Darth Vader #1
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Raffaele Ienco and Neeraj Menon
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
In 2015, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca spearheaded Marvel's new take on Darth Vader on his adventures following A New Hope, and two years later, Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli took readers on a new adventure all the way back to the former Jedi’s first days as a Sith lord. Now, Greg Pak joins Raffaele Ienco and Neeraj Menon as they pick up Vader’s story in the moments after the infamous plot reveal of his fathering Luke Skywalker in Empire Strikes Back. While some readers may ask the question as to whether another relaunch was necessary, Pak, Ienco, and Menon allay those concerns once readers dig into the story this team begins laying out.
Like most creative teams handling a story that falls within the Skywalker saga, the challenge lies within the fact that the readers are already aware of the major plot points thanks to the movies. As a result, these teams must find new, unturned stones that help audiences better understand and appreciate how those larger pieces fit together while not seeming to contradict them. Overall, Greg Pak and company manage to find just the right angle with this story to accomplish that balancing act.
Arguably one of the more frustrating moments in the prequels situates itself at the very end of Revenge of the Sith, as viewers were shown Darth Vader first donning his black armor. This should be a crowning moment for evil, and yet the melodramatic and sad Vader crying “Padme, NOOOOOOO!!!” taints the emotional tragedy of the scene. All the same, this is the task that Pak tackles as he reinfuses the sense of loss and longing Anakin Skywalker felt in losing Padme as Ienco and Menon depict the body of Luke Skywalker falling down the shaft at Cloud City. The search for Skywalker and his friends in the period following The Empire Strikes Back seem to be what preoccupies Vader’s thoughts - however, as memories haunt him from Bespin back to Tatooine, it is clear that the past never truly dies.
One of the most effective means by which Darth Vader #1 conveys the weight of Vader’s emotions comes from the way in which Ienco arranges the panels in each page. He makes frequent use of stacked wide panels, which press down on one another, mimicking the weight of Vader’s fears, anger, and loss on his armored back. Moreover, Menon shines brightest on Tatooine with the bright, yellow-and-orange color palette that washes out every subject … except for the dark lord. A scene with Vader walking out of the flames of his wrecked sand cruiser are especially breathtaking.
Visually, the only point that feels a little off is at the end with the native bug creature on Vendaxxa, where the coloring feels a little too splotchy and doesn't seem to complement the line work. Considering this makes up less than two pages, however, it’s not something that will take readers out of the story, especially with the big reveal Pak lines up on the last page.
Overall, this comic delivers for Star Wars fans who are looking for a story about Darth Vader that will take them down a pathway that’s both consistent with what they’ve seen in the past while simultaneously helping to flesh out the character in new and intriguing ways. While there are a few moments of brevity (who doesn’t love seeing a Gungan die or a smart aleck droid?), the story this new team seems to be setting up marks a different enough tone that warrants another outing with the Dark Lord of the Sith.