Vader: Dark Visions #1
Writer: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum
Artists: Paolo Villanelli & Arif Prianto
Modern storytellers often paint sympathetic villains in hopes of creating a dynamic character which audiences strangely relate to. It’s an effort to show understanding in what leads a villain to an ideology many fundamentally disagree with. Then there’s the old school villain, tyrants full of power and rage who will cut down anyone in their way. Darth Vader tiptoes the line between these two depictions and it makes for fantastic stories. The Dark Visions series promises to peel back more layers of Vader from other people’s perspectives of him.
The story begins on planet Cianap, where a once great society barely survives off vegetation near their city’s remains. A young boy eats fruit while staring at the orange sky, explosions take place of clouds and the boy ponders. He thinks of how the gods above stand no match for the god that threatens his home and society constantly. With that thought, the panels cut to Vader’s TIE fighter spiraling down towards Cianap. The wording and quick cut to this scene reminds the readers of how incredibly powerful Vader is.
Vader’s TIE fighter crashes on top of The Ender, the ferocious aquatic monster that left Cianap in ruins. Everyone except the boy narrating the issue escapes into a bunker to wait out the rampage. We see the entire fight through the boy’s awe; he admires Vader as the savior of his world. I like the take on the character because it shows the ways different sides of war characterize events and people. We know Vader’s horrific actions from the movies and other media, but the boy is not us. He believes himself liberated by a Black Knight with a flaming sword since he doesn’t know what’s come before. To the boy, his life is new and possible because of a benevolent god, but we all know better.
There’s a moment at the end where I feel the Vader I know slipping through. After killing The Ender, Vader doesn’t turn off his lightsaber as he turns his attention to the boy thanking him. He says “You should not thank me child” and swivels towards the boy. Suddenly the Sith Lord rises into a ship and tells the boy “It seems the force is with you today.” I fully believe Darth Vader was about to slaughter the kid but it’s a pretty ambiguous scene. Is he saying not to thank him because he shouldn’t need to? Eh, maybe, but that doesn’t feel Sith Lordy, let alone Darth Vadery. Yet again, the kid doesn’t know this so he takes the more optimistic reading of the situation. He’s then left as the sole surveyor to tell his people the tale of their hero.
The art is fantastic and pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Marvel’s Star Wars line. We get a few awesome action sequences that really lean into the medieval motif of the issue. One such example is Vader riding in on a horse, cape flowing behind him with his lightsaber mid-ignite. Villanelli clearly knows what Star Wars fans want to see in their battles and isn’t afraid to deliver it. It’s showy, it’s egregious, and it’s larger-than-life.
Overall, I really like the issue and the idea for the series. Exploring Vader’s legacy as misinterpreted heroism is pretty awesome and has historical and modern precedence. I’m not a fan of the kid narrating but I don’t hate him either, he’s just a plot device. That’s fine because it gets the story across and lets Vader be Vader while still adding the heroic twist. If you’re into Darth Vader and want a bit more side story for him, definitely check out this book.
Dark Visions #1 is an intriguing look at the surprising legacy left by one of the galaxy's most intimidating villains.