Review – Vader Becomes Planetary Savior in Marvel’s Vader: Dark Visions #1
Darth Vader is the Empire’s most powerful warrior, mercilessly enforcing peace and order throughout the galaxy. Killer, monster, savior – what is the true legacy that the Dark Lord has left behind for those unfortunate enough to cross his deadly and destructive path?
Written by Dennis ‘Hopeless’ Hallum
Art by Paolo Villanelli
Since Lucasfilm made a decision to reset Star Wars canon in 2014, we have gotten a great deal of Darth Vader content across various media (movies, books, comics, animated shows) and in-world timelines. These stories provided fairly complete picture of the infamous Sith Lord. But, that story was mostly told from the two – black and white – perspectives.
Based on the first issue alone, Dark Visions will take a somewhat different approach telling Vader’s story. The narrator of this particular story offers the perspective of someone who, not only doesn’t know who Vader is but, doesn’t know anything about larger galactic events. Vader’s character is judged solely on the consequences his actions have – and those might surprise you.
The issue opens on the planet of Cianap and follows an unnamed, blue-skinned alien teenager cavorting on the surface of the planet with his droid Raz. Cianap was once a very developed planet which was stricken by some apocalyptic event. The remains of the cities are slowly getting overtaken by nature, while blue-skinned inhabitants live mainly underground. It is only during the periods of ‘slumber’ that they go out on the surface to hunt and scavenge.
And just like Luke in the deleted scene of A New Hope, a teenager can see the distant battle above the planet. He is surprised, but not afraid, because the god they have on the planet is far worse than anything the outside world can throw at them.
Above the planet, there is a full-blown space battle between the Empire and the Rebellion. Darth Vader is on the scene. After his ship suffers a malfunction, Vader decides to land on the planet to repair it. His arrival through the atmosphere causes panic among the blue-skinned people who hurriedly retreat into the tunnels. It is not that they are scared of what is coming, but where it is going.
The boy witnesses Vader’s arrival. To him, the Sith Lord is a mythical creature, black knight destined for the epic battle. Vader’s ship has crash-landed on top of the Ender, creature that destroyed the planet’s civilization and whose hibernation (‘slumber’) he interrupted. The teenager sees Vader wounding the creature which destroyed armies and dragged ships from the skies when it arrived on Cianap. The fact that Vader can even engage this Goliath amazes the youth and starts giving him hope.
Seen from the boy’s perspective, the fight is a roller coaster – the advantage alternates between Vader and Ender, the fight is savage and relentless. The boy is closely engaged in the fight, cheering and warning Vader at one moment and running for his life at another. Finally, Vader manages to overcome the Ender and in this act of self-preservation frees the entire planet.
The boy thanks Vader – he sees him as a savior and hero – but still instinctively feels that something is not right as every hair on his body stands. It is very likely that the boy’s fate would have been sealed (Vader never deactivates his lightsaber after ending the monster) but, luckily for him, the Imperial forces arrive to take away Vader and his ship.
As the story closes, people of Cianap celebrate their liberation. The boy is asked to retell the events he watched and we witness the apotheosis of Vader.
If one thing stands above all else in this issue, that would be art. Villanelli’s art is breath-taking. Whether it’s intimacy of closely following the boy and his dog droid on the surface of the planet, grandeur of massive space battle or stylized Vader during action scenes, you simply cannot take your eyes off the pages. The effect is enhanced by Arif Prianto’s beautiful coloring. The panels are cinematic and you can easily imagine them in motion. A few of them could easily be framed and put on someone’s wall.
The art matches the story about a mythological (super)hero because that is what Vader becomes in this story. What Vader wants is to get back into the fray. To do that, he must eliminate the obstacle, in this case – the Ender. He is relentless, brutal, unstoppable. It’s easy to see how someone living in isolation and constant oppression could see him as a knight in shiny armor. Vader’s intentions are not important. The consequences of his actions and the way they are perceived by his audience are. For the better part of the galaxy, he is the monster. For one blue-skinned boy and his people, Vader is a liberator. Their opinion might lack some critical information, yet it isn’t incorrect. Galaxy is vast and perspective is a wondrous thing.
This isn’t the story which will provide you with some deep insight into Vader’s character or goings-on of the Empire. The point of view is unique but other than that: this issue is cool, exciting and beautiful. Vader is a badass. And it feels fairly safe to say that most of us can enjoy that. I know I did.
THIS ISSUE GETS 8/10 STARS.