In Review: Vader Down #1

This is a good beginning with good art and promises much to come.

The cover: The Main cover is by Mark Brooks and it’s great shot of Vader walking toward the reader, away from his crashed TIE Fighter, his lightsaber lit and ready to be used should he need it. I like that Vader dominates the image so much the logo had to be shrunk and moved to the right — big bonus points on that, Mr. Brooks! Powerful image that’s the right way to kick off this story arc. There are also several variants available for this issue, but Marvel continues to refuse to list them all in their books and I doubt I would be able to find them all online, so rather than seek them out, I’ll just say that they’re out there and good luck finding them! Grade: A

The story: Conceived by Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen, though written by Aaron, starts with Vader in hyperspeed, speaking with Dr. Aphra. They’re playing catch up over the events of the previous six issues of Marvel’s Darth Vader comic. Cutting to the chase, Vader is on his way to Vrogas Vas where Aphra has learned Luke Skywalker is. Vader is obsessed with the boy and wants him. He comes out of hyperspeed just outside the planet’s orbit into three squadrons of Rebel fighters. The Rebels stop their maneuvers to confront the lone craft, while Vader accuses Aphra of laying a trap. “A trap? Vader, I would never…I wouldn’t cross you! I may love danger, but I’ve never been big on suicide.” She tells him to get out of there, but he responds, “They are the ones who should be running.” Vader them demonstrates his deadly piloting skills to the Rebels, as well as his abilities with the Force. However, another Rebel unexpectedly joins the fray and he and the pilot have one heck of a confrontation. As the title tells, Vader goes down, but he’s hardly out. He survived his ship’s crash, but he’s not any worse for wear. The planet is the location of a secret Rebel refueling station, so troops are sent out to get him. Yeah, this gets epic quickly. The three human leads from the films are in this story, and their involvement should grow with each installment. After watching what the Sith Lord did to the Rebels’ ships, I can’t wait to see what he does to them face-to-face. Overall grade: A+

The art: The artist on this issue is Mark Deodato and he does a really incredible job on the ship sequences, which are the majority of this book’s pages. It’s a remarkable feat to instill a drawing with a sense of motion, but Deodato shows he’s more than capable of doing this on the first two pages as Vader’s ship speeds through hyperspace. The interior of Vader’s ship looked cramped, but having the Sith look as though he’s part of the machines that surround him is a very cool effect. Pages 3 and 4 are a double paged spread showing Vader’s ship arriving before the X-wings. It’s beautiful looking and it’s a great “WOW” moment, because readers familiar with the character know that there’s about to be a lot of carnage. Deodato rightly goes to skinny horizontal panels to show the interiors of the many X-wing pilots, mirroring the effect of a wide screen movie. The emotion in the pilots’ faces is intense, as it would be, and for most the stress level is high, and it’s the last emotion they’ll ever have on their faces. The laser fire and explosions are big and bold, especially on 9 and 10 (I’m not counting the two pages devoted to the book’s title as page numbers). Page 13 is simply fantastic as one pilot challenges Vader and the two square off at the bottom of the page, each facing the other symbolically. The culmination of their fight is going to be legendary, but it will be overshadowed by the steep price paid that’s shown on 17 and 18. The last two pages will have fans screaming — this looks like a scene out of the recently released Star Wars: Battlefront. Deodato has spun gold with this issue. Overall grade: A

The colors: Frank Martin, Jr. does a great job with this book, reflecting some gorgeous colors off of Vader’s ebony armor. The reds that bounce off of Vader within his TIE Fighter are excellent. He also does some great work showing the light reflecting off of Aphra from her dash as she speaks with the Sith. The colors on Vrogas Vas, as seen from space, are warm and don’t hint at what its surface truly looks like. The fight in space is deliriously bright with oranges and reds from all the explosions and laser fire; nowhere is this more obvious than on 9 and 10. 17 and 18 also has some spectacular coloring, using subdued colors to show the cost for what’s occurred. The planet’s surface is desert-like, not at all similar to sandy Tatoonie, but rocky valleys full of outcroppings, so tans and browns are used to show this surface, allowing Vader’s armor and glaring lightsaber to stand out like lightning rods. A beautiful job. Overall grade: A

The letters: The font for dialogue on this book is wrong. It is impossible to get any level of threat, or seriousness, out of individual with so thin a font. It is weak, making this most fearsome Sith look frail whenever he speaks. Besides, Vader’s voice has an iconic metallic sound, making him sound unlike all other individuals who do not speak through a modulator. Having his dialogue font be the same as non-augmented humans is a terrible error. I’ve been unhappy with this font since Marvel restarted their Star Wars line and it remains a detrimental element to their books as it does to this. VC’s Joe Caramagna has created the dialogue, scene settings, transmissions, yells, screams, and Wookie roars. Another tremendous error in this book, and with these books, is the lack of sounds. That is not a decision made by Caramagna, but one of the joys of Star Wars battles is the sounds of ships shooting at each other. This book is mute in space, making it appear Joss Whedon has taken over. This is a horrible omission. This book clearly demonstrates how important lettering is. Overall grade: D+

The final line: I can’t ding a book too much for poor lettering, but it does hinder my enjoyment of this issue. This is a good beginning with good art and promises much to come. Overall grade: B+

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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