Star Wars Comic Review: Darth Vader #3 (Spoilers)

Star Wars Comic Review: Darth Vader #3 (Spoilers)

Screenshot 2015-03-25 19.55.22 Note: This review contains spoilers for Darth Vader #3 and Star Wars Rebels: “Fire Across The Galaxy.”

After an exposition-heavy opening issue and a one-off adventure in the second issue, I wasn’t expecting an immediate continuation of the overarching story. Writer Kieron Gillen made it no secret that Darth Vader would be a slow, meaty boil, frequently citing the anti-hero-centric television shows Breaking Bad and House of Cards as his influences for the series. Vader’s priority is still to find that blond kid who had his old lightsaber, but he’s making very careful, calculated moves to make sure it stays off of the Emperor’s radar.

Screenshot 2015-03-25 19.57.16

The selling point of this issue was new character Doctor Aphra, a devil-may-care archaeologist with sketchy motives. She’s sort of Indiana Jones in space, but with a darker flavor. She’s more interested in weaponry than our Doctor Jones, however, and has a bizarre admiration of Darth Vader (more on that later). She will undoubtedly serve as Vader’s talkative, vivacious foil, similar to Ahsoka Tano’s role in The Clone Wars. Her positive attitude makes Vader look even grumpier, but he treats her so much warmly than any other characters. Anyone else would get a red lightsaber through the belly if they so much as looked at Vader the wrong way, but Vader’s only response to Aphra’s confidence is, “You are overly fond of talking.” I would very much like to see Gillen explore the idea that Vader sees a bit of Ahsoka in Aphra, and therefore cuts her more slack, but that would involve mentioning Ahsoka’s dubious fate, which is yet to be determined after her surprise appearance in Star Wars Rebels. Vader employs Aphra’s services after a murderous display of force, and we are even treated to the acts of violence it took for Vader to find her. This is the most black humorous moment we’ve seen in the series thus far; Vader is so extreme and formidable that of course he found her. Again, the only thing Vader has to fear in this quest is the Emperor.

Screenshot 2015-03-25 19.59.11

The droids in this issue also provide an excellent opportunity to explore not only Darth Vader’s experiences during the decidedly more droid-heavy Clone Wars era, but their presence in this series will provide an insight into Vader’s deteriorating humanity. As Obi-Wan Kenobi so famously told Luke Skywalker, “He’s more machine now than man.” And, up until this series, we haven’t seen Vader interact directly with droids much at all. This is another fresh element that proves that these comics have a distinct place and purpose in this new age of Star Wars. That being said, Triple Zero and the blastomech BT-1 are definitely the “evil” C-3PO and R2-D2. I can’t wait to see them interact more with each other and with Vader. There are also more old Vader-wounds to reopen as the “team” heads to Geonosis to salvage some battle droids for Vader’s new secret army. Darth Vader does run the risk of opening too many wounds; he has already been to Tattooine, now Geonosis, and, as much as I would appreciate the fan service, I have my fingers crossed that there are no trips to Naboo planned in his itinerary (and if anyone has a completely over-planned itinerary, it’s Vader).

Screenshot 2015-03-25 20.00.24

I do have two nitpicks with this issue that I’m hoping are due more to my own absent-mindedness than the actual storytelling. First, why does Aphra admire Vader? At first, I thought she was just being her sarcastic, no-filter self, but she kept on with it. Aphra seems pretty single-minded in her quest for rare droids and the like, so where would any interest in Vader come from? My other issue is much more minor, but how exactly did Vader determine the activation code for the protocol droid? I know he has experience building protocol droids with C-3PO, but this would imply that all protocol droids have the same restriction codes. I’m not sure what exactly was going on there, but perhaps some re-sequencing of the panels or some added nuance on Vader’s face would help to fill in some blanks. The subtlety of Vader’s facial expressions (or lack thereof) are definitely weaker in this issue than they have been in the previous two.

Screenshot 2015-03-25 20.04.51

A permissably slow issue, Kieran Gillen and Salvador Larocca introduces us to some great new characters and some always-impressive photo-realistic artwork in a chapter that is planting the seeds for the ultimate Darth Vader: fear, machines, and manipulation. Darth Vader is shaping up to be the strongest series of Marvel’s latest offerings, and, considering how much fun Star Wars and Princess Leia have been, that’s saying quite a lot. I have every confidence that these slow issues, as enjoyable as they are, are building up toward something massive that will enhance every fan’s viewing of the Star Wars films.

4 out of 5 stars

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  1. Scott Baughman
    March 27, 2015 at 11:28 Reply

    An excellent review, and I agree for the most part. This comic doesn’t hold a candle to issue 1 of Darth Vader, but then – not many comics could. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars because who doesn’t enjoy a good Indiana Jones homage? Having said that, I didn’t feel we had enough motivation/explanation of the Dr. Aphra character and several panels (like the one you mention where Vader activates Trip-0) lost me with what they DIDN’T show in the art. Overall, I’m glad I spent my money on the comic.

    1. Alex Ward
      March 27, 2015 at 14:06 Reply

      Yep, “motivation” is definitely the word I was looking for! She was a self-proclaimed archaeologist, yet she wanted to USE the artifacts, apparently? Wish I would have mentioned my confusion about that, as well. I’m sure it’ll get fleshed out soon.

  2. Lisa
    March 27, 2015 at 11:45 Reply

    I’m wondering about Aphra’s attitude toward Vader as well. It feels like I missed something…. I kept waiting for him to go off on her, but you brought up a good point about Ahsoka. I imagine, behind the mask, he may be wearing a bit of a smirk.

    Of the three current series, this ranks #2 for me. The Star Wars series is still tops – due in no small part to Luke Skywalker (I am a devoted fangirl) – and Princess Leia is third. That will all shift with the arrival of Kanan’s series, though. After Luke, Kanan has rocketed to second favorite character status. I’m expecting great things from his series – and looking forward to your reviews!

    1. Alex Ward
      March 27, 2015 at 14:07 Reply

      Thanks! Yes, “Star Wars” is my close to being my favorite, too, but it’s just too fast-paced for me. The art is excellent, but, while I enjoy the huge action sequences, I always come away feeling like I watched only five minutes of a movie. And yeah, Leia’s last for me, too. Hoping it gets better.

  3. Erica
    March 28, 2015 at 05:59 Reply

    I think aphra admires vader because he is more machine than man. She loves weaponized droids and that is what he looks like to her. For her he is the perfect intersection of droid and darkness with the little bit of humanity left deeply hidden.

    Great post!!

  4. Josh Whitson
    March 30, 2015 at 10:06 Reply

    According to Wookiepedia: “the Triple-Zero protocol personality matrix, was created by the Galactic Empire as part of the Tarkin Initiative.” If that’s the case, since Darth Vader has been around since the inception of the Empire, he may very already have known how to activate the droid, or looked up the information before intercepting Dr. Aphra since he clearly knew where she was and therefore why she was there.

  5. Melinda
    April 3, 2015 at 08:20 Reply

    Awesome review, Alex! Like I said in a comment box to your write-up about the first Darth Vader comic, I wasn’t going to pick up this particular series — not because I didn’t think it worthwhile but rather because I decided to be selective in what I bought … because there are only so many hours in each day. 😉 I’m already far behind my self-appointed schedule of getting things done!

    You are changing my mind! When I go to the comic store next week to pick up the latest Star Wars and Princess Leia comics, I may have to add these to my bag as well. Where I will find the time to read them, I do not know. 😉 Maybe less sleep? 😉

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