AUTHOR: DENNIS ‘HOPELESS’ HALLUM | ARTIST: PAOLO VILLANELLI | PUBLISHER: MARVEL | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
A new miniseries comprised of five single-issue tales, Vader – Dark Visions comes weighed down by a lot of baggage. Firstly, there’s the fact it’s a replacement for Shadow of Vader, a similar series cancelled following Marvel’s (unfair, in our opinion) firing of writer Chuck Wendig for the outspoken left-leaning politics on his personal Twitter account. Secondly, it comes at a time when Star Wars spin-off media’s refusal to stray far from the icons of the Original Trilogy is wearing thin; we’ve already had two twenty-five-issue series about Vader, is more of him really the best idea they can come up with?
But let’s give this story a fair look-in. Dennis ‘Hopeless’ Hallum’s script takes us to a planet isolated from larger galactic events, which would be peaceful if not for the inhabitants being terrorised by a kaiju-like behemoth known as ‘the Ender’. When a fight between Imperial and Rebel ships breaks out over the planet, Vader’s TIE is shot down, and the crash wakes the Ender. In his battle with the beast, Vader comes to be seen by a native child not as an evil tyrant, but as a crusading knight come to save the planet.
With this being a one-issue story, that’s pretty much the extent of the plot. Hallum doesn’t have time to probe as deeply into the character as Kieron Gillen and Charles Soule did in their ongoing series, though there is one moment that implies there may still be some man left under the machine. And though minimal, the script is elegantly written, with the child’s narration offering an interesting perspective into how Vader would be seen by an outsider to the war.
The main draw, though, is the audacious battle – pitting Sith Lord against kaiju, it’s Star Wars’ take on Shadow of the Colossus. If Greg Smallwood’s cover image of Vader astride a dark horse(-like creature) with lightsaber and shield gets you all excited, you’ll properly cream yourself over Paolo Villanelli’s dramatic interior art, which with an expanded page count (28 rather than the standard 22), indulges in several double splash pages that powerfully convey the epic scale of the confrontation.
So while this one-shot is in no way an essential addition to canon, it delivers exactly what the cover promises, and is an ideal slice of bombastic Star Wars to fill a lunch break with. The following four issues promise more of the same, with stories including an Imperial commander living in fear of Vader’s wrath and a woman who finds herself infatuated with the Dark Lord.