DARTH VADER #17 / Writer: Charles Soule / Layouts: Giuseppe Camuncoli / Finishes: Daniele Orlandini / Colors: David Curiel / Cover Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Elia Bonetti / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna / Publisher: Marvel / June 13th, 2018
Darth Vader leads the Empire’s final assault on the Mon Calamari homeworld. His team of Inquisitors confront the Jedi Knight, Ferren Barr, while Vader pursues the rebellious King Lee-Char. Barr does not go down so easily, however. He lures the Inquisitors into a trap, using their own clone troopers against them.
Opening any Star Wars issue with a Jedi telling Imperial troops to “Execute Order 66” is a heck of a way to start things off. For the Jedi, it’s certainly a risky gambit. It reveals his desperation, and it could’ve just as easily led to his own death. In Darth Vader #17, it is apparent this Jedi Knight no longer cares about how many people have to die for him to achieve his goals in his fight against the Empire. We learn that Ferren Barr was behind each of the attacks that took place across the story arc and caused violence to escalate. We also learn he has been working on a very long-term strategy involving the Mon Calamari and the Empire.
The brutality of the Empire is very clear in this issue. From orbit, Governor Tarkin, monitoring everything taking place on the planet, kills millions of Mon Calamari to punish the King and the rest of his people for attempting to stand up to the Empire–even after the King surrenders. Darth Vader does many horrible things in #17, but Tarkin still comes across as the greater threat. It says quite a lot about a character if they are worse than one of the most famous villains in Star Wars history.
Charles Soule gives us a very dark story. It’s a great read, but this final chapter of the Mon Calamari war is a rough one. There is no happy ending for any character–except for the fact that we know the heroes will ultimately win decades later–but here, those who survive are scattered and directionless. The war is messy and brutal with high casualties on both sides.
Giuseppe Camuncoli’s layouts with Daniele Orlandini’s finishes and David Curiel’s colors keep Darth Vader #17 moving at a fast pace as everything builds toward the climax. The action is quick, and the final pages are a somber cap to all of the battles. The visuals remain bright even as the story goes dark. The close-ups of the former Jedi Knight during his final duel with Vader are some of my favorite panels. The madness in Ferren Barr’s contrasts against Vader’s stoic mask as the world literally blows up around them.
Darth Vader #17 is a bleak but satisfying conclusion to the Mon Calamari war story arc. It is hard to have a happy ending when the main character is an evil tyrant at the height of his power, so I am glad that Marvel ran this story concurrently with the main Star Wars comic; we get to see how the good guys finally succeed.
VERDICT 4 out of 5