Darth Vader and the Lost Command
Darth Vader and the Lost Command was a five part miniseries released from January to May 2011. It was collected in a special hardcover edition in November 2011.
Darth Vader and the Lost Command takes us on a very early mission in Anakin Skywalker's new life in the iconic black armor. The mission is fairly straightforward, and the real focus of this book is Vader's emotional turmoil following the events of Revenge of the Sith. Like with the novel Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, this book is an intriguing look at Vader's inner thoughts during the fallout of his monumental decision. Unfortunately this book is hamstrung by some of the worst art I've ever seen, a lack of credible supporting characters, and an uninteresting story. There aren't many positives about Darth Vader and the Lost Command.
The tangible premise of the story is that Vader has to track down Tarkin's missing son, Garoche. His quest takes him to a previously unknown system of planets where he must fight off the indigenous rebels and discover what happened to Garoche's missing fleet. The book manages to mix action and drama quite well, with action scenes being followed by quieter moments in a dependable pattern. The emotional elements are the standout, but there are some clever settings for the action too. We are treated to an ice world that manages to evoke the Battle of Hoth quite well, a strange planet covered in tar, and a geometric rock world. Honestly I don't even know what the final planet was supposed to be because the art's perspective and coloring for those segments was just too much. The tar world would have been an interesting experience with a better art team, and the Empire's strategy of using ground based vehicles when they have so many repulsorlift craft was something that could have been explained better. The driving force of this comic is not unlike the majority of Star Wars comics, featuring Vader doing the kinds of things you would expect from him, a ton of new planets and characters, and a simplistic action driven adventure.
A big part of this book is Vader's internal conflict immediately following Revenge of the Sith. Like Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, this book portrays a wounded and torn Anakin Skywalker regretting his mistakes and desperately wishing that he had made the right choice. The character driven internal struggle here is a very hard thing to pull off in a comic book, but writer Haden Blackman actually does a pretty good job of letting us know exactly how Vader is feeling. By letting us into his dreams, dreams where Padme is alive and he is still whole, we learn about what Vader wishes he had done, and the corporeal element of the story plays directly into these fantasies. Like many more recent works concerning Vader, it is near impossible to not feel bad for him after reading once you realize how alone and tortured he is. With that being said, the character is still more than capable of showing his more destructive side, and we get plenty of classic villain Vader moments in this book too. Tarkin's involvement in this book was a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting something to tie into Tarkin and Vader's hatred of one another, but Tarkin just shows up at the beginning and is never seen again despite his importance to the plot. Among the rest of the cast, nobody really stands out, but that is acceptable simply because it is Vader's story and anything else would be simply a nice bonus. What isn't acceptable though, is the art that graces this pricy hardcover.
The art is horrific, some of the worst I've ever seen in a Star Wars comic book. The fact that this is one of the few hardcover releases a Star Wars comic has ever received makes this all the more baffling and infuriating. The most striking element is just how bad the faces are. Many characters not in direct focus are given facial features that amount to four lines, two for eyes, one for mouth and nose. It is impossible to convey anything with that kind of simplicity, but the more intricate designs fare little better. Flashback sequences featuring Anakin and Padme manage to make the characters look like completely different people, and this book revels in showing a grotesque Vader without his helmet, even to the point of continuity clashes (he survives for days on end with helmet off, trapped under a pile of rocks, in a normal atmosphere.) Even the clones have strange looking rounded helmets that look like a warped version of the clones from the Republic Commando video game.
|Just look at Anakin's torso in that middle panel...brutal.|
Of course, for the most part it is hard to get any emotional resonance out of Vader, who has destroyed features that have left his head looking like nothing more than a discolored piece of meat. There are a few decent scenes featuring helmetless Vader, but for the most part the character is exactly as limited as you would anticipate. The reason for including an excessive amount of Vader sans helmet quickly becomes apparent once you see the artist try to draw Vader with his helmet on. This atrocious reproduction of Vader's signature apparel does a major disservice to the iconic headgear by being wildly inconsistent from panel to panel and failing to accurately draw the piece to begin with. His helmet looks more like the light hearted cartoon versions seen in Family Guy or Darth Vader and Son than a menacing visage to match the comparatively mature story.
|Vader unmasked happens quite a bit in this book, often for no apparent reason. The shame of it is that he looks atrocious.|
That isn't all that I disliked about Vader's portrayal though, as the artists also did a horrific job in showing the rest of his suit too. The following complainant applies to nearly everybody in the book, as the character proportions are direly miscalculated. Everyone seems to have a massive torso coupled with skinny appendages and square heads. Technical drawing is quite simply not this books strong suit. Vehicles are equally bad, with a bare modicum of detail instilled in the various ships and iconic land vehicles that we see throughout the book. A space battle sequence loses nearly all of its flare when you see a panel featuring star fighters that look like they were quite literally cut out of a sketchbook and placed onto the page.
|The helmets are just brutal in this comic, some of the worst I've seen|
For one of the first times ever, I can't really think of anything to praise about the art. Granted, some parts are much less painful than others, like the paneling and the decent landscapes, but nothing sticks out as being quality. From the rubbish faces to the hilarious armor designs and barely sketched, much less colored, vehicles, this book is an utter train wreck.
Darth Vader and the Lost Command had the potential for a fairly intriguing character study with a heaping helping of awesome Vader moments thrown in for good measure, but unfortunately it doesn't manage to live up to its premise at all. The character study is somehow the most effective part, as the simplistic plot is hamstrung by some of the worst art I've ever seen. Vader fans should check out Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison instead, a far superior miniseries that I will be reviewing once it concludes.