After over thirty years, it's rewarding to finally see Darth Vader earning his fearful reputation, which is exactly what Haden Blackman and Agustin Alessio deliver in "Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison" #3. Opening with a recounting of a visit to the Jedi Temple, Vader discovers that the prisoners he captured as Anakin Skywalker may still be alive and detained in a hidden Jedi prison despite the enactment of Order 66.
Blackman gives enough backstory to bring readers up to speed without forcing them to slog through sections devoted exclusively to recap. In doing so, Blackman writes a Darth Vader every bit as enraged as when he marched into the Jedi Temple at the end of "Revenge of the Sith." The writer also illuminates a secret kept from Anakin Skywalker that definitely stoked the rage within Darth Vader. Beyond that, Blackman expands the legends of both Skywalker and Vader with details of the story.
"Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison" #3 isn't all about Darth Vader, however, as Blackman also crafts a tale of treachery and subversion around the leadership of the young Empire, which leads to cameos from characters Star Wars fans love as well as a final, bold maneuver by the focal character of this series, Laurita Tohm.
The entire issue is a magnificently drawn and colored homage to the Star Wars brand. Agustin Alessio has the privilege of drawing Vader in action, other characters plotting and a Jedi Council meeting all in the span of twenty-two pages of story. Alessio also manages to excel at depicting all of the characters with brilliant mastery. With a Star Wars assignment, it is not uncommon to see heavily photo-referenced art or stiff, technical drawings of characters, technology and worlds in the cinematic universe. Alessio not only captures the likenesses of the characters involved, he also renders Vader's armor with pinpoint accuracy and propels all of the characters through the story with graceful panel and page construction. In doing so, Alessio elevates himself to be one of the best Star Wars artists I've ever seen.
If you're like so many other "Star Wars" fans who want to see Darth Vader unleashed, if even just a bit, then "Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison" #3 is worth the price of admission. Not only does it wonderfully revisit established Star Wars canon, but also deftly merges the Expanded Universe while delivering a solid story with amazing art. The Force is definitely with this book.