21st Jun2019

‘Vader: Dark Visions #5′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Dennis Hallum | Art by Geraldo Borges | Published by Marvel Comics

sw-vader-dv-5-cover

When the Star Wars licence was with Dark Horse Comics, I tended to dip in and out quite a lot. The books were good quality, with top creators, and editorial made a conscious effort to keep a tight continuity with not only the Dark Horse Star Wars books, but the wider Star Wars continuity. When the Star Wars licence moved to Marvel, as Disney owns both Marvel and Star Wars that must have been a tough negotiation, they decreed that all the Dark Horse stuff was now non-canon. Never happened. I didn’t care too much for that, so took my comic book reading elsewhere. This book, then, is my first look at Marvel’s Star Wars efforts. I say ‘first look’ as someone who owns quite a few of the original late 1970′s Star Wars books Marvel put out, tough boots to fill indeed.

So Vader: Dark Visions was a 5 issue mini-series, of which this is the last issue. All the issues are self contained, this essentially being an anthology book looking at how different people view Darth Vader in the SW Universe, some being friends, some being foes. This replaced a previously planned Vader series, to have been written by Chuck Wendig, which was shelved when Marvel fired Wendig over social media posts. It’s a fairly standard fiction trope, to look at a person or event through several different lenses. Shades of grey and all that. Darth Vader is of course the height of evil to the Rebel Alliance, but a feared and respected leader to The Empire. So what approach does issue 5 take?

We open with Vader and his stormtroopers on Lokud 7, chasing down some stolen imperial intel. The trail leads to a bar frequented by both sides, where usually an uneasy truce exists. Not today, and Vader slaughters the weaponless rebels. The barman manages to grab the plans and makes a run for it, escaping into the planet’s deadly jungle. He trips and falls and is scratched by a hallucinogenic plant, now unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Did Darth Vader’s lightsaber really turn into a fiery dragon-like creature? Probably not. Fortunately for the tripping barman, Vader is also having a hard time with the chase, the jungle being full of aggressive vegetation that attacks everything that moves.

The barman makes it to an old hunting lodge, but things don’t get much better. The trophies on the wall seem to come to life, and he finds himself blindly firing at every perceived enemy, none of which are real of course. It kind of gives away your position when you are trying to hide. Vader finds him with ease and, demanding the plans, quite literally scares the barman to death. Which is pretty much it, and I must admit to being a little underwhelmed. I fully understand the books approach, but I’m not sure what this issue was supposed to show. The barman’s entire perception of Darth Vader was coloured by the hallucinogenic, so he saw him as some sort of demon, a devil, but that was false. Would not any person chasing the barman, say a normal stormtrooper, also look demonic and terrifying?

The story, then, was both incredibly lightweight and really didn’t add anything of value to characters or world. I guess you could say that the bartender experienced literal ‘dark visions’ of Darth Vader, living up to the title of the book, but this issue just made me want to see what Chuck Wendig would have written had he stayed on the book. What redeems the issue to a great extent is the artwork and colouring, by Geraldo Borges and Marcio Menyz respectively, which is gorgeous to look at. All the tension, the suspense, and action is conveyed almost completely by the art, which fortunately does a great job. Superb layouts and pacing throught, and Vader looks imposing in the few shots we have of him. It looks lovely, but there’s just not enough going on in the script for me.

I’d imagine the previous four issues were probably better books, as this closing chapter is strictly middle of the road. Not bad, but barely more than average, and I expect a longer read than several minutes, which is all it took. Yes, I know Star Wars and Darth Vader are cash cows, but let’s put a little effort in Marvel shall we? Like Dark Horse did. Ahem.

For me, this was lacking in the things that makes Star Wars great, lacking personality and passion. Decent, but for Darth Vader that’s not quite enough.

*** 3/5

Vader: Dark Visions #5 is out now from Marvel Comics.

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