As much fun as it has been seeing a Dark Lord of the Sith be a galactic whipping boy, it sure is nice to finally see Darth Vader in control for an issue of his own comic. Things aren’t going well for Vader, or the Empire in general as we saw in last month’s issue, and Darth Vader #3 has him taking the first steps to solving this issue. Who knew the solution to his problems was a murderous protocol droid and a rogue thief?
The new characters introduced in Darth Vader #3 are almost mirror images of other Star Wars characters. The first one we meet is Arpha: a headstrong and roguish thief who is only out to serve herself, but has a heart of gold. If you couldn’t tell by that alone, she’s essentially a gender-bent Han Solo, or more accurately an amalgamation of every major role that Harrison Ford has played. She even yells out her own version of a famous Indiana Jones quote (“It should be in an armory!”), and takes several personality cues from Han himself. She is the perfect counterpart to Vader’s straight-man-to-the-extreme persona, with her bubbly attitude and constant quips bouncing off of the Sith Lord with no visible reaction.
Darth Vader #3 plays this up well by using the fact that Vader is a straight-faced villain, but is forced to interact with what is essentially a child. He needs her for his upcoming plans, and he has to deal with her. Normally when Darth Vader deals with someone – as it’s shown early on in this issue – it’s done so with a timely force push or lightsaber through the back, but instead he’s forced to just sit and take her child-like humor. It all works wonderfully, and is finally a level of humor in these newest Star Wars comics that lands effectively.
On top of that, the other new characters are dark versions of C-3PO and R2-D2. Both retain the core of their personalities (because, let’s be honest, how different can a droid really be anyway?), with obvious desires to murder everything in sight throw in. One of my favorite lines that come from “dark C-3PO,” actually called 0-0-0, is his first call to action – “As there’s no one here to murder, presently, how may I be of assistance?”
In general, I love what Kieron Gillen is doing with Darth Vader and his new band of misfits. Vader still very much feels like Vader, but now the series has some leeway for comedy, and it’s being handled with such great care to this point.
Other than Aphra and Vader’s individual introductions to their current location, there isn’t a lot of action in Darth Vader #3, but the issue still plays out fine. A lot of what we see is just back-and-forth dialogue between the two as they work to revive the murder-crazed droids and Vader tries to recruit Aphra. Naturally, seeing as she is the mirror Han Solo, she accepts his offer, and we’re set up for the conclusion of the Vader arc next week and hopefully more of the group beyond that.
One side-note that I particularly enjoy so far with Darth Vader that comes back in this third issue is seeing some of the old tech from the prequels as part of the story. We see Droidekas and Super Battle Droids again, but similar to last week, they are just there and things that the rebels would naturally use given that they are more-or-less on the side of the fight that used to use them. They are not just props to try and shove the fact that this is Star Wars down your throat. It’s these little details that is helping Darth Vader bridge the gap between the prequels and main trilogy.
Art in the issue is pretty great as well, and adds to the humorous moments. Comedic timing is a strange thing to accomplish with comic panels, but Salvador Larroca handles it well – especially the blank stare moment pictured above. What little action there is in the issue is clear and fluid, with Vader maintaining his classic stiff fighting style as he slashes through droids. The cover art from Adi Granov is also appropriate as well, with Aphra, 0-0-0 and BT-1 (the dark R2-D2) recreating the original Star Wars posters in their own unique way.