VADER DOWN – Full Crossover Series Review

All hail the Dark Lord of the Sith! Darth Vader is the quintessential bad ass and the anchor of the massive Star Wars Universe. We all know his character well because we’ve seen it all: his origin, his tragic descent/transformation, his ruthless enforcement, and his ultimate redemption. Vader is a good enough character that even after seeing all these character highlights, it’s easy to feel like you still haven’t seen enough. Thankfully, Marvel has us covered with their ongoing superb treatment of the Star Wars Universe.

 

STAR WARS: VADER DOWN 

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VADER DOWN was their first “crossover” event which started as a standalone issue then continued split between their ongoing STAR WARS and DARTH VADER comic arcs. The full arc takes place through the following issues:

 

  • Vader Down, Part 1 (11/18/15)
  • Darth Vader #13 (11/25/15)
  • Star Wars #13 (12/2/15)
  • Darth Vader #14 (12/23/15)
  • Star Wars #14 (1/6/16)
  • Darth Vader #15 (1/6/16)

 

As a whole, VADER DOWN was just alright. I’m glad I followed the whole thing even though I felt slightly unfulfilled when it concluded. It’s hard not to have really high expectations when you think about Darth Vader facing the entire Rebel army alone. In reality, the six issues seemed to spend more time on the other characters. I get that the whole reason Vader crashed on the planet was because of Luke (in a great kamikaze move), but I sort of expected more of the focus to be on the actual Sith Lord. Fortunately, the scenes where he does face the rebel army were well done.

The best moments came from the terrifying confidence Vader exudes. When told to surrender because he’s surrounded, he replies, “All I am surrounded by is fear and dead men.” In all later moment Leia tells him that he and the Emperor will lose this war. Darth Vader responds something to the effect of, “men like the Emperor and I are above war. This is nothing but a series of executions.” The dialogue in these moments couldn’t possibly be better. I can practically hear James Earl Jones reading those lines.

One of the largest obstacles in comics is delivering the and appropriate balance of action and individual achievement while contributing to a larger story. VADER DOWN could be a much better read as a trade paper (preorder link above the picture) since it’s all there as one cohesive story. My first instinct was to give this 6 out of 10…. but Vader always gets bonus points with me!

 

My rating of the STAR WARS: VADER DOWN full crossover series is 7 out of 10.

7 out of 10

STAR WARS ANNUAL (2015) #1

Annuals are hard to predict. Both DC and Marvel have a habit of trying to tie an annual into a current storyline. The problem with this is that if you’re not current with the story then it feels disjointed and loses the desired impact. I felt this way with 2015’s Suicide Squad Annual – it was alright, but just alright. When I picked up the flashy new STAR WARS ANNUAL #1, I was cautious yet still optimistic (because Star Wars… duh).

 

STAR WARS ANNUAL (2015) #1 written by Kieron Gillen

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The Star Wars Universe is overwhelmingly expansive. Oddly enough, we only get snippets of this whimsical galactic fairyland through the common film/television outlets. We see the most well known characters and places while much of the rest turns into a revolving background. In the STAR WARS ANNUAL #1 we are treated to a rarely seen aspect of the conflict between the Empire and Rebel Alliance: espionage.

 

Eneb Ray is a deeply embedded operative working undercover in the Imperial bureaucracy on the Coruscant, the capital of the Empire. Coruscant is seen several times in the prequel trilogy. It’s as a massively urban planet with a fog of aerial traffic, the Jedi Temple, Senate Chambers, and activity around the clock. Seeing this ‘everyday life’ viewpoint of life on the busy capital was fascinating to me. Eneb is a believable character in an unenviable situation. The only familiar face is Leia, who is only featured as a hologram. I’m glad they limited her involvement to that so emphasis wasn’t taken away from Eneb and the other spies.

 

Readers are treated to Eneb’s thought process throughout an opportunistic plot at assassinating the Emperor. Adding his internal monologue was perfectly subtle; it enhanced the spy’s character without derailing the momentum of the story. Other characters are introduced just enough to make their fates believably tragic for Eneb. Palpatine is delightfully evil (as always). It’s so easy to read his lines in that trademark twisted growl of his.

 

The artwork is quite good. Interior work by Angel Unzueta brings life to character features while downplaying the technical flash that could come with views of Coruscant. I almost wish we could have seen more of that flash, but then the ‘underbelly’ feel of the environment wouldn’t have been as believable. I’m not at all familiar with Unzueta or Gillen, however, my enjoyment of this issue will certainly keep them on my radar.

 

My rating of STAR WARS ANNUAL (2015) #1 is 8 out of 10.

 

8 out of 10

 

Star Wars fans – pick this one up! You will definitely appreciate what it has to offer.

Non-Star Wars fans – please reevaluate your the priorities in your life.

JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – SHATTERED EMPIRE

It was easy to frown upon Disney when they made their $4 Billion galactic conquest with the purchase of Lucasfilm. Regardless of how well they did with their last $4+ Billion splurge (Marvel), Star Wars is sacred ground for pretty much all of geekdom. I cringed at the thought of the relentless mouse empire taking over a galaxy far, far away. Three years later, I’m happy to admit that I may have judged them too quickly.

Since that time we’ve seen a resurgence in Star Wars everything (not that it ever went away). Knowing more movies were on the horizon was enough to build (cautious) excitement but that wasn’t enough for the suspiciously-evil efficiency of Disney’s marketing. A little later we got the new animated DisneyXD series, STAR WARS REBELS. It started out a little goofy… then it quickly found its footing and turned into a worthy entry to the Star Wars Saga. Minor updates about the movie were gradually released to whet our appetite. New merchandise with unfamiliar characters flooded stores like a maliciously deliberate tease. Throughout there were superbly composed trailers for THE FORCE AWAKENS released that periodically incited a riot of anticipation. Now we’re two months away from a new era of Star Wars! My first showing tickets are pinned to my fridge ready to be redeemed. Before the movie hits you can peak into what happened after the fall of the second Death Star in Marvel’s four-part series…

JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – SHATTERED EMPIRE

Cover from the final issue (my favorite cover art of the four)

SHATTERED EMPIRE (written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Phil Noto and Marco Checchetto) picks up right where Return of the Jedi stops. The war didn’t end with the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star. Think about it – the Galactic Empire has ‘galactic’ in it for a reason… it’s flippin’ huge! Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the fighting would continue throughout the galaxy as the Imperial war machine churns on without Palpatine at its head regardless of their ‘loss’.

Through a four issue arc we’re treated to the characters we know and love while being introduced to a few new players. Rebel Alliance pilots Shara Bey and her husband Kes Dameron are used to illustrate the desire for a return to normalcy after the supposed fall of the Galactic Empire.

I found it refreshing to have a look at the smaller aspects of the Star Wars universe that are normally glossed over in the traditional properties. Unfortunately, the concept isn’t properly expanded upon which turned it in to a bit of a hindrance. Shara and Kes are both likable in their own right, however, the short story arc doesn’t give readers enough of a chance to become attached to either of them especially when the core characters share the page. SHATTERED EMPIRE would have carried more emotional weight if we had the opportunity to become emotionally invested.

With that said, there’s still plenty to like in SHATTERED EMPIRE. The art is phenomenal. Phil Noto and Marco Checchetto do a fine job bringing life to the war-weary Empire. There are a few issues when in regards to the portrayal of the core cast but it is easily compensated with the intricate battle scenes. My favorite part is the attack on Naboo; it was one of the few points where tension was successfully created. The final issue was sadly the weakest (especially following the third issue which was the strongest by a healthy margin). It left me with a “is that it?” aftertaste.

JOURNEY TO STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – SHATTERED EMPIRE is worth a read for any Star Wars fan. Even with its shortcomings, it succeeds in building the excitement for Episode VII higher than ever. My rating is 7 out of 10.

7 out of 10