Leinil Francis Yu – Darth Vader Annual

Leinil Francis Yu (1977-) is a Filipino comic-book artist who’s been working with the Marvel editions since 2006. He started his comic-book artist career for Wildstorm on Aster: the last celestial knight #3. Then he was hired by Marvel thanks to Whilce Portacio (comic-book writer and artist) who passed on samples of Leinil Francis Yu‘s work to Marvel Comics. He began his work on Wolverine (1997-1999), then passed on Uncanny X-Men (1999) and X-Men (2000-2001). Back on DC Comics, he drew the mini-series Superman: Birthright with Mark Waid (2003-2004). Soon after that, Leinil Francis Yu has been chosen to be the artist of the new Marvel’s crossover, Secret Invasion with Brian Michael Bendis (2008-2009). Since Secret Invasion, he worked on many different titles such as Ultimate Comics: Avengers (2010-2011), Avengers (2013) and most recently on the Secret Wars tie-in Civil War (2015).

Apart from the interiors, Leinil Francis Yu also drew some fantastic covers, like this one for Darth Vader: Annual. The Sith lord appears in his black armor on a blank cover, armed with his red lightsaber. The nervosity of Leinil Francis Yu‘s pencil is perfectly noticeable in Darth Vader’s flying cape. If you pay attention, you may even hear Vader breathes.

Leinil Francis Yu - Darth Vader Annual
Leinil Francis Yu – Darth Vader Annual cover © Leinil Francis Yu / Marvel

Leinil Francis Yu opens his Darth Vader Annual with a fantastic double-page spread depicting a landscape of Shu-Torun, the planet where Darth Vader goes. Shu-torun is a volcanic planet. On its surface are floating many technological towers, whose top looks like a palace.  This planet reminds me of Mustafar, the planet on which Anakin Skywalker has been defeated by Obi-Wan before becoming Darth Vader as we know him.

Leinil Francis Yu - Darth Vader Annual p.3-4
Leinil Francis Yu – Darth Vader Annual p.3-4 © Leinil Francis Yu / Marvel

Darth Vader’s ship lands on a landing platform, then the Sith lord appears. He’s holding a mysterious box decorated with floral patterns. He’s very majestuous, and once again his flying cape strengthens the nobility of the dark lord. Everything’s misty around Vader, and we can’t see anything but his imperial shuttle. A large shadow is drawn at the background: Leinil Francis Yu used only sidelong lines to sketch it. Compared to the cover, the artist’s nervosity is less visible on Vader, maybe due to the colors and the colorist Jason Keith. We also can hear the imperial march as Darth Vader comes closer to us. 

Leinil Francis Yu - Darth Vader Annual p.5
Leinil Francis Yu – Darth Vader Annual p.5 © Leinil Francis Yu / Marvel

Welcomed by the third princess of Shu-torun, Trios, Vader walks into the royal palace where a party is being held. The second panel, the larger one, is the most beautiful one and invites us to dream. Far away from the technological buildings of Coruscant, from the space battles against the Rebellion, Darth Vader is maybe the witness of the last bastion of beauty and culture outside the Empire. Vader and Trios are the only recognizable characters among this crowd of anonymous dancers. Despite the beauty of their movements, they’re not worth Vader’s attention, hence their blank faces. Vader seems uncomfortable at the sight of these happy dancers: maybe it reminds him of his own inability to dance? Or maybe he thinks about Padmé and their wonderful time on Naboo, back when he was just Anakin Skywalker? 

Leinil Francis Yu - Darth Vader Annual p.8
Leinil Francis Yu – Darth Vader Annual p.8 © Leinil Francis Yu / Marvel

Vader didn’t come alone on Shu-torun. He’s brought with him Aphra’s droids: BT-1 and 0-0-0 (or Triple Zero). Once again, the robotic duo reminds me of C3PO and R2D2, with something more: a sadistic side that I find even funnier coming from an astromech droid and a protocol droid than from a regular human being. The naivete, the innocence of the protocol droid of Shu-torun is hilarious: Triple Zero draws it into a dark and quiet closet like a crazy person could do it, and the poor droid rushes into it, unaware of who’s waiting for him. 

Leinil Francis Yu - Darth Vader Annual p.11
Leinil Francis Yu – Darth Vader Annual p.11 © Leinil Francis Yu / Marvel

Finally the mystery of what’s into the box Darth Vader carried along with him all this time is revealed: it’s the last remain of Alderaan, the planet victim of the Death Star. Even if I’m curious about how Vader collected it, the dramatic effect is splendid. Trios picks it up and wonders what can it be. When she learns the truth about it, she suddenly lets go of it, stunned. This page, with very little dialogs, is maybe the most expressive of the comic-book. 

p29
Leinil Francis Yu – Darth Vader Annual p.29 © Leinil Francis Yu / Marvel

This first annual of Darth Vader is a successful one. As always the writer Kieron Gillen has great ideas, and the artist Francis Leinil Yu with his own particular style gives it life. It was a real pleasure to read it, from the beginning to the end, and each page is a true piece of art. I myself am particularly fond of the eighth page, where Vader discovers the waltz the royal family had prepared for him. The drawings, the light, the colors, everything is absolutely perfect and a sad reminder of the life Anakin could have had if I had not joined the dark side. 

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