When science fiction fans consider the greatest villains in the genre, many characters come to mind- Khan, the Alien Queen, Agent Smith, Skynet. However, many fans will come back around to one name–Darth Vader. If there’s one thing Marvel’s Star Wars line has established, it’s how effective and terrifying Vader is. Darth Vader #19 effectively reminds us of that.
Where the previous volume of the series gave us Vader clawing back from defeat, this volume has given us a younger, more fierce Vader. In the last two years he’s gone from a green Sith Lord, to the height of his power, leading the Inquisitorious against the remaining Jedi in the galaxy. In this issue we see how effective and brutal he is, thanks to a script by Charles Soule, line art by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Daniele Orlandini, color art by David Curiel and letters by Joe Caramagna.
Though this is the first part of the Fortress Vader, the titular stronghold (first seen in Rogue One) doesn’t make an appearance here. Instead this is a tale of Darth Vader and the Inquisitorious. The group find a hidden Jedi, Eeth Koth, just as his wife gives birth. What follows is a brutal lightsaber duel between Vader and Koth and a frantic chase to catch Koth’s wife and daughter.
I used the word “terrifying” to describe Vader a moment ago, and that might honestly be an understatement. In these pages, he straddles the line between warrior and horror movie villain. His pursuit against Koth is relentless and brutal. There’s never a question of the outcome, just how it will be reached.
It’s a brilliant balance of writing and art too. Soule writes Vader in a way to elevate his mythic status in the Empire. He’s quiet, cool and calculating. The anger there is controlled and measure, not hot and uncontrolled. Camuncoli and Orlandini draw your eye directly to Vader in every panel he appears in. He’s a monolithic presence. Curiel makes a great choice by having the entire fight make place midday, making the entire sequence even more frightening. He also colors Vader as a black void, more shadow than man, and it’s a brilliant choice.
The Inquisitorious are as much a highlight as the story’s lead. These former Jedi don’t trust each other, despite their unity as a group. They’re as calculating as their leader in a much different way. One of sisters appears to betray the group, but in a stunning moment of cruelty to her prey, she reveals her true intentions, and absolutely devastates Koth’s wife.
I have loved this series to date, because it at first gave us a green Vader, trying to find her way as a Sith Lord. Soule didn’t drag that out. Instead he showed him reach that goal, then move beyond it.
This is a Darth Vader that most fans have only imagined, and it’s great. He is the frightening villain that many have wanted and have only seen glimpses of in the films. This also gives us what the first volume of Vader couldn’t–the Sith Lord leading the great Jedi Purge.
His opponents aren’t Rebel soldiers or his son in the infancy of his training and heroic journey. These are fully trained and fully capable Jedi. Each one has been effective against him in their own way, so he’s learned how to do that. Here, he takes the most valuable and precious thing to Koth…and destroys it moments before slaying him.
There’s no trace of Anakin Skywalker left in these pages. This is the greatest villain in science fiction at the height of his power and effectiveness. It’s also a horror story, with brutal and effective violence and terror. Those elements combined make it one of the most reliably good reads month in, month out.
Simply put, this is one of the best comics on the stands today, and every Star Wars fan’s dream. For that alone, you need to read it.
Darth Vader #19 is available now from Marvel Comics.