REVIEW: Darth Vader #15

DARTH VADER #15 / Writer: Charles Soule / Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli  / Inks: Daniele Orlandini  / Colors: David Curiel  / Cover Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Elia Bonetti / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna / Publisher: Marvel Comics / Published April 25th, 2018

In Darth Vader #15, Darth Vader led an Imperial attack on the ocean world of Mon Cala. The Empire had tried to reason with King Lee-Char, but negotiations evolved into a full-scale invasion of the planet. In previous Darth Vader issues, it was revealed that a Jedi is working with the King against the Empire. Darth Vader #14 saw Vader and his Imperial forces nearly destroyed when the native Mon Calamari triggered a massive tidal wave forcing everything under the surface of the ocean planet. Vader was thought lost to the murky depths but it is not that easy to put down a Sith Lord.

Darth Vader #15 opened with Vader sinking, deep into the oceanic trench. His life-sustaining suit struggled to keep up with the crushing pressure, which brought him close to losing the source of his survival. As shown many times in the Darth Vader series, we saw just how powerful Vader truly is. He managed to pull himself off the ocean floor and found a creative way to use the local creatures to help him, their will bent to his through the dark side of the Force. The first few pages were almost completely dialogue-free, putting all of the narrative efforts on Giuseppe Camuncoli’s artwork to limited success.

Once returned to the surface, Vader showed anger that his Inquisitors bothered to save him instead of going after the Jedi on the planet. The king was then tortured until the location of the Jedi, Master Barr, was revealed. After this, Darth Vader #15 became a race to see who can get to the Jedi first. While Vader hunted, the Imperial forces recovered to launch battles anew.

It has felt to me like there has become a recurring trend amongst the current Star Wars comics. The writing is always good, varied in degrees of greatness. However, I often found the art of the books to be lacking. Charles Soule’s script captured the dark, twisted nature of Darth Vader alongside the action-adventure feel of the galaxy far, far away very well. This led us to sympathize with Vader, which was bolstered by how Darth Vader #15 was essentially him trying to survive in the hostile environment of the planet.

Giuseppe Camuncoli’s pencils and layouts were great in the dialogue scenes, as were his character likenesses to the source material, especially for non-human characters. However, I read the action scenes of Darth Vader #15 several times over and was still left puzzled at times. The direction and layout were not always clear, as seen in an early scene, where Vader fought a giant squid. It showcased Vader’s will, but with no dialogue to guide the eye, it was difficult to follow the flow of the action. It kept me lingering on panels, long past a time that was ideal. The following scene with Vader and the Inquisitors was much better: you felt Vader’s anger and frustration in each panel, presented in an easy to follow manner. Working with a character like Darth Vader must be difficult for an artist because his face never changes, but Camuncoli did a very good job at projecting Vader’s mood and feelings, even in clustered action scenes.

Daniele Orlandini’s inks and David Curiel’s colors kept the story’s bright colors contrasted against the darkness of the subject matter and its titular character. They cheated a bit when it came to light sources, as the water has a limited effect in contorting light, despite Vader being stranded at the bottom of the ocean, but it was all to keep the issue visually exciting and interesting, so I forgave them.

Even with a few artistic problems, Darth Vader #15 continued to be an enjoyable read. I really enjoyed the connection between the Darth Vader title and the main Star Wars title right now. Darth Vader gave us the early days of the battle between the Mon Cala and the Empire, while Star Wars gave us the story 20 years later. Allowing reads to see both halves of the battle concurrently was a unique and bold approach by Marvel Comics.

Having a villain as the main character was and continues to be no easy task, but the creative team on Darth Vader #15 gave it their all to make a story about Darth Vader that honored his power levels and terror. If anything, their decision to put him at the center of the story made him all the more menacing. I’m excited to see how they will wrap up this story with the eventual confrontation between Darth Vader and Jedi Master Barr.

VERDICT: 4 Out Of 5

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Opinionated geek and writer born in the desert, raised on the beach, and now living in the mountains, Paul is a lifelong nerd who loves Star Wars, costuming, comic books, and all manner of geeky things.

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