Note: This review contains spoilers for Darth Vader #3.
Now that Marvel’s first three series are either at or heading toward their third issues, I’m finally getting a feel for what they’re really going to be like. Up until now, each issue was a surprise; I’ve been waiting for months, maybe even over a year, to see what Marvel would do with Star Wars, so it’s all been more exciting than perhaps it should. Luckily, the quality has lived up to my excitement. Well, until “Darth Vader” #4. Kaw-puhhhh.
I have three major gripes with this issue, and I believe they’re well founded, not petty: redundancy, Aphra’s hesitation, and Gillen’s use of flashbacks. Let me break it down, and please keep in mind that as cranky and pessimistic as I am about to sound, I am loving this series overall, just not this particular issue.
First, we learned previously that Darth Vader and his new snarky archaeologist buddy Doctor Aphra were planning to break into a Geonosian droid factory and take its battle droids for Vader’s own private army. And in this issue? They did it. Yep. They just… did that. Exactly as I imagined. A Geonosian queen was killed, her droids were taken, and more Triple Zero pulled some more “I’m the evil C-3PO” gags. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Triple Zero and BT, but, like the original droids, they can overdo it sometimes. I’m reminded of their incessant physical comedy during, ironically, the Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones. I’m all for comedy in Star Wars, but those are some of my less-favorite moments of the saga.) I was a little let down that Vader succeeded so well. Every antagonist-heavy work of fiction lately seems to show their bad guy lead succeeding at everything with often very little explanation; again, I think of House of Cards’ Frank Underwood and Breaking Bad’s Walter White, both of which, again, are cited influences of Kieron Gillen’s approach to “Darth Vader.” I would have liked to see Vader stumble a bit in this issue, but it still seems his only weakness is that his successes, as many as they may be, must be kept secret from his terrifying master.
Second, I’m finding Doctor Aphra to be a very inconsistent character. I mentioned some issues with her motivation in my previous review, noting that she wants to collect artifacts but also greatly admires Darth Vader for some unknown reason. Now, we learn, she is in great fear of him. What happened to her admiration? As unfiltered and sarcastic as she can be, her confessed feelings about Vader in the prior issue took place during a specifically serious moment. But this time, she not only expects Vader to kill her, but she specifies the way in which she’d like to be killed; she’d apparently expected it all along. It just doesn’t align with her character. Aphra is cool, but she still seems, aside from her confidence and personality, to be a very one-dimensional character.
My third and final gripe is this series continued use of flashbacks to the prequel trilogy. I love the prequels, but nearly every issue has included one. It’s almost as if it’s an editorial requirement for Kieron Gillen to feature a moment in which Darth Vader melodramatically reflects on his ponytail days, then immediately threaten the person who made him remember. It was intriguing at first, but we either need less flashbacks so they mean more when they appear, or we need to dive deeper into these flashbacks.
Overall, the series is in a good place. The art is consistently impressive, and, as it is so marginally stylized, I have very little to say about it otherwise. Perhaps this is a book better suited for binge-reading, but this issue mostly felt like a cop-out after the plan was outlined for us in the previous issue. The concept of Darth Vader’s replacements seems like an excellent plot point moving forward, and the sight of those crossed yellow and green lightsabers on the cover of next month’s issue made me forget all three of my gripes and love “Darth Vader” again.
2.5 out of 5 starsPowered by Sidelines