Star Wars: Darth Vader Volume One: Imperial Machine – Charles Soule, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Jim Cheung (Marvel)

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Darth Vader. Without doubt the best bad guy the cinema screen will ever see. Don’t be silly and try and think of anyone else. Vader is the bestest, baddest bogie man to ever throttle an underling with a force grip from the other side of the room. He wasn’t always like this though and as we saw in the prequels, could have gone either way before diving headlong in to darkness instead of climbing out towards the light. Yes, he was once human and as Revenge of the Sith ended with the newly Darth Vader-ed Anakin discovering the fate of his beloved Padme, his descent was complete. Well, not quite.  You see the fledgling Sith Lord still had to prove himself to The Emperor, whose cruelty and nastiness is at a peak as we begin this tale of the newly rebirthed Imperial Machine. The Jedi are all but vanquished now and only pockets of survivors remain form the purge. Hidden in the corners of the galaxy, what remains of the order are getting harder and harder to track down, yet this is the task Vader has handed to him by his new master. Find and kill a Jedi, take his lightsaber and make it bleed so that the light becomes red. Only then, will Vader be a true Sith Lord! Off he goes on an adventure then …

What’s intriguing about this current story arc in the Vader series is that, although it’s the dark and menacing all powerful figure of fear we all know and hide behind the settee from visually, this is Vader the early days. He is not quite the invincible, all conquering monster we met chasing Princess Leia and her rebels in 1977 but he’s getting there. Vader as a new entity that nobody knows adds a new dynamic to the proceedings which is a refreshing twist. Clone Troopers do not recoil in submissive horror at the sight of him, local vagabonds on a desolate and dry planet think nowt of stealing his ship and then have the temerity to open fire on him and the Emperor, it would appear, is not content with just Vader to do his bidding. No, he has other “projects” on the go too. Seeing a more vulnerable Vader makes for a far interesting take on proceedings and things do not go his way in every encounter. A defeated Vader, one we have only really ever seen at the end of Return of the Jedi … wow, who’d have thought we would be worried for the big fella or that he even had some semblance of emotion or inner turmoil?

Meeting a team of Clone Troopers who don’t know who he is and start mouthing off and attacking the Dark Lord is the first sign that he won’t have everything his own way. His journey has just begun but the cold ruthlessness we expect of Vader is not far off. Finding out how he got there is well rendered in this opening book of the on-going series. As fun as it may be, seeing a fully formed and rampaging Vader vanquishing everyone and everything in his path, would get old pretty quickly so going back to the start of his descent in to darkness is a master stroke and with the addition of the Emperor’s “Inquisitors” in the final round of this tale, it appears that we will be seeing if Vader can play nice and work in a team. I imagine this will be just as entertaining. I’m in. Marv Gadgie

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