Darth Jousts-a-Lot

March 7th, 2019

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So this is where we’re at with Vader in the current canon, in a subjective nutshell: we’ve had the Gillen/Larroca run that was good and set up a nice ramp to build from, then we went pretty much supernova with Soule/Camuncoli, had a shit entry with Wendig’s piss-poor Annual, and dodged a bullet in his mini-series getting canceled before it even began.
But is this series the replacement we need?

Short answer - I think it’ll be a decent carry-over until the next full run.
Good art (bit weird in some instances, more on the “why?” later), decent story, interesting follow-up with issue #2 (I hope) and Vader kicking some Kaiju ass with gusto. Definitely on the Force Unleashed side of balls to the wall action and spectacle, so make of it what you will.

I’m a little out of my depth on both the writer as well as the artist side of things here, but I’m very much taken with what I’m seeing from this Hallum/Villanelli pairing. This is a competent book in the vein of what we’ve been getting lately from the Vader side of things.
Bar Chuck Wendig, the utter melt.

So, about that third party PoV on Vader and his actions… I like it. I really do.
It does away with Vader’s inner turmoil and his relationship with ol’ Papa Palp (cause gods alive, we’ve had enough of that for a while, haven’t we?), and focuses on how others perceive his presence. There’s also a twist on the fact that it’s not utter fear and horror in regards to his him that governs the issue because the character narrating this is a kid (with a snazzy hoverboard droid) who’s never had contact with Vader before, or indeed the wider galaxy.
He’s actually way more spooked about the thing Vader goes up against...

The planet this takes place on has been decimated by a gigantic land-whale/shark thing, so the people have taken refuge underground and only come out when said Jawzilla hibernates, and even then only to gather supplies and head back in. This issue of Star Wars is brought to you by Dmitri Glukhovsky.
Speaking of heading back in, there’s a distinct... worldly feel to the buildings and the underground. It’s all strikingly similar to our own, or to what Earth would look like if Pacific Rim happened and the Kaiju took over, which kind of irks me from a certain point of view. Even the damn escalators look like stuff that I can see in local metro stations.
Seriously, this is sci-fantasy, live a little!

The fact that Vader goes full Sith of the Round Saber in his battle with the beast and rides a local horsey-looking animal into combat bears mentioning, if the cover didn’t tip you off to that. Points for having the cover relate to something that takes place in the book itself, by the way.

The thing that triggers this whole episode is a space battle taking place right above the planet, with the small child observing it from below, in a way that was very reminiscent of that deleted scene in ANH where Luke zooms in to the Tantive IV getting battered above Tatooine, but on a much grander scale in this case. Vader’s TIE Advanced gets damaged and he crash lands straight into the bloody behemoth, sending everyone barreling into the safety of the underground.
Apart from the child who is gripped by an almost unhealthy curiosity and hangs around.

Worth mentioning that, at least as I see it, everything we get art-wise is not traced and doesn’t feature models that are multiplied and moved around to fill up space like we had back with the Larroca run (something that bothered me to no end). Some of the panels and pages do seem cluttered together, but I think it’s a colouring choice more than the layout itself.

I liked the way the narrative PoV was blended with the action, and the way these tribal people react to the “Gods” they come into contact with is believable and puts Vader on display in grand fashion. There are panels where he’s little more than a shadowy blur engaged in a life or death conflict. There are also instances of him being depicted as a savior, but the tone of the narrative and the colouring choices always underline the evil essence of the character.
There’s also strong point made in relation to the locals being little more than observers of the great battles that are being fought around them, and that they’re completely at the whims of these Gods and the Force itself, something that Vader makes a point of in the end of the issue.

The narration does tend to get a little choppy at points, partly because there’s not much of it to go around. Probably could’ve done with some more editing in that regard, but it’s not a jarring oversight.

This all ends with Vader winning the fight (duh!), the planet being liberated from the bombad beastie, the Imperial Fleet winning its space battle, and all off them shuffling off to more important things, which is the only reason they didn’t just up and conquer the poor local sods. The child, having been the only one to witness the great conflict, relays the story to the rest of his people, campfire and everything, relishing the newfound attention.

I’m dead set on reading the rest of the series it after enjoying this issue and I’m welcoming the break it allows us following Soule’s epic tale.

Thanks for reading, and have as nice a day as you deserve!

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