Star Wars: Target Vader #1 Is A Wild And Terrifying Ride

by Tony Thornley

If the second era of Marvel’s Star Wars comics can be credited for only one thing, it’s what they’ve done for Darth Vader. Sure generally speaking the various series since 2015 have ranged from good to great, but without a doubt the greatest legacy of the last four years of comics has been the transformation of Vader from a corporate mascot back to the terrifying villain he’s always meant to be.

Cover by Nic Klein

Robbie Thompson, Marc Laming, Cris Bolson, Neeraj Menon, Jordan Boyd, Andres Mossa, Federico Blee, Erick Arciniega, and Clayton Cowles kick off the hunt for the deadliest prey in the galaxy.

Darth Vader is tearing through the underworld, searching for a mysterious agent called The Hidden Hand. The Bounty Hunter’s Guild has finally had enough, gathering a massive bounty for one purpose- to kill Vader. To accomplish their goal, they hire one of the most storied crews of hunters and killers to ever come together, all led by a man with the largest grudge against Vader in the galaxy- Valance the hunter!

For a series with his name in the title, Darth Vader actually is in very little of this issue, but that is to the series’ benefit. This sets up Vader as a bogeyman, a presence that casts a shadow across the entire story, but doesn’t need to stand in the middle of each page to do it. This is most effective in the opening sequence, four pages in which Vader picks off a team of bounty hunters one-by-one, framing him more like a monster than a space wizard. It’s an extension of all the great work Marvel’s done with the character, and Thompson nails that aspect of the story.

Thompson also sets up his cast very well. He takes two familiar faces- fan-favorite Valance from the 1980’s Star Wars ongoing, and cult icon Dengar- and builds a fascinating group of killers and rogues around them. However, he takes most of the issue to reestablish Valance in his official return to Star Wars canon, showing him as a broken human being, but also an incredibly competent hunter and warrior. It’s to the story’s benefit, giving us a flawed protagonist to cheer for.

As you can see above, this issue has a large art team- two line artists and five color artists- but unlike most jam issues like this it works. Laming does the bulk of the issue, and he has a great clean line, with a good eye for action, helping draw the readers through the page. His take on Valance helps us sympathize with the lead, giving him an undercurrent of pathos under his stone face. Bolson’s work has a rougher line, but compliments Laming’s art. He brings his pages to life, which takes place in a classic Star Wars location- a crowded cantina.

Valance and his crew have their work cut out for them, and they may not make it through the series intact. After all, no one faces Vader and escapes unscatched.

Star Wars: Target Vader #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.

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