Salvador Larroca (1964-) is best known for his work with the X-Men titles, like Uncanny X-Men between 2000 and 2007, or more recently for Cable and X-Force (2013) and two issues of Uncanny Avengers (#12 and #24). He has already worked with Kieron Gillen, the author of Darth Vader, for AvX VS #2 Spiderman versus Colossus (2012). For its part, Kieron Gillen relaunched the second version of the Young Avengers (2013-2014) with the artist Jamie McKelvie and wrote many Uncanny X-Men issues scripts (2011-2012), including the Passion of Scott Summers, a superb tie-in for Avengers VS X-Men.
Like any movie heroe, Darth Vader doesn’t make an appearance in the beginning of the comic book. We have to wait until the ninth page to see him entirely. Before that, we only have glimpses of Vader : his shape, his shadow, his lightsaber. The mystery remains about how Salvador Larroca drew the most charismatic villains of the series. Darth Vader appears to the reader through Jabba’s eyes. This sight from above isn’t very fair for Vader, who looks smaller and fatter than he really is. I didn’t expect to see him like this, but more with a bottom view angle which would have glorified him. After all, he’s the heroe of his own series. Seeing him through Jabba’s eyes allow us to understand how the Hutt considers Vader : not like a threat of any kind, but like an empire’s emissary, someone who doesn’t have any power on the Outer Rim. Although he’s surrounded by Jabba’s minions, Darth Vader stays unflappable and dignified. But he is no fool, and he’s ready to take action if necessary, as witnessed his clenched fist around his lightsbaber. This first encounter with Darth Vader may surprise the reader by its unusual point of view, but this might be what both the author and the artist wanted to present : a disgraced lord back on his birth-planet, asking Jabba a favor.
Darth Vader finds quickly an ally, or at least someone who’ll work for him. The lucky one is the rogue archeologist Aphra. He rescued her from Utani Xane, the curator of Quarantine World III that Aphra robbed. The large figure of Aphra on the top of the page is a clue given by Salvador Larroca to the reader to understand that she’s running away from lasers and explosions after her robbery. The multiplication of Aphras running away increases the impression of speed and emergency, the very essence of this page. Unlike the previous layout, this one depicts an action scene. The artist has multiplied the panels, the same figure running away and the gestures. If most of Salvador Larroca‘s page for Darth Vader are action scenes, they are not my favorites. I prefer the calm ones, the ones on which the tension is visible. Mostly, they’re found in the end of the issues, as a cliffhanger.
Like this next page, one of the last pages of the fifth issue. Darth Vader has finally discover the secret plans of the emperor, and it’s not good for him : Palpatine planed to replace Vader and the force with technically enhanced subjects trained by Cylo-IV then Cylo-V. Both surprise and fear come from Vader. After his failure and the explosion of the Death Star, he suspected that the emperor might look for a replacement, but he never thought his successors might have been training and waiting for years. How could he ever trust the emperor again ? Vader submit himself to him, becoming this monster half-human half-robot, trying to do his best to redeem himself after Padmé’s death, and the emperor betrays him ?! The only thing he can do now is proving – both to the emperor and to himself – that all he’s done was for something. And the only way to do so : defeat his potential successors, even the emperor if he tries to step in.
The last page of this review I’d like to present to you is the one where Boba Fett informs Vader about the results of his mission. The readers of Star Wars already know what happened, but for the others, here is a short abstract : Vader hired the bounty hunter Fett to look for the young one who destroyed the Death Star. Fett discovered the name of this boy after a fight in Obi Wan’s home on Tatooine, and reported to Vader on his ship. A similar scene has been drawn by John Cassaday for Star Wars #6. But if this scene only takes three pages on Star Wars, Salvador Larroca managed to extend it on seven pages for Darth Vader. Not only we see here Vader’s reaction, bu also his memories about his former life and Padmé. This truly is me favorite part of the run. Like John Cassaday for Star Wars, Salvador Larroca succeeded on giving a more realistic touch to his characters, like Padmé or Anakin. His characters look like the actors who played them in the movies : Nathalie Portman for Padmé, and Hayden Christensen for Anakin/Darth Vader.
I can’t resist to the pleasure of showing you the next page of this issue, where Vader get’s angry at the emperor when he remember him saying he killed Padmé. Now we understand why Darth Vader is angry : not because of his long-lost son, but because he killed Padmé – or so told him the emperor. His past mistakes get to him, and he wishes not to repeat them again.
Salvador Larroca and Kieron Gillen did a wonderful job bringing Darth Vader to life. The character is more thorough than in the first trilogy, more touching even. He’s not just a bad guy, but a villain with a complicated past and hard goal to achieve.