Darth Vader is a comic series written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Salvador Larroca. It takes place shortly after the events of the movie, Star Wars and ends right before the movie, the Empire Strikes Back. At 25 issues, it is a relatively short series.
Personally, I feel like I grew out of Star Wars when I was twelve. At that point I had discovered the fiction that inspired Star Wars and was ready to move on from what I considered to be a pale imitation. The prequels reaffirmed that opinion although Force Awakens was able to rekindle my initial nostalgia for the franchise.
I bring this up to give you an idea of how surprised I was to enjoy Darth Vader. Gillen approaches the story in an interesting way, which is that when the Death Star blew up, Vader was the only survivor of the greatest military disaster in Empire history, therefore he gets the blame. Vader is in the doghouse with the Emperor and the Emperor starts looking for other righthand beings to terrorize the universe. Vader has to assemble his own private army against his political rivals as well as justify his continued existence.
This means we get some of the greatest characters to ever grace a Star Wars story. Doctor Aphra is a cunning woman who specializes in droid archeology. Triple-Zero is a protocol droid who really likes to torture and kill organic beings. BT-1 is an gun arsenal disguised as a astromech droid. There is a bunch of cool bounty hunters and surprisingly cool Imperial commanders. It is a grand buffet of evil.
But more importantly, there is a grand sense of space opera with cool science fiction concepts that is often missing in Star Wars. The Emperor’s side project involves telekinetic cyborgs as the next logical step after putting Vader in a metal suit. Heists are done with real space physics. There is a sense of real Imperial logistics that go beyond the simple bad guy tactics of the movies.
And with this amazing supporting cast, interesting world and neat politics is Darth Vader himself. This Vader has seen some shit and he is annoyed that he has lost his rightful rank of Supreme Badass. Gillen makes the right choice in never giving Vader an internal monologue which keeps him as the scary mofo in a black suit that he is. At the same time, what little peeks into his character we do get is a reminder that Vader was once a great Jedi who has made some really nasty choices and quite frankly, he is not done making those nasty choices just yet.
Probably the best compliment I can give this series is to describe what I felt when I watched the recent Rogue One movie. At one point, Vader in the movie kills a bunch of rebels. He tears a path in a fight scene using force powers, his lightsaber, some choking and being an all around shitkicker. After his glorious murder-sequence, my thought response was, “Oh wow! It’s Kieron Gillen’s Vader!”
In closing, I would also like to add that this is a surprisingly funny series as well. Sure, Vader is a moody silent killer, but the droids are the best murder comedy team you will ever read. You owe it to yourself to read it for the droids alone.