A Darth Vader Annual #1 Review – The Dark Lord Doesn’t Dance

Darth Vader Annual #1 (2015)TITLE: Darth Vader Annual #1
AUTHOR: Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Leinil Yu
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $4.99
RELEASED: December 16, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Leinil Yu drawing Star Wars? That’s definitely worth a look. This particular issue might not be worth paying five bucks for, but it’s at leas worth a look.

Darth Vader Annual #1 deviates from the ongoing Vader Down storyline to give us a peek into the Dark Lord’s work as a political enforcer of sorts. Vader is dispatched to the volcanic planet of Shu-torun to reinforce their governments cooperation in the production of valuable ores. Little does he know he’s walking into a trap. But is it even possible to get the jump on Darth Vader?

Having Leinil Yu work on Darth Vader was a legitimate drawing factor for this issue. But surprisingly, Yu’s renderings of the titular character tend to be either misproportioned or awkward. There’s a panel where Vader is talking about the Empire “always building” where the angle of the headpiece on his mask doesn’t work. There are also several shots where Vader’s head looks too small for his body (below). It’s not a consistent thing, but it does pull you out of the issue.

Darth Vader Annual #1, Leinil Yu, 2015Despite this flaw, Yu does pretty well otherwise. I’ve always liked the sketchy manner in which he draws faces. Vader spends the issue with a young woman named Trio, and he depicts her very well.

I also find his renderings of angry old men very amusing. There’s a scene where duke demands Vader dance with his daughter at a celebration. The piss and vinegar in his face as he’s looking at Darth damn Vader is awesome. Even more awesome? When Vader levitates him 20 feet in the air and drops him. He then accents the moment with a line tailor-made for a Schwarzenegger movie: “Do any others wish to be my partner?”

Gillen remains fantastic at incorporating a very appropriate dark humor into these stories. This is embodied in Triple-Zero and BT-1. They’re perfect evil versions of C-3PO and R2-D2, to the point where I can hear Threepio’s voice when I read Triple-Zero’s dialogue. The droids tag along with Vader on this little mission to serve as a surprise of sorts to the royal family on Shu-torun. They have a lot of great little one-liners in this book. I won’t spoil them for you. But I will say my favorite involves the term “mass heart attacks!”

One might say Gillen gives us a glimpse of Anakin Skywalker in this issue. As Vader gets to know Trio, he learns about her relationship with her father, and starts to see things in her that her father doesn’t. As such, Vader offers her a little praise, including telling her that her father should appreciate her. Mind you, it doesn’t exactly end well for one of them. But that moment is still notable, considering Vader’s mindset at this point in his life.

Darth Vader Annual #1, Leinil YuThis issue does a nice job of spotlighting the key element that makes this series work: Its inverted view of the Star Wars universe. It casts Darth Vader, arguably the main villain of the entire saga, as the protagonist. Not the hero, mind you. He’s the protagonist, meaning our main character working toward accomplishing something. As such, we find ourselves rooting for Darth Vader, even though he’s often trying to do something terrible. In this story, for instance, he’s trying to impose the Empire’s will on an entire planet. And he indeed does awful things in an attempt to accomplish that goal. But we find ourselves rooting for him, even if it’s just on a subconscious level.

I’ve said something to this effect before, but it bears repeating: Darth Vader has consistently offered us the best Star Wars content Marvel has put out since they regained the license. I’m not interested in seeing anyone but Kieron Gillen write this book anytime soon. And for that matter, I missed Salvador Larroca on this issue too. They’ve got a really good thing going with this series, and I keep wanting more.

Images from author’s collection.

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