Darth Vader: Shadows and Secrets

June 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm (Reads)

shadowsDarth Vader: Shadows and Secrets by Kieron Gillen, et al.


On the one hand, it’s intriguing to see a version of Darth Vader where he’s not just a patsy for Sidious. After the prequel movies, I wondered why Vader would boy down so easily to his master, when it was clear to everyone (and should have been clear to Vader) that he had been manipulated into his position. Sure, the whole Rule of Two could explain it — stay quiet until he was powerful enough to kill his master and assume power — but that came late, and the disconnect between Vader in the original trilogy and the Vader who would be presented in new context based on the prequel trilogy was too great. So seeing a Vader who’s connecting the dots and realizing Sidious cannot be trusted is a welcome turn of events.

On the other hand, it still doesn’t put his position in the original trilogy into any further context. We can suspect that Vader is making plans to kill Sidious, based on The Empire Strikes Back, but the way he so easily delivers Luke to Sidious in Return of the Jedi doesn’t jive with that interpretation. Is he expecting Luke to be the one to murder Sidious so the two of them can rule the galaxy together? If so, what’s with all the “I sense good in him” stuff that Luke keeps spouting through the movie? Or are we supposed to take the long view and decide Vader saw that Luke would kill Sidious and let it happen to redeem himself? If so, why was there that extended scene of Vader looking back and forth between Sidious and Luke when Luke’s getting electrocuted?

As much as I like Star Wars, these have been my sticking points about the story for a long time. I delved into the Expanded Universe in the hopes of getting more detail about the gaps Lucas left throughout the series (because there are a lot), and I still haven’t had these questions answered sufficiently. I hoped that the Darth Vader series would provide some answers, especially with it being new canon, but it just muddles through a fairly boring story without making much progress between the movies. Vader is still on his own mission, trying to determine who it was that blew up the Death Star, and that involves him getting involved not just with bounty hunters and a thinly-veiled, gender-twisted, evil caricature of Indiana Jones, but also with petty thieves. Vader has to have the money to fund this search, so a couple of the chapters in this book involve the heist. Oh, and the murder droids. I forgot to mention them in my review of the first book, but come on. IG-88 is one thing; bringing in more assassin droids, especially ones who strongly resemble C-3PO and R2-D2, is a bit ridiculous.

The artwork continues to be troublesome, as it doesn’t convey any sense of action. It shows action, yes, but there’s no feeling of movement from one panel to the next. They appear to be static images of action in progress, which is surprising, since the artwork is otherwise clear. I had some issues with the way the artist showed Aphra, the archeologist. It’s not quite cheesecake artwork, but it’s clear he’s using her as a means to titillate the reader. There’s a lot of unnecessary focus on her crotch, hips, and chest. Considering her character is flat and uninteresting, it feels like she’s only in there for the younger male readers.

The story here is marginally better than Vader, but only because it shows some of the complexity of Vader’s character. The story just isn’t that interesting. It’s not so good that I want to buy the rest of the books in the series, but it does encourage me to read this series through to the end. They’re quick reads, and I’ve come this far with it already. Maybe I can find them at the library.

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