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Nov
2nd
2017

Patreon reward for Nova Quill! Lets get Sithy with it! · 4:40am Nov 2nd, 2017

Welcome to the brave new world of reader sponsored blogs posts everyone! If you want to get on this action, go visit my Patreon and you too can experience the joy of my blogging on a topic of your choice!

Our first reward goes to non-other than Nova Quill/Firimill! She requested I blog about a topic near and dear toy my heart, Star Wars! But not just some general post about Star Wars (though I’d be happy to blog on such), she had a topic in mind. However, before I talk about that specific topic, let me set the scene a little bit.

As any Star Wars fan who has been in the game knows, Star Wars had a thing known as the Expanded Universe. This was basically where anything not going up on a Movie or TV screen belonged… and also some of the ‘less popular’ TV things.


A not nearly long enough time ago in a recording studio far too close, there was only screams.

Pretty much everything Star Wars got to enjoy a state of quasi-canon just so long as Lucas created/produced material didn’t contradict it later. This was politely rebranded “Legends” by Disney in 2014 so they could produce original stuff without navigating the quagmire of existing stories and hating life in general.

Our topic today is one of Disney’s newer creations and one of the best things to rise out of the ashes of the EU.


Hahaha. No.


Well, that certainly is A thing, but one of the best…?


Sweet Smee Skywalker! Kill it with fire!

Okay… On the note of Skywalkers, let’s talk about THE most iconic Star Wars character and cinematic villains of all time. If you’re not certain who I’m talking about, uh... Maybe go watch any of the Star Wars movies?

Today, we’re going to talk about Darth Vader. Specifically, the Marvel 2015 comics (Vader 1-25, Vader Annual 1, and Vader Down)

You might be wondering why I yammered on and on about that EU, well let’s get to that. See, Vader is no stranger to the EU. By in large, no matter how popular or super-cool other Star Wars settings might be, there’s this ever-present desire to cram new tales in-between Hope and Empire and Empire and Jedi. So many in fact, one begins to wonder if Luke, Han, Leia, and the rest of the gang ever sleep or do stuff that doesn’t involve almost being killed literally all the time.

I’m not going to pretend I’ve read all of them, but Vader himself has gotten some miniseries with his name all emblazoned across the top. These seem to fall into one of three categories:

  1. Vader is the protagonist doing Vader things, I.E. murder.
  2. There’s some youngish Imperial who wants to be besties with Vader.
  3. Garbage.


YOU HEARD ME!

While 1 and 2 are usually entertaining, they typically suffer from their own problems.

1 makes for good action but rarely adds much to the Star Wars mythos aside from some ships and creatures and new characters that are doomed to die by the end of the miniseries. We know Vader is good at killing, and thanks to Rogue One, most everyone knows what that looks like now. Not to say the comics didn’t fill a needed niche back when they came out, but now a day they’re mostly good if one just wants to see what it looks like when super-tough looking dudes get crimson lightsabers shoved through their chests.

2 usually adds some interesting perspective, but it’s never Vader’s. We get to learn more about the Empire and its inner workings and we may even meet some interesting characters, but Vader is just sort of there to lay the smack-down when necessary. He’s neither protag or antagonist (mostly) in these. Ever present? Sure. However, there’s little reason to sympathize with Vader in these ones. In fact, even in 1 where he’s, say… the target of an assassination or rescuing someone, it’s usually hard to argue that he’s doing anything that audience would be sympathetic to.

3 up there shares some commonality with better EU comics in that Vader is also there, but mostly as an antagonist. Whether the protag is Skywalker or Fett, Vader is usually paired off against someone who is either ‘good’ or at least has a code of honor or something the audience can get behind. It’s hard to root for the man in black when he’s being kinda a douchey murder half-machine.


Although…

In all cases, we get little to no insight into the mind of Vader and supposedly are left to conclude he’s just a super-powerful ruthless killer after Anakin’s fall.

So, the big questions are ultimately can Marvel deliver a Darth Vader comic that keeps Vader as the focus, expands our knowledge and interest in the Star Wars galaxy, and actually make us side with him?

It’s a tall order that Dark Horse and pretty much all other creators in the EU have fallen short of.

So, let’s start talking about the comic itself.

That is the art.

Almost every panel is like that. There are pages and pages of art with that level of detail. The Darth Vader comics might be the most beautifully rendered comics to ever carry the Star Wars name and every page is some sort of eye feast I can’t help but gorge myself on. Obviously, that doesn’t address the points I made above, so let’s continue.

The story takes place shortly after a New Hope and the first arc of the Marvel Star Wars Comics Skywalker Strikes (a pretty decent Star Wars offering if you’re interested).

The story opens with Vader returning to his old stomping grounds to ask ol’ Jabba the Hutt for a favor. It turns out the Emperor has opinions about what happened to the Death Star.

Basically, Vader screwed up and the Emperor is putting another Imperial Officer in charge of Vader’s tasks, one who was on the Death Star but escaped before it went all explodey.


Grand General Tagge. He likes big data and big ships, but not ones so massive they can blow up planets.

Let’s stop here for a second. We’ve all likely have had an uncomfortable conversation with our boss or a parent or some authority figure. Likewise, many of us have worked for some obnoxious manager we’d sooner eject into space than listen to if given half a chance.

The Vader comics gave us the equivalent of Vader botching things with the big “Ryloth Account” and put him under the Lumbergh of the Star Wars universe.


Yeaaaaaaahhhh… If you could kill all the rebels, that’d be great.

Not only is this super relatable, we immediately sympathize with Darth Vader. The Darth Vader. It’s brilliant! Just a stroke of brilliance. They wobbieized Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith and accomplished child murder. This is some Dolores Umbridge BS Vader has to go through… And guess what? Now we don’t care how many babies he orders into his Star Destroyer engines to get his groove back. We’re on board.

(Quick note that Star Destroyers don’t actually work that way.)

Also, sprinkled here and there are little moments that remind us that Vader was once Anakin Skywalker, a man who loved and had nothing but good intentions for the galaxy. It’s something the EU pretty much never bothered with, sometimes because the stories came out before the prequels, but also because the comics and books regarding the prequels and classic movies are just oddly disjointed with little reminder that there’s a connection.

Okay, so we now are rooting for one of the ultimate bad guys, but the question remains regarding does this add any depth to the Star Wars universe or will Vader murder his way through this problem like literally everything else we’ve seen?

First off, the Emperor literally calls Vader out on this. For all his years as a Sith, Vader is mostly a blunt instrument. The whole point is Vader is now playing second or third fiddle and said fiddle players don’t get their own Star Destroyers and troops to play around with, it seems. He’s basically told he CAN’T just kill Tagge no matter how many times he bugs Vader about TPS reports… Speaking of which, a major arc is around adjutants Tagge assigns Vader to make sure he’s being a good little Sith Lord. Spoiler Alert: He’s Not.

Let’s look at one of these adjutants.


Yes… Look at him.

That’s Inspector Thannoth, and yes, he is black Imperial Sherlock Holmes and if you don’t think that is one of the best phrases ever written in the English language, you are wrong. I’m going to keep my gushing about Thannoth brief as he’s worthy of his own post, but watching Vader and him together is a delight. Did you ever think you’d see Vader be someone’s Watson? No? Well, go read the comic.

He’s not even the best new character. He’s fantastic, of course, but we’re spoiled for choice.


Is… is there an emotion beyond love?

That’s Doctor Aphra. She is the rule 63, morally ambiguous, Indiana Jones in the Star Wars universe. Now if you don’t think that is one of the best phrases ever written in the English language you should probably find something else to do besides reading this blog. She serves as Vader’s covert partner in crime to help him get a sort of ‘shadow army’ up in running so he can continue to live the lifestyle he’s accustomed to, asking others to help him with all the killing he wants to get done when there’s just too much killing for one cyborg!

Again, she deserves her own blog post… or… 10… or 50.

In addition to being an absolute delight with scenes like:

 She’s used expertly in the comic as a sort of foil to Vader’s natural strait-man act. And just...


Let’s just stop and appreciate the imagery and parallels here to another person who’s had a similar run in with Vader.

She also low-key serves as a way to make Vader more sympathetic. It’s like when the protagonist is given a dog. There’s someone around Vader who is at least a couple degrees less heartless killing machine and we like her and she seems to like Vader or fear him enough to be nice to him. Marvel seems to like this Trope, as a brief aside. I’ve seen it used with Thanos who is classically ALSO a hard character to make likable with all the genocides and such he’s committed.

Doctor girlfriend Aphra also comes with her own C-3PO and R2-D2!

Wow! It’s like they just slapped a new can of paint on them! And maybe gave them a few new gadgets… A lot of new gadgets… And also completely flipped their personalities so instead of yet another quibbling married couple in Star Wars we have psychotic literal murder machines who are just an endless engines of pure dark, dark, the we’re in space and the stars have burnt out comedy.

Triple Zero (this is also the galactic coordinates for Coruscant in the Star Wars universe, little factoid there) and BT are just a delight of the most depraved sort and they’re also terrifying.


Very Terrifying.

If you watch Rick and Morty and know who Krombopulos Michael is, imagine they made a personality matrix based on him and merged it with 3PO and then R2-D2.

These two, along with Aphra, bring something to Vader comics we pretty much never get. Comedy! But they fit in so well with the mayhem it manages to happen without distracting from the tense action and occasional drama that unfolds.

All three of these characters are also threatening in their own way. Sure, no one is going to top Vader in that department, but they all prove that they can and will make with the slayings if it comes to that. What’s more, none of these characters take center stage for so long we forgot who the star of the comic is. Each enhances without distracting.

There a few other characters of note, but only one more I feel I need to go into in much detail here.


Who’s this douchebag?

THAT douchebag is Cylo some-roman-numeral. He basically serves as a big bad for the series. True, Vader’s goals and enemies are varied, but Cylo there is an antagonist in a slightly more traditional sense. Basically, he’s after Vader’s job much like a certain green crime boss many might remember from the EU. The problem for Vader is the Emperor has half a mind to GIVE him Vader’s job if Mr. Choke Machine doesn’t get his Sith together.

While he’s not much in a fight, he has many aces up his sleeve as well as a penchant for bolting on mechanical and computerized gear to organics. One might say he’s the best at this…

In addition to not being picky about what parts he puts on his body (one must wonder what he looks like with his pants off…). Cylo has a posse.


That’s quite a few butts to kick. Or slice off with a lightsaber ,as the case may be.

Most everyone up there is shown to be capable in their own right, even compared to Vader. They’re also given enough time in the comics that we get to know and understand their motives and see them more as ‘Poor Mook #66 who has no idea what he’s up against’.

So, right now you might be thinking that I think the Darth Vader comics are some sort of flawless monoliths given to the world to bring Star Wars fans pure joy.

Well…

Some nitpicks.

Boba Fett is in the comic pretty early on. Fans of the EU know Fett and Vader crossed many times before and after Empire. In a bizarre way, they’re kinda friends… or at least the sort of friends their sort can make. Vader and Fett have little time to get to know each other in this, but that’s not necessarily all that bad… Still, fans of the EU probably remember Fett as being one of the more interesting “bad guys” with a rich back-story and some pretty great comics to his name. They also might still feel the sting of what happened to him when Attack of the Clones came out and the perpetual ‘BUCK IM FALLING DOWN ALL THESE STAIRS ……………’ that is his appearances in the Clone Wars Cartoon.

None of that is really improved here. Sure, he proves he’s given some hulking six-armed brute to dispatch, but we also get a nice panel of him torturing some poor farm boy for information and then up and killing him when he gets what he wants. Also, he gets defeated by another character who should be a lay-up for Fett to take out at this point in the mythos. His thuggish nature and unimpressive falling flat on his Mandalorian helmet appearance means he could have been replaced with pretty much any Bounty Hunter and nothing of value would have been lost. At least no one will deny this isn’t Fett like we’ve seen him in canon already. A very angry, borderline man-child brute who talks a good game, but whose record looks more like some sort of dark slap-stick comedy played at high speeds to Yakety Sax.

Vader himself is on brand… Maybe too on brand. Not to say there’s anything wrong with how he’s written. Just… He kills characters… A lot. Some of these characters have GREAT story potential and they’re ultimately slaughtered because that’s just what happens when you cross Vader.

I mean, if Star Wars has taught us anything it’s that you can always go back and explore the past, but without naming names, there’s a few who end up in the galactic obituaries who probably deserve their own miniseries at the very least.

Still, the comics are glorious, and the Vader Down storyline is… Okay, just take the scene from Rogue One where Vader finally gets to do Vader things in the movie. Now extend that for an entire comic arc. It’s pure Sith poetry in motion.

In conclusion, if you love Star Wars or even just like it, go out and find yourselves the Vader trades or better yet, hardcovers. Heck, you can find everything online if you need to. These are simply some of the best Star Wars comics and even Star Wars offerings the franchise has given us. They succeed where many others have failed, and what’s more, gave the comics so many more stories to explore deeper.

Say what you will between the unholy alliance between Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars. It used to brutally efficient and great effect here.

Like what you read? Want me to go on and on about a topic of your choice? Well, for as little as $5 a topic, that dream can be a reality!

Once again, thanks to Nova Quill for her support and the excellent first topic. Next topic is Drinking/Cocktails 101 requested by nuclearcore14. That should hit in a couple weeks.

See you all in the comments!

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Comments ( 10 )
Comment posted by Philosophysics deleted Nov 2nd, 2017

4714737
Hah. Well, that's mostly what I knew off the top of my head. I can't guarantee EVERY blog post will be quite so massive, but I do want to make sure peeps get their money's worth.

4714739
TIME WARP?!

Wow. You did a lot of r esearch in this.

...Does the five dollar patreon involve writing papers?

JK

4714738
You're delivering so far.

Wish I had money.

Well, that was waay more in depth than I thought it would be.

Thank you for being willing to write on this bud! I know it's a topic we've talked about a fair bit, I thought some of your followers would get a kick out if it too.

4714743
You're welcome! It was my pleasure and of course, I had fun with it! :pinkiehappy:

It belongs in an armory! Is a pretty good gonzo fanfic line.

In all cases, we get little to no insight into the mind of Vader and supposedly are left to conclude he’s just a super-powerful ruthless killer after Anakin’s fall.

Now in all fairness, he is. But there IS more to him than that. He is still a human being under all the cybernetics. One with enough self loathing and hatred that he'd be in constant Super Saiyan state and be a prime candidate for the Red Lantern Corp, now that's a scary thought, but there IS more than just that. He is a human being, not a droid.

Well, it's good to know that you at least don't like TFA. That abomination needs to burn in an inferno. To be honest, this was a bit tl;dr, but it'll be cool reading more of these kinds of blogs.

Rush and Pony on!
T4E

I remember reading a shorter story tacked onto the end of one of the Legacy of the Force books that had some fantastic characterizing for Vader in the Category 2 vein. He was nust as duthless to his opponents, but he showed a strong and almost protective sympathy with the Stormtroopers under his command. (This was shortly after Ep3, so most of them were still leftovers from the cloning facilities, and they reminded him of the clone troopers he fought alongside in tge previous war.)

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