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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Star Wars: Vader Down

Title: Star Wars: Vader Down

ISBN: 9780785197898
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2016
Artist: Salvador Larroca, Mike Deodato
Writer: Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron
Collects: Star Wars: Vader Down, Star Wars (2015) # 13-14, Star Wars: Darth Vader # 13-15 

Rating: 4/5

The first crossover in this new Star Wars comic continuity reads with the excitement and thrills one would expect from such an event. Vader Down is filled with great fight scenes, unexpected twists, and plenty of awesome moments from Vader himself. However, outside simply being a crossover, the collection doesn’t offer much that feels unique. In fact, this volume seems to fall victim to overused tropes more often than the regular series does. All in all, this ends up being an entertaining crossover, not one that stands out as incredible or revolutionary, but entertaining nonetheless.

The crossover kicks off when Darth Vader is shot down by Rebel forces while on his hunt to find Luke Skywalker. Right off the bat, this premise is enough to grab reader’s attention. It takes Vader, a man we all know to be one of the most deadly human beings in the galaxy, and finally makes him vulnerable. He is still the unstoppable powerhouse that he always is but seeing him knocked down a peg proves to be pretty satisfying.

From here, a large portion of the story follows Vader’s reaction to this crisis. He is immediately set upon by hordes of Rebel soldiers, who he takes out with little trouble. He even goes so far as to state “All I am surrounded by is fear. And dead men.” when Rebel forces have completely encircled him, a moment that legitimately gave me chills when I read it. He destroys the Rebel forces in a creatively terrifying manner, and then goes on to take down Karbin, the man who engineered this crisis. Each battle he fights is awesome and makes Vader’s very presence one of the biggest highlights of this collection.

Moments not following the Dark Lord of the Sith mostly follow Luke, Han, Aphra, and the droids. While not as brutal or exciting as the scenes featuring Vader, these character’s adventures still manage to be entertaining. In particular, watching Han and Aphra play on each other’s overconfidence and seeing the evil droids interact with the heroes ends up being very fun. There  are also a number of places where the relationships between the characters are elaborated upon, creating some wholesome and even heartwarming vibes.

Unfortunately, a lot of what happens here also ends up feeling uninspired and predictable. Members of the rival factions meet their “counterparts” in battles that ultimately don’t produce any significant results. Some battles even stretch suspension of disbelief in order to maintain the status quo; for example, BT-1 has no problem killing a group of Stormtroopers but is somehow unable to cause any damage to R2-D2. Seeing these characters interact is still entertaining but it feels a bit cheap in how it is executed.

Another small problem with most of Vader Down is that the artwork here does not look quite as nice as it has looked in previous Star Wars titles. Instead, a more stylized style is presented by Mike Deodato. This style sees harsher lines and deeper shadows, with a lack of detail that can look strange in a few places. Deodato’s artwork is still alright, especially when it comes to drawing larger scenes where detail is viewed from a distance, but it still feels like a small step down in overall quality.

There are also three issues here drawn by Darth Vader artist Salvador Larroca. His work here looks just as good as it did in Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets (Review). However, it comes into a small amount of conflict with the rest of the collection’s art, which hurts the feeling of consistency through the event.

Star Wars: Vader Down takes place immediately after the events of both Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets and Star Wars Vol. 2: Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon. However, despite this being a crossover between two series, the events of the Darth Vader series are far more relevant here. Readers could understand everything happening here without reading a single volume of the Star Wars comic series.

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