For all the great things the original Star Wars trilogy threw our way, one thing they were never quite capturing was an example of exactly what Darth Vader was capable of. Finally, Vader Down answers that question in the fullest possible detail.
Seeing the Dark Lord of the Sith downed on an unfriendly planet surrounded by his enemies after inadvertently running into the Rebellion’s fleet, he is forced to survive on his own. Before, Vader was a lumbering brute, capable of skilled feats of Force-related tricky and good piloting. Here, he is never anything less than a nigh-on unstoppable force of nature, effortlessly laying waste to whoever is unfortunate or foolish enough to cross his path.
It’s not the best story in Marvel’s post-Lucas comic-book era, but it’s definitely the most evocative, providing fan service and wish fulfilment by the bucket load. And it’s not just the titular big bad we see showing what he can do: homicidal C-3P0 and R2-D2 counterparts 0-0-0 and BT-1 come up against their doppelgangers, and bounty-hunting wookiee Black Krrsantan has just as epic a showdown with Chewbacca as you imagined.
Despite the stakes, you never really get the impression that Vader is any serious peril. Admittedly it would be unfair in the extreme to blame this on writers Jason Aaron or Kieron Gillen, but there’s never enough tension to really sell this to us. It’s supposed to show Vader being hunted, but for the most part the opposite seems true. Then again, maybe this is the whole point. And when you’ve got artists like Salvador Larroca on board, half the battle is already won.
It’s never anything less than filler, but ultimately that doesn’t really matter. The whole raison d’etre of the Star Wars comic-book line so far has been all about fun, and this is a tradition that Vader Down unashamedly continues in.