Darth Vader #1 Review

Review of: Darth Vader #1
comic books:
Thomas Bacon

Reviewed by:
On June 7, 2017
Last modified:June 7, 2017


Charles Soule and Guiseppe Camuncoli present one of the strongest Star Wars books to date in Darth Vader #1.

Darth Vader #1

I confess, I had my concerns back when Marvel announced the new Darth Vader comic. The concept seemed a simple one; how would the Dark Lord of the Sith take to his new role? Unfortunately, it’s also one that had already been explored in the old Expanded Universe. Too many of Marvel’s Star Wars comics have seemed to repeat ideas from the EU, so I approached this one with a sense of resignation – and I’m happy to say that I was wrong.

Charles Soule’s script is excellent. He truly understands the relationship between Darth Vader and Palpatine. It gels perfectly with the stories Marvel has already told; the plot fits so very well with Kieron Gillen’s first series. We see Palpatine, nervous and uncertain, wondering whether or not the Chosen One has lost his edge. So he launches a test; Darth Vader must retrieve a lightsaber and bleed the Kyber Crystal with the power of the dark side. But, in the new Star Wars canon, a Sith crystal is not found or given, it must be taken. Darth Vader must begin his time as a Sith Lord by finding a Jedi, killing them and taking their blade.

It’s a wonderful touch, and a fascinating addition to Star Wars lore. It suggests that, over the millennia the Sith have been hidden, they’ve secretly been preying on Jedi Knights. Palpatine’s strategy is also a cunning one, of course. It provides Darth Vader with a channel for his rage and anger, a target that he must seek out and destroy. The first hints of the Dark Lord’s relentless pursuit of the Jedi are found in his own need, in the quest that his master has set him. It’s smart writing.

One thing troubles me about this issue, though. Early on, we have a scene where Mas Amedda is leading the public in destroying lightsabers. Visually, it’s impressive; in line with new canon, we see an energy burst as the crystals are destroyed. But it doesn’t quite gel with the wider Lucasfilm canon, where we’d been told the Empire confiscated the Kyber Crystals from Jedi lightsabers. That was a fairly important plot point in the Rogue One prelude novel, Catalyst, and it’s a detail that I wish had been remembered. I suppose you could easily argue that the Emperor faked the destruction of those lightsabers, but it’s clearly not Soule’s intent.

As the story moves on, I love how Soule develops the character and concept of Darth Vader. He hints at how uncomfortable Vader is in his new armor, but he avoids getting too overt (a mistake James Luceno made in Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader). Meanwhile, the scene where Vader launches an attack upon those who’ve stolen his ship? Superb. We really get a sense of how the Sith Lord has been diminished by his defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan, seeing him taking a hit from enemies he should have been able to handle with ease. It’s really well done.

Guiseppe Camuncoli is the perfect choice to work on the art for this book. He captures Darth Vader’s character in such a thrilling way and several of his scenes feel very much iconic. Frankly, his art is so strong that I couldn’t resist reading through the book a second time, ignoring the text and just enjoying the art itself.

The moment when we see through Darth Vader’s eyes for the first time is tremendous, and so very well-rendered. My one criticism for the art, though, must go to an early splash panel; there’s a moment where additional text diminishes the quality of the scene. We don’t need to hear Palpatine’s pain as Darth Vader lashes out with the Force and we just need to see what happens. The creative team would have been wiser to ditch that tiny element, as it does have a small impact on the quality of the moment. That said, I’m hardly going to knock the book down in rating because of one ill-judged word.

I had my concerns when Marvel announced this new Darth Vader series, but I was wrong. This is an excellent effort and Charles Soule truly understands the character. Meanwhile, Guiseppe Camuncoli renders the story beautifully, creating one of the strongest Star Wars books to date.

Darth Vader #1
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Charles Soule and Guiseppe Camuncoli present one of the strongest Star Wars books to date in Darth Vader #1.