Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca’s Vader series isn’t just a good place to start: it’s one of the best Star Wars comics from the new lineup and arguably one of the best Vader stories from the comics in either canon.
The first round of Star Wars comics set between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back sometimes struggled to find relevance to make the stories feel worth reading: not so with Vader.
Gillen starts with Vader in disgrace after the events of A New Hope are seen as something of an unmitigated failure. Vader is out of favor with the Emperor and the sharks within the Imperial hierarchy are circling. He’s a character typically defined by his menace to the heroes, so it’s unusual to have a story where he’s vulnerable and not in control of the situation. Even more rare are the stories that handle that with nuance and make the stakes feel high, despite everyone knowing Vader’s eventual fate, but Gillen manages it masterfully.
The book also fills in the gap for a big story beat between Episodes IV and V: Vader hunting for the identities of the people who were responsible for the destruction of the Death Star and his disgrace. This storyline leads to one of the most famous moments from the new canon comics and makes at least the first volume very much worth a read.
But the Vader series’ secret weapon—one the other Star Wars books around this time should have taken better note of—is a strong supporting cast of original characters that became breakout stars, like torture-bot Triple-Zero and Black Krrsantan, who recently made an appearance in Book of Boba Fett after debuting here. The real highlight though is rogue archeologist Doctor Aphra, an audience surrogate whose role in the book is so strong she went on to help multiple solo series afterward.