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Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets Paperback – January 5, 2016
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Collecting issues #7-12, by now Vader knows of the Emperors secret super soldier/Sith-manufactured beings, has his own underlings (Aphra, Triple Zero and BT-1), and a droid army at his disposal to come into power. But Vader needs a few other aspects to properly be a dominant power in the galaxy: money (credits) and workable connections from the crime underworld. Vader kills an intergalactic kingpin and takes their enormous fortune away on the grounds it gives Jabba the Hutt faith in Vader as mutual business partner and hands the fortune over the Empire (since Vader is still working for them after all). But Vader has Aphra and crew steal the credits from the Empire to make it all look like a simple robbery. Now Vader has all the things he needs to run his own empire and search out for Luke, but Grand General Tagge will not allow Vader to search for Skywalker and wants him to instead investigate who really stole the raided money by assigning a new assistant to Vader, who happens to be a deductive investigator. Now Vader has to lead this assistant away from finding out it was Vader who planned the heist, while also having Aphra’s crew look into Luke’s location and keep up the façade to the Empire.
I know my general summary sounds like a lot – and it is-, but there are many details Kieron Gillen puts forth into this second volume and managed to me glued to what happens next. Gillen makes Vader put on a strong face as enforcer for the Emperor and the Imperial Empire, while trying to build up his private armada in secret. It’s not a volume that pushes the narrative forward greatly, but it’s just encapsulating to see Vader playing a game of cat-and-mouse under the Empires nose to cover his tracks, while he strengthening his own plans with strong character development as well.
As volume 1, Vader found out he had a son. This makes an interest setup for the comic and fill-in for the movies. If you think about it, it makes sense. Vader was portrayed as the villain with no redeeming aspects about him in A New Hope, but he does seem to have softened up by Empire Strikes Back. Gillen’s Vader being put into position as one who wants to destroy the Emperor for lying to him about Padme fills in the void wonderfully, almost as if he is undermining the Empire for the Rebels. This is what makes Vader a character to root for, even if he still is the all-powerful villain. So Gillen’s handling of Vader is well done on all fronts. He says things just right, displays power, calmness, and intellect to be a scary main character and compelling one as well.
The big factor this time around is Aphra and her crew get about half the page time as Vader, which might seem to hinder things as I felt Aphra was a bit too happy-go-lucky in the 1st volume. This time around, she’s more likable because we get more of a serious and even conniving change to her as she is doing Vader’s dirty work behind the scenes, as well as coming to grips if (and/or when) the day comes she will be expendable to Vader to cover up his own plans. It makes both her and Vaders’s story run parallel and comes together by issues #11/12 pretty.
Again, all art is done soely by Salvador Larroca to great detail. There is the occasional panels that look a bit awkward, but it’s solid art and conveys the cloak-and-dagger, espionage very well. Especially Vader himself, which even with no visible emotions, conveys power and intrigue with every page.
While I thought this is an improved second volume, I think it also replaces the problems from volume one in other ways. As much as I enjoyed the intrigue of Vader trying to be a general and hiding his true motives, one could argue it adds a lot of unneeded complexity and characters to the time. Quite a bit of the issues is of Vader’s new assistant rabbling on in great detail over the investigation that could have been shortened, as well as invoking a host of new characters like Vader’s assistant, bounty hunters, and some general akbar-like creature that will (or will not) mean anything in the future. There is a lot of moving pieces here that could confuse people. And although the integration of the Prequels is not as prevalent here as vol.1 (which was still small), there comes a major aspect in the story that still reverts back to those films which I know some fans will hate. And the very last aspect is the ending wraps up a bit to sudden considering Gillen spent 5 issues moving things slowly and then speeding it up at the end.
Other than that, DARTH VADER VOLUME 2: SHADOWS AND SECRETS is still an awesome series for looking deeper into Vader and his actions from Episode IV to V. He’s still incredibly interesting and portrayed properly, his supporting cast has improved (Triple-Zero and BT are hoots for their dark sense of humor), great art, and complex story telling. It may be overly confusing for some or too drawn out, but it’s still a solid series that I will continue to read more about, especially the cliffhanger ending.
Which things will change up pretty dramatically as 3-issues of Vader will tie-in to the “VADER DOWN” crossover under Jason Aaron. I’ve already read the entire event, but I’ll write about for the next review. After that event, the story of Vader will get back on track under the creative team of Gillen and Larroca.
Plus I just love to see Vader be a moving weapon of mass destruction. I also love reading about his own secret agenda and maneuvers. It shows he is a true sith. Not just a murdering machine but also an agent acting in the shadows. Not just against the Rebellion, but even the Empire if the Empire and Palpatine happen to have different interests from Vader.