The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 60 | “Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command” HC review; “Blue Estate” #8 preview

Leaving Proof 60 | “Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command” HC review; “Blue Estate” #8 preview
Published on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 by

Today’s column consists of a review of Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command hardcover and a preview of Image Comics’ Blue Estate #8.

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command
(Dark Horse Books, 2011; 120 pages, collects Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command #1–5 originally published in single magazine form by Dark Horse Comics)
Written by: Haden Blackman
Penciled: Rick Leonardi
Inked by: Dan Green
Colors by: Wes Dzioba
Cover by: Michael Kutsch
List Price: $24.99 (US)
Full Disclosure: This is a review of a press proof digital copy of the book provided by the publisher

From Darkhorse.com: Still haunted by the death of Anakin Skywalker’s beloved Padmé in Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader is tasked with a mission to locate a lost Imperial expeditionary force–led by the son of Vader’s rising nemesis, Moff Tarkin. But the perils of Vader’s journey into the unexplored Ghost Nebula are compounded by traitors among his crew and the presence of the system’s religious leader, Lady Saro. Collects the five-issue miniseries.

  • Written by The Force Unleashed‘s Haden Blackman!
  • Art by Rick Leonardi of Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War!
  • A beautiful hardcover edition!

What Worked: At the risk of losing my “geek cred,” let me preface my comments about this book by saying that I am not a Star Wars fan. Nothing against the property, mind you, but where I was growing up during the 1980s, most kids were more interested in things like Voltes V and Daimos if they bothered with fantastical foreign entertainment at all. I’m aware of the basic story aspects of the property (even before the Internet, such was the marketing behind Star Wars that one would inevitably encounter it in some form or another no matter where one lived) and I have managed to see all six of the Star Wars films over the years, but it never really held a significant place in my personal sphere of pop culture awareness (I’ve found the kerfuffle over George Lucas’ continued tinkering with the original films to be somewhat amusing, though).

So how do I, as a self-admitted Star Wars Philistine, like Dark Horse Books’ Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command? Surprisingly enough, I liked it more than I expected going into the task of reading it. It’s certainly not a book geared towards readers new to the property—a familiarity with the events of Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith is probably the minimum film viewing required as far as figuring out the relationships between the story’s major characters—but writer Haden Blackman does an excellent job of organically integrating the exposition into the narrative, which is fairly straightforward and as far as I can tell, doesn’t really require from the reader any further specialized knowledge of the Star Wars mythos.

Rick Leonardi, perhaps best known for his excellent work on Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger mini-series and Spider-Man 2099, puts in a typically workmanlike effort in illustrating the series: the major characters from the movies like Darth Vader, Moff Tarkin, Darth Sidious, and the Clone Troopers look decidedly on-model from what I remember of the films while still retaining the veteran artist’s subdued stylization.

What Didn’t: I guess the worst thing I can say about this book is that it isn’t poised to make any new Star Wars fans, but it’s faint criticism for a book that is obviously targeted towards those already emotionally invested in the series’ characters and steeped in its history. I found myself somewhat disinterested in Darth Vader’s internal struggle with saudade as he continues to recover from the death of Padmé in Revenge of the Sith but that may have more to do with my experience with the Star Wars prequel films influencing my reading of the book (I didn’t really enjoy them, to be honest) than with anything Blackman did or didn’t do.

The Verdict: Competently written and illustrated, Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command further bridges the continuity gap between the Star Wars prequel films and the more popular “original” Star Wars trilogy. Long-time devotees of George Lucas’ flagship property will likely enjoy the book much more than I did, but there’s little here of real interest for the casual Star Wars dabbler. Comics readers in search of a Rick Leonardi fix and who aren’t particularly fond of all things Star Wars might be better served picking up something else from the artist’s extensive comics bibliography.

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Artist Viktor Kalvachev was kind enough to send along a preview copy of Blue Estate #8, a title whose first collected volume I raved about in this space several weeks back. Kalvachev and his illustrator-collaborators Nathan Fox, Toby Cypress, Andrew Robinson, and Peter Nguyen as well as scribe Andrew Osborne continue to speed forward with this sexy, funny, and action-packed crime story. Below are some spoiler-free sample panels (click to embiggen) showcasing the diverse art syles employed by Kalvachev and his team:

Kalvachev’s first major comics work, Pherone (originally published in Heavy Metal magazine back in 2007) was recently re-issued by Image Comics as an economically-priced TPB, and it’s easily one of the best values for your money in comics this year, featuring 104 pages of excellent art and a gripping espionage story, all for a wallet-friendly $14.99, perfect for that comic book fan on your holiday gift list (heck, go ahead and buy yourself a copy as well).

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