In Review: Star Wars: Target Vader #2

Excellent bounty hunter scheming to kill Darth Vader!

The covers: A pair to pick up appropriately for this second issue. The Regular cover by Nic Klein features Darth Vader standing before the reader with his lightsaber held in his right hand. He’s making a fist with his left, signifying he’s not having a great day. There’s a neat bit of reflective red on his armor showing how bright his weapon is. To the left is a bust of Beilert Valance holding his pistol up, his cyborg face showing to the reader. Clint Eastwood couldn’t have done this pose any better. On the right is Dengar who’s holding his rifle with both hands and his head down low with a snarl. Very nice. I like the composition of this cover, but it’s pretty dark. The sunlight behind the logo and the lightsaber are the brightest elements. Everything else blobs together. The Variant cover by John McCrea & Mike Spicer is more dynamic. Vader is leaping forward, seemingly at the reader, his lightsaber held high and his cape billowing out behind him to swallow the top third of the cover. In the foreground Valance has some type of weapon that projects a stream of yellow energy, almost like a Ghostbuster’s proton pack, and its beam is being blocked by Vader’s sword. Behind them is a rocky orange setting with four yellow suns. Seventeen (!!!) TIE Fighters are visible in the distance, speeding to assist the Sith. This is a fantastic cover and is print, tee shirt, and poster worthy. Overall grades: Regular C+ and Variant A

The story: The first two pages by writer Robbie Thompson show young Beilert and his father exiting a mine. His father tells the boy that his family worked these mines as slaves, but now they are free men and able to work for profit thanks to the Empire. Outside they see several Imperial ships in the skies. “The Valance family has dug, scratched and clawed through these hills for centuries. But you?” the father says to his son. “You’re different. You were born free. You belong in the stars, Beilert.” The story then moves to the present where two TIE Fighters are blown out of they sky by the Broken Wing, captained by cyborg Valance. Within the ship Chio is explaining to Dengar and Honnah what Valance is up to. They soon arrive at Arvina in the Outer Rim where all but Urrr’k being the walk to Fetya’s Hollow. The desert city seems empty until they enter an establishment where they find someone who has some special items. The tone of this story is outstanding with Thompson making every character nervous about the other — Ah, the life of a bounty hunter — and everyone is on edge because of their mission: kill Darth Vader. The character that’s discovered on Page 7 is great. I love this species of alien, always have since first seeing one in Episode II and I’m glad that this one doesn’t seem on the up and up. The reveal at the top of 11 was outstanding and the bigger surprise on 12 was excellent. A turn of the page reveals who’s responsible for this action and it make me happy and nervous. Just when I though Thompson couldn’t have any more surprises, I was floored by 15 which wowed me. When Valance finally tells his cohorts what his plan it’s excellent. I love how smart Valance is in manipulating Vader, as shown on the last page. The question becomes is Valance leading Vader, or is Vader allowing him to? Outstanding story and great action. Overall grade: A

The art: I’m all over the place with the art by Stefano Landini. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s not. Case in point, that first page is not great. The cave and the characters do not look good. Things improve on the second page with the ships looking good, but, again, the human characters are not great. That said, things improve dramatically on the third page with the TIEs, the Broken Wing, and Valance looking grim in the cockpit. I like Chio Fain, who looks good, but Dengar, Honnah, and that close-up of Valance on Page 4 rely a lot on the colorist to provide depth and detail to their faces. However, I love what Landini does with Urru’k — WOW! This character looks cool just standing in the panel, but once she goes into action she’s phenomenal looking. Seriously, she should have her own one-shot or mini-series illustrated by Landini. I like the distant panels on 6 that makes Fetya’s Hollow look like a ghost town, and when someone is shown they’re loading a weapon in the foreground. Valance’s posture is also cool, with him hunched over, looking ready to draw his blaster and dive to the ground. The character that he’s looking for is done well, and I like how he goes easily between friendly and sinister in the space of a panel. Page 9 has Honnah not looking good. But Landini makes this character look awesome in 11’s third panel. The action on the next page is done well and the look of shock that ends the page is wonderful — I wish that the character in Episode II had been given this much expression in his appearance. The unleashed power on 13 is staggering and who is responsible for such devastation looks awesome — this is how to enter a series! The large panel on 15 is my favorite image of the issue. The smile that ends 16, combined with his dialogue, is killer. The exit atop 18 is cinematic, as is the final two panels on that page. I love how actions without much dialogue telegraph to the reader what’s occurring, with the last page showing who’s responsible for their demise. The last two panels of the book showcase a character that looks tremendous. I’m going from hot to cold and back again with these visuals. Overall grade: B-

The colors: Neeraj Menon does a great job on this issue, especially considering how lackluster some of the panels are. The first panel on Page 2 makes the ships and the sky gorgeous in different shades of violet. This also allows the splash of red in the final panel on the page to be jarring, providing an excellent transition to the present. That pair of TIEs after Valance are way too dark in that top panel — should have been lighter. The explosions that follow them, and the others throughout the book, are outstanding. Notice how characters’ faces have to receive a lot of coloring to give them depth on Page 4 and throughout the book. Tighter pencils would have made Menon’s job easier. I love the desert colors for Arvina, giving the book an Old West tone. I like the light greens in the establishment that’s entered to highlight the more rare items. During the action that follows, Valance constantly stands out due to his vivid blue clothes. Very smart. The use of blacks on 13 are fantastic and I am in love with the reds used for this character’s non speaking sounds. The reds and blacks that end 18 are perfect. Menon is doing a great job. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, ultra powerful script for a pronouncement, sounds, transmissions, Honnah’s speech, and  Urrr’k’s unique speech are crafted by VC’s Joe Caramagna. I love the scene settings on this book and hope that when the main Star Wars book is rebooted in January it uses the ones in this series. They look great. The dialogue is still too thin for me, making everyone, even a Sith, sound weak. The dynamic pronouncement at the top of the second page is as stunning as the reveal. The sounds in this book are great, with explosions and blaster shots aplenty. The transmissions are done in italics, the traditional font used to make someone sound like their voice is going through a speaker. Being a Gamorrean, Honnah squeals often, but Caramagna uses a unique font to always have his speech come across as loud. Urrr’k’s speech is untranslatable, but is similar to the font used in other Star Wars comics recently. I wish it would be decided by Marvel what this language is, because I don’t think a Tusken Raider and a character from Galaxy’s Edge would be speaking the same language. Overall grade: B+

The final line: Excellent bounty hunter scheming to kill Darth Vader! The story is exciting as the team makes their move to get Vader, encountering a surprising obstacle on the way. The visuals are hit and miss, with it hitting more often than not. I have got to see bounty hunter Urrr’k in her own series after she demonstrates what she can do in this issue. This is much better than I thought this series would be. I’m excited to read the next installment. Overall grade: A-

To order a digital copy go to https://comicstore.marvel.com/Star-Wars-Target-Vader-2019-2-of-6/digital-comic/52434?r=1

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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