The first true crossover for Marvel’s new age of Star Wars comics, Vader Down proves a highly entertaining read, but certainly not a necessary one. The full crossover collects the one-off Vader Down issue, the Star Wars ongoing series’ issues #13-14, and the Darth Vader ongoing series’ issues #13-15. It takes place between episodes IV and V.
(Minor spoilers will be highlighted.)
Luke Skywalker has found his way to a former Jedi temple on the planet Vrogas Vas. Through an underground informant named Dr. Aphra, Vader discovers his current location and goes after him. He unknowingly flies right into three squadrons of Rebel fighters doing drills above the planet. Vader takes out many, but thanks to the help of Luke Skywalker, both he and Vader crash land on different parts of the planet. Vader subsequently shows the Rebels the true power of the Dark Side.
As canon Star Wars goes, very little can effectively be expounded on between episodes IV and V, making this a hit or miss. And though it isn’t necessarily a miss, it doesn’t hit all the right notes either. You cannot believably create story after story without giving the audience anything substantial or new to the known universe or the characters within, or else it cheapens what chronologically comes next in The Empire Strikes Back. There’s always a chance that you’ll stretch the credibility with in-between texts. Thankfully there’s a 3-year gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, so there is plenty of wiggle room to play with. Vader Down doesn’t fall into that credibility trap, but it does fall into another.
Dr. Aphra’s droids strike too close to camp for me, as they’re essentially Bizarro World versions of R2 and 3PO. BT-1, an assassin droid shares a similar shape to your favorite astromech droid, and 0-0-0 (pronounced Triple-Zero) is a black-plated protocol droid who’s designed to specialize in etiquette, customs, translation and (most importantly) torture. And much of this collection is their pairing off with R2-D2 and C-3PO, which seems more of an elaborate stunt than a realistic addition to the new canon. And then Krrsantan, a Wookiee bounty hunter goes head to head with Chewbacca, and it all felt far too convenient.
The crossover works as a complete story in and of itself, only if you read all the issues found in Vader Down, Darth Vader, and Star Wars, which will alienate many readers who are only reading one series and not the others. Where the story leaves off in any given Star Wars issue, the exact same story is then picked up in the next Darth Vader issue, and so on. I was disappointed that the different series didn’t show differing points of views, and instead they’ve merged all the viewpoints together.
That said, I love the direction taken by the story. I love seeing Vader giving the Rebels hell. And I love seeing Luke search out ancient Jedi temples, something that fleshes out the events of The Force Awakens. The artwork is consistently gorgeous, especially the scope of the splash pages. And it leaves the story open for more adventures, which I can’t wait for.
Grab Vader Down in a collected Trade Paperback!