Friday, January 28, 2011

Chronic Review: Darth Vader & The Lost Command # 1!

Star Wars: Darth Vader & The Lost Command # 1
Dark Horse Comics
Script:       Haden Blackman
Pencils:     Rick Leonardi
22 pages for $3.50

I like this comic a lot more than I probably should.  I guess there is something to be said for keeping things simple and letting them rip.  Often the best stories boil down easily, and Darth Vader & The Lost Command is an emotionally frazzled Vader being sent on a bitch mission to help a guy who pisses him off.  In that way it's similar to Haden Blackman's previous Darth Vader Purge story.  (Blackman is also assisting JH Williams with his Batwoman scripts these days)

The story picks up not long after the Revenge of the Sith film, with Anakin still smarting over losing Padme and all of his limbs.  Palpatine summons him on a search-and-rescue mission.  The subject?  Moff Tarkin's son Garoche has gone missing in the Ghost Nebula.  Vader would much rather make Moff Tarkin tap out with a long distance choke hold than save his kid, but that's life in the Sith.  Palpatine says jump, and Vader says "thy bidding shall be done, Master."

This would put anybody in a foul mood, but it gets better when Tarkin sends a little toadie with to make sure an insider reports on the progress.  Palpatine goes for this.  Rodney Dangerfield got more respect than that.

I was a little worried about running into "bitchy Anakin" because we were so close to the films...that concern was entirely unfounded.  Vader takes the 501st over to the Atoan system and takes control like a stone pimp.  He's a strong leader of very few words.  "Level that building.  Drown those prisoners.  Shut up and step on those kittens."  It's a thing of beauty.

This is not exactly a testament to efficiency in comic book storytelling.  You can read it in about four minutes if you have a mind too.  Part of that is by author's choice, part of that is just the sheer amount of action poured into it.  In order to paint a battle scene, you have to burn panels to reveal the action.  Once Vader lands his team, they encounter resistance, and fighting is inevitable.

This is my podcast partner's dream book, but honestly, I liked it myself.  If you want to dig for some subtext, it's there.  Darth Vader at his best is a monster you have a lick of sympathy for or at least understand.  Blackman begins his story showing us the Anakin is still in there somewhere, that he's in pain, and that the Vader persona is a useful front to distance himself from that pain.  Being Darth Vader means he gets to be in control...for the most part.  But there are silent panels where Vader simply hangs his head.  He probably does that because he's soul weary.  I love shit like that.

After capturing the tower and interrogating whatever was left after they chewed through it with blasters, Vader is no closer to discovering the whereabouts of Garoche. The twist at the end of the book is the mysterious appearance of Lady Saro.  She walks over to Vader....on water, and announces her intention to help him find whatever he seeks.  Hmmmm.

I liked this comic because of the dirt simple premise combined with the strength of writing on Darth Vader.  This feels like the right guy, and he gets to flex in some satisfying ways throughout the issue.  You get to see the resiliency, the force powers, the tactical skills, and the power of his developing persona.  He even makes Palpatine sweat for a beat or two before taking a knee in the throne room.  Delicious.

I'm not sure if we're really going to gain much insight into the guts of the Vader character, but he's a complete bad ass and the story takes no time getting rolling.  More comics could probably learn from that.

- Ryan

1 comment:

David Ferguson said...

Picked it up based on hearing your views on it on the podcast. (First Star Wars comic I ever bought). I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.