Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command (comics)

Writer: Haden Blackman
Artist: Rick Leonardi
Collects: Darth Vader and the Lost Command #1-5

We don't get many stories that focus on Darth Vader himself, do we? Kind of a rare treat. This miniseries does not disappoint.

We start about a month removed from Revenge of the Sith and Vader has since begun his campaign to wipe out the remaining Jedi. But before long the Emperor has a fetch mission for him. Seems the son of the future Moff Tarkin has up and went missing on a mission to a backwater part of the galaxy. Naturally, Vader's got to clean the mess up. He's even given a shadow because the Emperor's an idiot; why he was shocked Vader tossed him over a railing to his death in Return of the Jedi I'll never quite get.

What we have is a rounded portrayal of the iconic Sith lord. Haunted by visions of what could have been, we catch the occasional glimpse of that spark of humanity his son would one day revive. The rest of what we get is a Vader that is as deadly as we've ever seen. It isn't long at all before we see just how ruthless, cunning and vicious he could be. While the Vader of the films was fine with getting his hands dirty when necessary, it was never to the extent we get here. He actively participates in a brutal, efficient takedown of a city, orders survivors drowned, tosses civilians into hot tar pits to get information from a hostage and has no qualms about sinking an entire city.

Dude doesn't play games.

The story is engaging and moves at a brisk pace. It's helped along by a Darth Vader that feels authentic*, if younger and a bit more brash than we saw in his later years. Even his fleeting moments of sorrow over his lost wife work; the few scenes we get are more believable than the entire half of Episode II dedicated to building that "love story". Even if you give pause at the slightest bit of self loathing or regret, know that Blackmans got you covered; by the stories end, Vader proves himself every bit the evil prick we've always thought he was. Maybe even worse.

I don't have a lot to say about the art other than it's pretty decent. Leonardi uses another style to differentiate the visions of what could have been from reality. It works pretty well. That he can draw a mean Darth Vader certainly helps.

The Score: 8 out of 10

Even if you're not a fan of the prequels, this is well worth the money. It bridges who Vader was and who he has become better than the films ever thought about. We also get a hell of a reminder of just why Darth Vader is one of the best villains to ever hit the silver screen. If you need some of your faith restored, this should do the trick.

*The dialogue passes my general litmus test for this kind of thing. Meaning I could imagine Darth Vaders voice reading his lines.


  1. This sounds like a fun book. I'm getting back into the Star Wars universe, slowly but surely, these days, and I think I'll be adding this to my mounting pile of reading material.

  2. I think it's well worth it. It's a fun spotlight on Vader in the early years of the Empire. I never felt the prequels diminished Vader, but even if they did this story gives him a lot of his bite back.

    I believe this same creative team has another Darth Vader miniseries on the way this spring, so I'm looking forward to that.

  3. I just saw the first issue of the sequel series in Dark Horse's solicitations yesterday. It's nice that they're giving Blackman the autonomy to do these stories, especially since it sounds like he has a good grasp on the character.

  4. He does have a good grasp on Vader. He makes Vader a very effective, ruthless villain. Frankly, I'd go so far as to say he is more unnerving in Blackmans hands than he was in the original trilogy (which is easy to explain away as him sort of mellowing and losing a bit of his skill as he aged).

    I'll be keeping an eye on the sequel miniseries; I'll definitely be reading it when it hits trade.