Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Raffaele Ienco
Color Artist: Federico Blee
Cover Artists: Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Darth Vader’s control of the Force is unstable. With his mastery of his powers in flux, Vader immediately jumps to action in securing the means to regain control, first by conscripting his treacherous former ally Doctor Aphra to have her lead him and his assassin Ochi to a relic that could help return some measure of control. But now new enemies have arrived as well. See how the Sith Lord dispatches these murderous droids in Star Wars: Darth Vader #36.
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As the last comic left off, Darth Vader used Doctor Aphra to find an ancient relic in the form of a cool looking shield to help him harness the Force in a stable manner once more. But now a bunch of droids have arrived to try and kill him, but we know they’re really here to have Vader show off his new Force Shield. There will be SPOILERS throughout the review for this comic. Let’s get to it.
The comic begins with a gathering of droids of all kinds repairing each other and discussing plans, namely to kill Darth Vader. Why? Simple, these are all droids that have been killed, disassembled, or used as sacrificial pawns by Darth Vader in some form or way. I’ll give Greg Pak credit for actually doing his research with some of the droids he brings up in this comic who all have some background with Vader in the last two previous runs from Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader run and Charles Soule’s Darth Vader series. And of course, two droids most Darth Vader comic fans are familiar with: Triple-0 and Beetee-1.
However, despite all of this build up, the comic itself is anything but spectacular. It’s a little fun, I’m not going to lie, seeing Vader cut down these droids, and the comic doesn’t try to make this assembly of violent droids truly a big threat. It’s made abundantly clear later on that these droids were secretly sent to the slaughter as part of a plot by Darth Vader himself executed by his servant droid Zed. As such, the action is fine but its’ not exciting or engaging except for a few moments from Triple-0. Of course, Darth Vader looks cool in this comic thanks to Raffaele Ienco’s art, but that’s about it. There’s no sense of energy or kinetic momentum to the action in the comic, so it all feels stiff.
And then there’s the element of Doctor Aphra. I personally have mixed feelings about this character and have not been a fan of her solo series, but I’ve always felt Aphra was at her best and is always at her best when she’s working for Darth Vader or is just with him, and the same goes for Triple-0 and Beetee-1. It doesn’t help that Aphra doesn’t really do anything in this comic except talk with Ochi and, briefly, try to convince him to flee with her. This entire two-part mini arc just felt like both a callback and a tease to Gillen’s Darth Vader series which created all three characters as Vader’s supporting cast. And instead of making me feel nostalgic, it just makes want to drop this series and re-read that. By the end, all three end up fleeing from Darth Vader and he lets them go because he has what he needs in the shield and a new droid army, courtesy of Zed.
The comic ends on the prospect of Darth Vader leading a new droid army with his new Force Shield, Ochi, and Zed, but that doesn’t really excite this reviewer, especially after we just saw Vader cut them all down while he was essentially nerfed. Ironically, this is also something Gillen’s Vader series explored too, where Darth Vader and his team captured a mobile Separatist Commando Droid factory so he can make his own personal Droid army. But now Pak is doing that too but with less cool droids, so once again this doesn’t excite me it just makes feel like it’s another callback to a better Darth Vader run I’d rather read.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #36 brings this part of the journey between Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra to a close. The whole issue is Vader testing out his new Force Shield on the attacking droids and while he looks cool, mileage will vary if what he does with it is actually exciting. Nothing big really happens in this issue, it feels more like a callback to Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader run than anything else, especially with the return of Aphra, Triple-0 and Beetee-1 for good measure. But nothing significant is done with either of them, they have no interesting interactions with Vader, and by the end it felt like the comic was reusing old ideas instead of exploring new ones for Darth Vader in his current condition.