Star Wars #14 (Vader Down Part 5 of 6)
Star Wars: Darth Vader #15 (Vader Down Part 6 of 6)
Gillen, Larroca & Delgado
Aaron, Deodato & Martin
"Vader Down" wraps up with both "Star Wars" and "Darth Vader" issues shipping this week. The crossover is entertaining. The classic characters all get some individual action and are set against various foes in one-on-one action. These two issues suffer from a general gloss over of the details though. Even items mentioned within the rundown in the front, and appear to be vital, receive not so much as a panel in either issue. These are the kinds of comics that you sit back and turn off your brain and enjoy for the action and surprises. If you are looking for something a little deeper then these issues will disappoint you.
"Star Wars" covers part five of the crossover. This issue is a touch stronger than the finale. Leia finds herself in front of Vader. Vader is then confronted by his General Grievous-like rival, Karbin and his troopers. Chewie and Han are battling a Wookie bounty hunter while Luke is hanging out in the Jedi Temple ruins. Luke's scenes are cool because Obi-Wan’s voice apparently speaks to him, which ties into a very solid moment with Vader later on.
The comic has a lot of action and is really entertaining. The Darth Vader lightsaber battle is basically Vader versus Grievous and is really constructed well, with fluid movements. The Wookie battle is equally exciting, but a little less subtle. Luke getting caught in the middle of the evil droids and the Stormtroopers is also a fun scene. The comic ends with a good setup for the finale.
"Darth Vader" is a less energetic comic book. The action is limited to Vader against Karbin. The rest of the book has some moments where characters rescue others or make some discoveries, but for the most part, "Vader Down" comes down to Vader versus Karbin and not Vader against the rebels.
The pieces that stop these comics from being classics surround on the way these two issues were put together. The story components are all there to make this a great crossover and two great individual issues. However, both issues don't seem to want to tell a clean story with an eye on time and relative distance between characters.
The problems begin with the recaps in the front of both issues. They both call attention to the fact that Leia has called for all of the remaining rebels to attack on Vader's position. This brings both issues to a high level of drama as the first page is turned. The characters are in a race to escape the situation before the whole area is vaporized. Except not one ship ever shows up. Not a panel or a stray sentence is devoted to this angle. And it’s not like there isn't plenty of time because characters walk from one site to another throughout both issues. The Falcon gets repaired during these scenes. The Doctor sets land mines during these scenes. If the rebels were engaged elsewhere then it should be shown. If there are no rebels left alive then it should be mentioned. I'm not sure why the blurb was included in the recaps if the plot line was getting dropped. The distance between characters is another glaring problem with both comics.
Han and Chewie fight at the Falcon. Luke is loaded onto a shuttle and crashes near the Falcon and eventually walks to the Falcon. Vader battles Karbin near, within eyesight, of the shuttle launch and crash site. Leia follows, first Vader from where he engages Karbin and where the fight ends, then walks to the Falcon. The characters seem like they are all very close to each other. However, Vader brings the shuttle down but does nothing to get Luke or get the Falcon. The evil droids don't show up at the Falcon like the rest of the other characters. Where did Vader and the droids go? Why did the Doctor show up at the Falcon alone? Compounding all of these oddities that seem to stem from where characters are located is the landscape.
The artwork is nice in both comics. "Star Wars" has more powerful visuals, but "Darth Vader" seems to bring more details to the characters to make them appear more like their movie counterparts. However, the landscapes and background make these comics confusing. Vader battles Karbin amidst some cliffs that don't seem to appear in any other panel. They seem to pop up out of nowhere. The Falcon seems to be located in a desert. There doesn't seem to be so much as hill in the distance. Luke is hanging out in the Jedi Temple. The Stormtroopers that find him at the temple jog from where Vader and Karbin start their fight. However, it doesn't appear that the cliffs, ruins or mountains are anywhere around Vader and Karbin nor where the Falcon is located. It seems like way too much attention was paid to photo referencing characters instead of laying out where characters are and what's around them. Another problem with the storytelling is how the Wookie bounty hunter gets taken out. It’s just not clear what happens or how it happens. There is some mention of it later but the visuals just don't give the reader a strong sense of what occurred. The visuals look like the movies and that's great. The flow of the lightsaber battle is very strong and that helps. However, the general setup of the location seems to be ignored and that's a problem.
"Vader Down" concludes this week with an issue of "Star Wars" and an issue of "Darth Vader." The comics have action, they are exciting and they have some surprises. However, there might be some disappointment because the climax of this series is more Vader against his upstart rival, Karbin, and not Vader against the rebels. The final two issues are good reads, but could have been made into classics if there was some tighter storytelling, specifically the absent rebel fleet that was supposed to bomb Leia's position but forgot to show up in these issues. The artwork is good and brings the characters to life as seen in the films. This crossover is a fun read, but doesn't go much deeper than putting the classic characters against various villains on some desert-like planet. Give this is a look with some lowered expectations.
Darth Vader: 3.5 out of 5 Geek Goggles
Star Wars: 4 out of 5 Geek Goggles
Crossover: 4 out of 5 Geek Goggles