a brief flashback of entering the arena with Padme in Episode II. It’s important to show that the events of the past still weigh on Vader’s mind, but I like that Gillen is keeping these moments brief and silent to avoid overdoing them.
  • I’m having trouble picturing exactly what the Emperor’s secret base will look like. Triple Zero describes it as “a novel organic structure inside an isolated outer nebulae.” What the hell does that mean?
  • Not sure if this is new, but Vader’s personal ship resembles or may actually be a model of the Naboo Royal Starship.

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