They say there are two types of people in this world. One who loves Star Wars and the other who hasn’t watched it. The other day I was rewatching for the nth time The Force awakens and post that came across a rather surprisingly and i say surprising because you haven’t really seen pasted over the Internet a series about Darth Vader. For a character whom IGN rated as the #1 villain ever!, it was indeed surprising. For Darth Vader is the most infamous and widely recognized villain in the entire film history. Since his debut in 1977, Darth Vader has become the face of Star Wars, which is one of the most popular and successful (estimated to be worth over $40 billion) film franchises in modern movie history. No other villain is as popular and dominant across film, animated series, comics, novels, video games, merchandise, and even theme park rides, than Darth Vader.
You have got to hand it to the excellence of writers Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca for capturing the essence of Vader so very well. Take this, the in-continuity series begins with Vader entering Jabba the Hutt’s palace not long after the end of the first Star Wars film. He casually and with the greatest of finesse murders two guards with his lightsaber, demands an audience with Jabba and, once he has it, finds himself berated by the sluglike gangster: “You arrive a day early, kill two of my guards, and expect me to deal with you?”
Vader stares at Jabba behind his expressionless helmet and intones, “I have only killed two. Do not make me reconsider my generosity.”
Very few characters can match the mystery, charm and swag of Vader. He is death and grace, the villain you fear yet love. His entry to the palace is a more violent reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker’s arrival in Return of the Jedi; Vader meeting with Jabba is an exciting new interpolation within a beloved mythology; and by the love of god, its blows the needle on the threat meter . As you read the dialogue on the page, you can hear it in James Earl Jones’s sonorous basso profundo, and that’s the essence of what makes Darth Vader one of the best mainstream comics on the market: It builds inventively on the Star Wars mythos while remembering what made it resonant and alluring.
The series concludes with its 25th issue in October 2016, and it does so without having truly ever received the attention it deserves which is a shame, because throughout its run the book surprises and delights. The series features an intricate mix of interlocking plots, showing the Dark Lord in situations where his supremacy is threatened and he has to prove his mettle: a micromanaging Emperor forces Vader to work with people who question his decisions; Vader goes on a quest to learn more about the boy who blew up the Death Star, one which requires secrecy to avoid the attentions of the rest of the Empire; and, most prominently, we see the machinations of an inventor who believes he can render the Force obsolete through technological innovations. The book though has sold well, making it into the top 20 for comics-retailer orders most months since its February 2015 debut, but the comics commentariat has barely batted an eyelash at it — which is curious, considering the pedigree of its creative team and, well, it’s Star Wars.
Indeed, the greatest joy of the series is Vader’s dialogue — always brief, always chilling. When he and Aphra travel to the world of Geonosis on a secret mission, a local leader cries to Vader, “Has the Empire not taken enough from the Geonosians with your bombs?” Slicing her with his lightsaber, he simply says, “No.” He speaks with a queen during a complicated political crisis and tells her what to do; “It’s a deal,” she says; “No,” he replies while walking away, then half-turns to her, “It is simply how it will be.” There is no mua-ha-ha monologuing from the title character in Darth Vader, no internal narration — just a pitch-perfect encapsulation of the kind of pithy terrorizing that made audiences fall in love with him in 1977.
Vader may be a monster, but he’s a majestic one, and we want to believe in his awful magic. The character feels fully on-brand, and the world the creators have built feels comfortingly familiar, even when it introduces bizarre concepts like massive ships built out of space-faring whales. To read the comic is to fall in love with the Star Wars universe once again. If you need something to tide you over until the next movie — or to console you if it ends up being a dud — this won’t fail you.