by Michael DeLaney and Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Michael: Avengers: Infinity War is coming to theaters this weekend and the world eagerly awaits to see some epic cosmic superhero smackdown. I will see it — and I hope to enjoy it — but there will always be something that the comic book source material will always have that movies don’t: believing the unbelievable. Comic books don’t have a special effects budget — a scene of Iron Man fighting the Hulk costs the same as a scene of Iron Man and the Hulk sitting down for dinner. The action and display of power of the story is of the same medium as its characters, there is no gray area in between. Given that, Darth Vader 15 continues to explore the range of scope of Vader’s powers in a way that no movie has — or likely could.
The Empire has landed on the watery world of Mon Cala and demands obedience from its aquatic inhabitants. In an act of defiance King Lee Char summoned gigantic sea creatures to cause an epic tidal wave, taking out both his people and the Empire’s. Darth Vader 15 opens with Vader lost in the depths of Mon Cala’s ocean. He is down so deep that the pressure is crushing him and his suit’s defenses. Naturally he grabs the nearest giant squid and makes him his ride to safety.
This is the kind of showcase of Vader’s powers that I love to see in a comic book: something new, inventive and kind of terrifying. The entire underwater sequence by Giuseppe Camuncoli is seven pages long, and barring a few internal warnings from Vader’s suit, is completely silent.
There is something about Vader’s physicality that is striking throughout these seven pages. In the movies, Vader always carried himself with a certain majesty — probably because of all that extra weight holding down actor David Prowse. It’s as if Camuncoli evokes that same sense of entitlement here as Vader stands proudly — hands on hips — after he has conquered the underwater beast.
The way that Vader pulls himself through the water with the Force is done with the same kind of authority. Granted, it is probably not easy to swim in that cape and armor, but I really like the image of Vader motionless, commanding the elements around him to bend to his whim. Vader keeps the squid around until it has served its purpose, then disposes of it. Vader over everything.
Despite these displays of power and authority, I’m reminded that this Darth Vader series takes place not too long after Revenge of the Sith, so there’s a little bit of Anakin’s trademark whininess every now and then. Vader discovers that the Inquisitors have abandoned their quest of finding and killing the Jedi in order to rescue Vader.
I’m not sure that Charles Soule was trying to evoke recall that Anakin-ness, but it felt very strong to me. I can see little Jake Lloyd barking back at Padme “I’m a person and my name is Anakin” or Hayden Christensen telling Ewan McGregor that he could handle the situation on his own. This is the action of someone trying to prove that they are an adult and they don’t need any help.
Patrick, what did you think of Darth Vader 15? I left a lot of plot on the table but to be honest, I don’t find myself particularly captivated by the Vader-less parts of Darth Vader. I was happy to see Ackbar kicking some ass though — any commentary on the Aquaman battles? Then there’s the Jedi of it all, which seems more like an odd, mysterious post-credits scene than part of the actual plot. I still don’t know what we’re supposed to feel for this set of Jedi, we still don’t know a whole lot about them.
Patrick: Oh, yeah man: I think we’re all here for the Vader — everything else is just gravy. I do like how much you have focused on the feats that Vader accomplishes in this issue, just as I like that this is how Soule has decided to direct this series. He is building the fearsome legacy that the character is already saddled with when we first meet him in A New Hope. This whole series is a lot like that one “Vader rages” scene in Rouge One: it makes the audience say “that’s why everyone is so scared of him!”
On a longer format than one long hallway-lightsaber-slaughter, however, Soule and Camuncoli are smart to show us how other characters are struggling to resist the juggernaut that Anakin Skywalker has become. That’s where it’s actually really cool to see just how clever
Admiral Commander Ackbar has to be against enemy forces. The Ackbar Maneuver is complicated, requires strategy, coordination and sacrifice. In short, it’s the exact opposite of “Vader over everything.” Camuncoli transforms his central figure from one dude in a black suit to a whole squad of Mon Calamari on aquatic cruisers.
There’s also this wonderful distance between the Empire taking a loss and Vader being effected in the slightest. When the Mon Calamari rescue their king, they all touch base with each other. Communication and gratitude are the orders of the day. The King, Ackbar, the Jedi — they’re all in this together. But Vader chastises his band of Inquisitors for debasing themselves by giving a shit about his wellbeing.
I think my favorite part of this is when the King realizes their interconnectedness has become a weakness. He is recovering in a sort of horizontal, wall-less bacta tank-tube (another thing we aren’t likely to see in a movie), and flips out because he remembers he gave up the location of his Jedi when Vader was torturing him.
He may have survived a self-inflicted tidal wave and been rescued by his subjects, but there’s still no stopping Darth Vader. Of course the King is panicked, and Camuncoli’s erratic paneling matches the mood perfectly.
It’s maybe a little weird that the stinger at the end of the issue zooms out into space to check in with Tarkin and his Star Destroyer. This issue isn’t really about the Empire, even in relation to what Darth Vader is capable of. But check out the establishing shot:
Camuncoli is asserting the enormous physical distance between the characters locked in combat on Mon Calamari and these suits on the Star Destroyer. Sure, Tarkin is summoning more ships, and I’d bet that’s going to be a threat for our fishy friends, but the real threat is already underwater with them. Darth Vader is a killing machine with no need for loyalty or back-up — what’s a fish kingdom supposed to do against that?
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?