After the resounding successes of Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s Star Wars: Darth Vader – Dark Lord of The Sith, as well as Kieron Gillen’s Star Wars: Darth Vader series, it only seems logical that Marvel would continue to pump out Vader stories. The question that arose was, is this necessary? How many more “Character-Defining” stories can one mostly silent menacing figure have? Unfortunately, the answer given in Greg Pak and Ramón Bachs’ Star Wars: Age Of Rebellion- Darth Vader #1 is not that inspiring. And the resulting book is an overall “meh” as an outcome.
Pak’s story revolves around Vader following the orders of Governor Ahr “to the letter.” Once Ahr realizes he has a killing machine at his disposal, he sends Vader on a variety of quests to destroy, and in some instances humiliate. Because why not? There is no way this relentless killing machine with the textbook definition of an evil leader will ever rebel against you right?
The main problem with this chapter is how little revolves around Vader’s thoughts. The reason Soule and Gillen’s scripts were so successful and impactful in the mythos of Vader was that they dealt with the tumult and emotions of an outwards emotionless, stagnant character. The only insight into Vader’s character in Pak’s script is that he hates kneeling to superiority, especially Palpatine. But anyone who has read a Star Wars comic or even watched a Star Wars movie can already figure that out for themselves.
Pak writes Vader as more of a tool to be used by the governor and the emperor than a character, which is fair because that is probably how these characters view him. Still, it feels like most readers have seen this utilization of Vader previously and more effectively. The story does end with Vader possibly taking control of himself at least reasserting his dominance over the Ahr, but it is worrisome that this is in the last panel. Hopefully, Pak runs with this newly politically dominant Vader in future chapters.
Bachs’ art is fairly mediocre as well. There are some panels in which he truly shines, like any time Vader is central to the panel, Bachs really nails how imposing of a figure Vader is. And the flashbacks into Vader’s past had an interesting panel arrangement, and the positioning of Vader against the memories spoke to when Anakin embraced the dark side.
The set pieces, however, really suffer in this chapter. Panels that could be colossal splash panels feel glossed over and lackluster. One of the first ones of Vader’s ship attacking the rebels has a surprising lack of detail in the background, even for moving at high speeds. There is a scene in which Vader descends on a war-torn planet to take care of essentially an army of wild droids, and Bachs liters the planet with only a couple of figures. Bachs could have had some real fun with interesting character designs or destroyed buildings, but instead, there are only a few droids and some dilapidated buildings that might as well be rubble.
There is potential in Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Darth Vader #1. Pak and Bachs inherit an iconic character with an immense presence, and they seem to hint at more of Vader in future issues. And it is a tad unfair to compare Pak and Bachs’ run to two of the most defining stories in the history of this character. Even when this is considered and Pak and Bachs’ run stands on its own, it simply is pretty underwhelming.