For the conclusion of a sweeping story, "Star Wars: Darth Vader - Ghost Prison" #5 stutters out of the gate. Haden Blackman's choice to overlay the text of an Imperial Incident Report disrupts the flow of the action of Agustin Alessio's meticulously rendered action sequence. The narrative of the incident report trails behind the action drawn on the page and the dialog attributed to the characters via word balloons further compounds the stutter-step opening. That's a shame, really, as the narrative could have been compacted up front, allowing Blackman's story and Alessio's art to deliver the surprise twist with a greater deal of surprise, instead of covering it in a layer of static.
Blackman redeems the story, however, by giving Darth Vader ample opportunity to exert his Sith-enhanced skills and battle readiness. While Vader is only present on half of the pages of this story, his influence is unmistakable and Blackman depicts a scene of ruthless cunning that certainly plays up to the legend Darth Vader had when he was first introduced in 1977. A cold, heartless villain determined to accomplish the task set before him no matter the cost; Vader makes no friends throughout the course of this issue.
It's Vader's ruthlessness that puts Alessio's art in a position to impress. The first image of Vader inside this book is an intimidating worm's eye view of the Sith Lord descending upon the reader with lightsaber held high and Force lightning crackling in his free hand. By that point Alessio has proven he can draw the Star Wars universe as well as anyone, having rendered a battalion of Imperial troops and a Lambda-class shuttle. The artist's painterly style softens the harsh detail of his linework, which is so precise it borders on architectural rendering rather than freehand drawing. The end result is at the same time part concept drawings akin to those of Ralph McQuarrie and part fumetti. If every Star Wars title were rendered this marvelously, my wallet would be perpetually depleted.
"Darth Vader - Ghost Prison" #5 is a wonderful installment for Star Wars fans looking to understand the legend of Darth Vader. His dedication to the Empire, his cunning in battle and will to overpower his foes is without compare, and Haden Blackman provides a story showcasing all of that. I always took Darth Vader's reputation on faith, but it is through stories like this that that faith is being rewarded.