So readers should put their fears aside and not worry: the first part of the Vader Down crossover is surprisingly tense. In the process of hunting for Luke, Vader accidentally bumps into three squadrons of Rebel fighters and ends up crashing on a Rebel-controlled world. He’s alone, he’s surrounded, he’s got no one to call on…but he’s Vader, and this story reminds you of what that means by showing us the character unleashed in all of his fury.
In other words, the Aaron-Gillen team (bringing their respective Star Wars titles together for the big event) can’t accomplish much in the way of character growth or death. But what they can do is give us an outstanding, edge-of-your-seat presentation of spacefaring action. So the fun in this story is not in wondering whether Vader’s going to get out of this, but seeing how he does it. Both the scenes set in space and those on the surface of Vrogas Vas show us Vader doing something he, on reflection, didn’t do much of in the films: use the Force.
The limitations on special effects in the original trilogy films gave us bits of Vader’s powers: choking someone, throwing stuff at Luke, but never something really impressive. I’ve seen people comment that one of the more moving scenes in The Empire Strikes Back was when Yoda did a slow, controlled lift of Luke’s X-Wing. Without spoiling much, I’ll say that we get to see Vader doing that sort of activity in this story–repeatedly–and the consequences to the Rebels are deadly.
Continuing their habit of putting top talent on the Star Wars titles, Marvel recruited Mike Deodato Jr. for the art chores on this special. (He’ll be alternating with Salvator Larocca throughout the crossover.) Smart move. Deodato has evolved considerably from being a T&A artist in the 90s into a solid storyteller over the last decade. In this particular story, he’s actually able to craft a solid sequence involving a space battle, something that isn’t captured very well all that often in comics. In my experience, most fighter battles in comics tend to look very static and fail to capture the excitement of the moment. Here, Deodato convincingly creates the illusion of movement and maneuvering in the fight between Vader and the Rebel fleet, and that alone makes the issue worth it.
This is a promising start to a six-part story which, hopefully, will continue to captivate and distract from the fact that everybody’s going to walk away just fine.
Rating: Five out of five “Nooooooooooooooooo!”s.