In all of STAR WARS, is there a character more complex than Darth Vader? In his humble beginnings, he was little more than a young boy – a tinkerer of machines – who was taken from the arms of a loving mother and placed into service of the Jedi. As a Padawan, he clearly had the support and guidance of a respected mentor in Obi-wan Kenobi, but still the movies made clear he wasn’t quite performing the way his teacher would’ve wanted in all things. He tried but failed in saving his mother. Then, he was faced with the loss of the only other woman he ever loved – and his own rage forced him to do the unthinkable. And all of this happened before he became a Sith Lord! Who could possibly imagine what would come next?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Darth Vader’s waking moments have begun to creep back into his recent past. He finds himself troubled with visions from the Force, those of an alternate timeline in which his love – Padme Amidala – survived and he himself became a bold champion for all of the Republic when he defeated the Sith and brought peace to the galaxy as Qui-Gon’s prophecy foretold. As he now serves under the heel of an Emperor, these are dangerous thoughts indeed, and, unless he can bring them under his control, they are bound to lead to his undoing.
That’s the real drama at the heart of DARTH VADER AND THE LOST COMMAND. Yes, that’s genuinely only the B story; the A story involves the Dark Lord being sent out into the cosmos to find the missing son of his political nemesis, Moff Tarkin. It’s believed that Garoche Tarkin is alive, being held captive by residents of a world resisting the reach of the Galactic Empire. There’s even a dissident leader – Lady Saro – introduced for good measure, but, as hard as scripter Haden Blackman tries, the A story never really achieves the heights I suppose he imagined. What works much better is the material focusing on Vader and the inevitable loss of Anakin Skywalker to the clutches of evil that have taken up residence in his broken mind, body, and soul.
In fact, I hated for LOST COMMAND to end, I was having so much fun watching Anakin’s fade. True, much of it comes out in Vader’s prosthetic face as he suggests one dark choice after another, and that mechanical visage can’t hide the humanity that’s slipping away from underneath. Vader’s often been voted the top villain in all of filmdom, and Blackman’s script uses that emotional currency to rather briefly deliver up the menacing, ruthless, and merciless heavy audiences are introduced to in the opening scenes of STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE.
What does work in the primary story is when Blackman shows readers a galaxy in conflict. We’re given all the indications that, despite the Emperor having achieved his grandest goal (in the near extinction of the Jedi Knights), things are not as hunky-dory as he would like. Worlds are beginning to push back against his totalitarian ways; and that’s why Vader’s struggle is probably so effective when coupled with the narrative here. His fall walks comfortably hand-in-hand with the fall of a Republic. While the action is intense, it never rises to the level of complexity in watching a single mind turn away from the light and embrace the darkness.
Still, LOST COMMAND is a journey worth taking. I only caution it probably won’t linger in your memory for the reasons the author and artists may’ve intended.
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE LOST COMMAND (Hardcover) is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Haden Blackman; the pencils are by Rick Leonardi; the inks are by Dan Green; the colors are by Wes Dzioba; and the lettering is by Michael Heisler. Oh, yeah: did I mention it’s all inspired by the works of George Lucas? Shame on me! This hardcover edition comes at a price of $24.99 in Republic credits, so spend ‘em wisely.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. In those early days of Anakin Skywalker slowly becoming Darth Vader, the fallen Jedi remains tortured by the choice he made; and that’s the brilliance behind so very much of DARTH VADER AND THE LOST COMMAND. Sure, there’s a lot of action and an awful lot of sacrificed Clone Troopers, but there’s a devilish heart only starting to beat inside everyone’s favorite Dark Lord of the Sith. Vader’s only beginning to realize the extent of the power he yields, and only the Emperor himself could save anyone his protégé sets his sights on. The rest of the story ends up feeling a bit too easy, a bit too convenient, and the ending feels too loosey goosey to be as effective as it could’ve been, but the Vader moments alone are pretty priceless.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital copy of STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE LOST COMMAND by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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