To many people across the world, STAR WARS is a religion. As religions take their shape, it is often difficult to add anything new to its scriptures without it being promptly rejected. Now and then, a creator adds a layer to that religion that manages to be accepted by its followers. With STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #18, Charles Soule continues to add something fresh yet compatible with the STAR WARS canon.

DARTH VADER #18 pg 4. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

This issue functions as a standalone issue that impeccably develops the central character of Darth Vader. While the plot and art aren’t always perfect, the unpredictable and unique storytelling in this issue is what makes Soule’s wonderful addition to the STAR WARS universe.

Hunter or Hunted?

DARTH VADER #18 showcases a cat and mouse game on the moon Chandra. On one side are Governor Wilhuff Tarkin (soon to be Grand Moff) and his group of hunters. On the other side is the Dark Lord of the Sith, the cyborg monstrosity, Darth Vader. This issue delightfully plays with the question of who is hunting whom.

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It was good to see Tarkin get some of the spotlight in this issue. Tarkin is one of the cleverest and most skillful characters in STAR WARS. While intrigued by the destructive power of the force, Tarkin does not understand its full capabilities.

Tarkin, a master hunter from the planet Eriadu, knows to study his prey before attacking. He attempts to test Vader’s limits and skills with the force before attacking him upfront. Tarkin finds that he underestimates Vader’s raw power and his men are quickly overwhelmed.

STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #18 pg. 6. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Seeing Tarkin adapt to the unbelievable strength of his enemy is exceptionally entertaining. It also harkens back to ancient tales of man vs. monster. In this story, Tarkin is Theseus, and he must outsmart the Minotaur. He represents the extent of human ingenuity in reaching their goals. Yet there are limits to every human being… and Vader is not strictly human.

More Machine Now Than Man

DARTH VADER #18 depicts Darth Vader the way fans have always wanted to see him. He’s a scourge. A wraith. A phantom. Soule adds a much-needed horror element to Vader. Just like the villains a slasher film, Vader lives for only one reason — to kill. Any hope for love or redemption is lost for him. Only the urge to kill and to die.

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There’s a part of Vader that surely wants Tarkin to defeat him. To overcome the robotic nightmare and end Vader’s suffering. Yet Tarkin is unable to take down the menace despite his greatest experts.

This is where the issue does veer a bit from STAR WARS into superhuman levels of strength. Vader in DARTH VADER #18 does appear much stronger and invulnerable than he ever did in the movies. Of course there has to be some change based on the shift of genres. However, Soule sometimes asks us to suspend our disbelief a bit too much.

Terror in DARTH VADER #18

I’m not always a huge fan of the art of Giuseppe Camuncoli, but I respect that his style works for this series. It is very non-photorealistic. This is startlingly clear in the drawing of Tarkin that looks nothing like Peter Cushing. Whereas STAR WARS usually looks very real, this comic looks out of an anime or manga. The depiction of the characters and the way is very stylized. That’s not to say the art isn’t cool or interesting; it just feels disparate from the rest of the STAR WARS universe.

STAR WARS #18 pg. 10. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

I do think Camuncoli draws Vader in a fascinating way that I’ve grown accustomed to. STAR WARS typically depicts Vader as a cool and collected man in dark armor. Yet, DARTH VADER #18 shows Vader as a Frankenstein-esque combination of metal scraps. This pushes forward the perspective of Vader as a monster of creation. It’s a unique perspective that we only got glimmers of in ROGUE ONE and that I’m happy Camuncoli was able to capture.

The Force Will Guide The Way

Charles Soule continues to show that there is a lot of ground to still cover with STAR WARS’s greatest villain. Next issue, Soule will show us some of the origins of Vader’s fortress that we saw in ROGUE ONE. Hopefully that will answer some mysteries.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing Vader as this mechanical terror. For future issues, I’d like to return to see more conflict bubble up within the Sith Lord. Surely there must have been further pulls from the light side of the force?

Until then, let us hope that Soule continues to tell terrific original stories like STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #18.

STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #18 By Charles Soule, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Danielle Orlandini, and David Curiel
STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #18 delivers an intriguing and fun story with terrific character development for Vader and Tarkin.
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The Force Is With This One

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