A comic about an early mission of Darth Vader’s is always going to be a good idea for a comic. This book takes place approximately nineteen years before the battle of Yavin so it means we’re getting a nascent Sith Lord. This opens up plenty of character space to play with, and the mission is simple enough to not get in the way. Vader is tasked with finding Grand Moff Tarkin’s son who is lost on his own mission.
The opening is strong as Darth Vader is stripped back literally and emotionally. For all the medical droids and mechanical arms, this is a character-fuelled moment – and a very good one. It paints Vader as still very much being a man beneath all of the sinister black. This is a better use of the human interior in six pages than Lucas managed in three prequels.
Once into the mission, the action takes a leaf out of one of the greatest set pieces in the original trilogy by ordering up a heaped serving of snow. The action flows through to where the narrative needs to be, but it all feels cold (pun intended). It’s just shooting and running; there’s little heart to what transpires. It feels like video game action. That’s good for what it is, but it will never be great.
Vader is certainly shown as a cold and ruthless general in battle who knows how to get the job done, though there are hints he might still be a little green behind the ears within the mask. Making him kick ass and chew bubble gum in the field is a well-played card, but it’s a pity that it sort of goes against the tone and heart the first six pages of set-up. I’d rather get back to the man in the suit, not the killer who uses the force to summon a snow storm – I know, it is actually cool, but I want some characterization, too, dammit.
Leonardi and Green do a great job at making the art fit what you’d think of as a Star Wars house style. Considering most of the action regards suits, masks, and mechanical robots and transports, everything still looks fluid and lifelike. This isn’t a rendering of a mask from a Google search, this is a soulful look into the distance of a man who has lost his soul. I could watch these guys draw the Star Wars U all day.
This issue is a solid opening to this case but it doesn’t present anything beyond the realm of special. The first pages hint at something deeper, but once Vader is on the trail it devolves into an action sequence that doesn’t hold enough heart to it. I’m not sure if this lost tale of the Lord Vader is supposed to show him as still a man, or a killer Sith general, or anything in-between. You expect some sort of hook at the end and when it comes it falls slightly flat. The fact this is Vader, and the art is stellar, is enough reason to come back but the next instalment needs to be special and must decide on its portrayal of Vader.