STAR WARS DARTH VADER #18 / Writer: Charles Soule / Layouts: Giuseppe Camuncoli / Finishes: Daniele Orlandini / Colors: David Curiel / Cover Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Elia Bonetti / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna / Published July 11th, 2018
Darth Vader is on the run from Governor Tarkin, one of the Empire’s foremost military leaders in Darth Vader #18. Tarkin has put together a hunting party to capture the Dark Lord of the Sith, but Tarkin is realizing too late just how dangerous Darth Vader really is.
This issue has Darth Vader’s name at the top, but Vader is not a character as much as he is a force of nature or a wild creature that must be tamed. Vader has no dialogue in the entire issue, except for his trademark breathing and a few grunts. Darth Vader #18 centers instead on Tarkin, who is leading the hunt. We quickly see that Tarkin is as ruthless as Vader himself with little separating the two. Tarkin throws his men at Vader in attempts to understand Vader’s strengths and weaknesses. He has no remorse or second thought beyond the completion of the hunt. It becomes a test of will between the two of them.
When you think of Star Wars, this is not the type of story that immediately leaps to mind. Charles Soule has a solid grip on the characters and locations of the galaxy far, far away. I feel that this is a story that is very dependent on knowledge from other sources. As a big Star Wars fan, I found a lot to enjoy here and I really liked the connection to the novel Tarkin. However, if you had not read that novel you might find some parts of Darth Vader #18 confusing or unclear. A lot of Tarkin’s characterization comes from the novel which dives into his family history and traditions of hunting and surviving in a hostile environment. This is different than how Tarkin is portrayed in the movies.
Giuseppe Camuncoli’s pencils and layouts keep the action moving and the tension high. I don’t care for some of his character designs though. Tarkin looks older than he should for this time period and some of the hunters look too human-like in their designs. Daniele Orlandini’s finishes and David Curiel’s colors give us a great looking book. Vader coming out of the flames in the flamethrower fight is beautifully colored. The final confrontation as Vader moves against the remaining hunters is a fantastic sequence in action, layout, and colors. The lightning strikes are a great effect and the reflections on Vader’s armor are terrific.
The Most Dangerous Game trope is put to good use here and I liked shifting the focus off of Vader. His intellect and ferocity are put to great use. It’s clear that Vader is in control at nearly every turn and Tarkin is less the hunter than the prey. I liked the bit of misdirection about the nature of the hunt and that it’s not until the final pages that we understand what’s really going on here. After the previous Mon Calamari arc, it’s nice to have a stand-alone adventure before diving into the next story arc.
VERDICT: 4 out of 5