Darth Vader #1
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith and David Curiel
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
If you liked the ferocious fight sequence at the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, you’re gonna love Darth Vader #1, as Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli put the Dark Lord of the Sith through his paces. Taking place immediately after the end of Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Soule and Camuncoli waste little time before letting Vader cut his way through a crowd of unsuspecting meatbags, even as he has yet to have a lightsaber to call his own.
It’s a testament to Soule’s writing that even on the first page, he’s able to redeem the melodramatic ending of the prequel trilogy, flashing from the destruction of Vader’s resuscitation chamber to a flashback of his bleak final encounter with his wife Padme. But this sequence of destruction ultimately gets to what this iteration of Darth Vader is about at heart - unlike the cold, cerebral plotting and counterplotting of Kieron Gillen’s run, Soule’s Vader is a fight comic book at the end of the day, barely holding back the Sith Lord’s rage from one violent conflict to the next.
With that style in mind, you have to give Soule points for not bogging readers down with too much else. You know who Darth Vader is (and if you haven’t watched a movie or read a comic book with him, no #1 is going to save you). The MacGuffins at the core of this storyline feel almost like an afterthought this early in the game - Vader on the quest for a new lightsaber to call his own (although the mythology about bleeding lightsabers is a cool riff), or Vader on the hunt to retrieve a stolen Imperial ship - because it’s window dressing for Soule to have his antihero Force-throwing machinery into faceless goons, or to use fallen thieves as human shields against their foes’ blaster fire.
And that makes Darth Vader ultimately more of a showcase for Giuseppe Camuncoli than anything else. This is an interesting book for Camuncoli, given that his lead character wears a mask (and even Emperor Palpatine, who has the most page time besides the title character, is largely concealed under a hood) - he instead has to do all his emoting through body language, or at times, the imperious lack thereof. Some of Camuncoli’s style will be in the eye of the beholder - some people will really enjoy the panther-style agility he gives the character, while others will wonder how a half-broiled robot fighter could move that swiftly in his bulky body armor. But hell if it isn’t energetic stuff, with a real sense of joy as Vader beats the holy hell out of people (even without his signature weapon).
What may be the main sticking point for Darth Vader, at this point, is just whether or not you buy into its core premise - if you want action, you’re gonna get it in spades, but if you an ambitious, character-driven Vader version of "Batman: Year One," this isn’t the book for you (at least, not yet). But ultimately, part of Darth Vader’s long-lasting appeal has been his transgressiveness, his lack of restraint as he Force-chokes a subordinate or cuts through a horde of Rebels with his blood-red lightsaber. He’s a man with literally nothing to live for, fueled by only misery and shame - and his prodigiousness at sharing that pain with others. If it’s a fight you’re looking for, it’s a fight you’re going to get with this new iteration of Darth Vader.