DARTH VADER ANNUAL #2 / Writer: Chuck Wendig / Penciler: Leonard Kirk / Inkers: Walden Wong; Scott Hanna / Colors: Nolan Woodard / Cover Artists: Mike Deodato Jr & Arif Prianto / Letterer: VC’s Joe Carmagna / Marvel Comics / Published July 18th, 2018
Darth Vader is struggling with his role in the Empire. The Emperor has put Vader under Governor Tarkin’s command making Vader question his role as the Emperor’s right hand and loyal servant. Vader is having to work within this new command structure while also investigating the Death Star project.
It’s the early days of the Empire, the Death Star is still under construction but progress has been delayed by repeated accidents and sabotage. Darth Vader is trying to learn more about the project and what it means for the Empire, but Tarkin is pulling rank over him. Tarkin also has the ear of the Emperor at this moment and Vader is put in his place by his master who seems to always be testing Vader. Vader’s investigation leads him to Geonosis and Director Krennic’s construction site.
Darth Vader Annual #2 leads almost directly into the opening of the film, Rogue One. It’s also another issue of Darth Vader that deals with the relationship between Tarkin and Vader. Vader has as many problems with the Imperial leadership as he does with the Rebellion. The last three issues of Darth Vader have shown Tarkin testing Vader and figuring out how he can use Vader to achieve his goals. By the end of Darth Vader Annual #2, Tarkin seems to have Vader figured out.
Chuck Wendig’s script gets into the mind of Vader. I liked seeing Vader’s fantasies of killing Tarkin, you can feel his barely contained rage in the panels. We also get a look at the power struggles in the early days of the Empire as each of these powerful men fights for favor with the Emperor, and Palpatine is not above pitting them against each other. Wendig also includes some great callbacks to the films as Vader remembers himself fighting in the Geonosis arena and sets the stage for Rogue One.
I really liked Leonard Kirk’s pencils and layouts. Vader can be difficult to present visually because no matter his mood, his facial expressions never change, but Kirk does a good job with Vader’s body language and placement in the panels to show emotions. Darth Vader Annual #2 is a lot of characters talking and political maneuvering, but when Vader leads a charge against Geonosian saboteurs we get a great splash page of him in action. Most of the characters looked like who they were supposed to, except Krennic. If he hadn’t been named, I’m not sure I would’ve been able to tell who he was.
Walden Wong and Scott Hanna’s inks frequently show Vader as a single black shadow on the page with only his eyes or lightsaber showing. Nolan Woodard’s colors present a brighter and softer palette than recent Darth Vader comics. They combine for an interesting blend of an all black shadow standing in a bright and colorful locale. The red hues for Vader’s fantasies and memories give us a unique way of seeing through Vader’s eyes.
I liked the connections to the existing stories in various media. Now, through movies, novels, and comics, you can follow the entire story thread of Vader, Tarkin, and the Death Star from Revenge of the Sith to the novel Catalyst to Darth Vader Annual #2 to Rogue One and ultimately to A New Hope. It makes a continuity nerd like me very happy to see how all these pieces fit together to tell a whole story. However, I don’t feel that Darth Vader Annual #2 requires those other stories to make sense. If you’ve seen Rogue One you should be able to follow everything presented here.
VERDICT: 4 out of 5
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.