Review: Marvel’s Darth Vader #8


It’s a testament to the best Marvel comic right now, Darth Vader, that its titular character doesn’t even appear in the latest issue until midway through. Writer Kieron Gillen has built up a solid supporting cast of original characters and an underlying storyline that can carry enough momentum to keep us glued to the page even when the Dark Lord of the Sith is absent.

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Darth Vader begins with an elaborate heist in space orchestrated by Dr. Aphra, Vader’s recruited archaeologist, along with the murderous droids BT-1 and Triple Zero and a group of bounty hunters, including the reptilian Trandoshan Bossk and the mysterious black Wookiee Black Krrsantan.

It’s a sizable cast, but Gillen makes the group memorable with some hard-boiled dialogue and simmering tension. The group hijacks a shipment of valuable ingots from an Imperial ship and manages to escape, only to have Aphra scam the bounty hunters (except the Wookiee) by making them think part of the heist reward was jettisoned into space.

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Aphra returns to Anthan 13, the moon of a new planet called Anthan Prime, where she delivers the ingots to Darth Vader. He gives her a new mission to hunt someone down, although he doesn’t vocalize who.

Meanwhile, the Sith Lord clashes with his superior, General Tagge, over who should be assigned to hunt down Luke Skywalker. Vader is struggling to maintain his power and influence after he learned that the Emperor commissioned a squadron of soldiers enhanced with cybernetic attributes, and he’s ultimately denied the mission in favor of having one of them hunt down the Rebel pilot.

Instead, Vader is tasked with investigating the very heist he planned that was carried out earlier, but he has the help of a new character. Inspector Thanoth, an Imperial officer with a monocle and a cane, is tasked with assisting the investigation, and he may be too good at his job: He notices right away that the dust on Vader’s outfit indicates he’s visited Anthan 13 recently, so they must return there to begin the investigation.

Part of this comic line’s strength is the host of new characters introduced and how they all manage to stand out from each other. In addition to the Indiana Jones-esque Dr. Aphra and the dark reflections of C-3PO and R2-D2 in BT-1 and Triple Zero, there are also Palpatine’s cybernetic squad.

And now we have Inspector Thanoth, who’s clearly inspired by Sherlock Holmes and should prove a formidable adversary for Vader, although it remains to be seen if he’ll eventually ally with the Sith Lord or oppose him.

For the most part, Salvador Larroca’s work is still eye-pooping, especially his wide shots of the ballet of ships in space during the heist sequence. His close-up panels can often be annoying as they obscure information about the scene, but the depiction of Vader is still spot-on and flawless through eight issues.

Gillen is slowly arranging his chess pieces at we approach what should be an epic crossover in the Vader Down series. But what’s great about Darth Vader is that the journey and buildup to this climax is still enjoyable, and the series is staying true to its roots while forging its own path with exciting, original characters.

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