Comic Review – “Star Wars: Darth Vader – Black, White & Red” Anthology #1 Establishes a Striking Visual Style

As a villain, the Sith Lord Darth Vader has received no shortage of attention in recent Star Wars storytelling. He had a recurring role in last year’s Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi live-action series on Disney+, he was heavily featured in the Star Wars: Jedi – Fallen Order video game, and he’s still got an ongoing Marvel comic book, Star Wars: Darth Vader.

So why do we need Marvel’s new anthology miniseries Star Wars: Darth Vader – Black, White, & Red? For one thing, it’s got an entirely different tone than the monthly title written by Greg Pak– this one is darker and bloodier than what you’ll read in those pages– and for another, it appears to have given its writers and artists a lot more freedom when it comes to stories involving the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Darth Vader – Black, White & Red #1, released today, begins with the first park of the miniseries-spanning tale written by Jason Aaron (who penned Marvel’s flagship Star Wars title for several years) with art by Leonard Kirk (Star Wars: Age of Resistance). In this story, entitled “Hard Shutdown,” Vader has tracked down the son of a former acquaintance named Dr. Sendvall– don’t worry, I checked Wookieepedia and we haven’t heard of him before– and threatens him with his life for more information before learning that Sendvall is already dead. Then the son partners with an unnamed gang to short-circuit Vader’s armor, leaving Emperor Palpatine’s apprentice completely defenseless and unconscious. That’s already the cliffhanger ending of this narrative that will continue through issues #2-4, but the admittedly fairly straightforward story isn’t really what matters here. It’s clear that this comic is mostly intended as a showcase for its art and the incredibly unique (for contemporary comics, anyway) coloring choices its creators have made. As the title of the comic suggests, the only three colors you will find in these pages are indeed black, white, and red, and that decision leads to some very striking visuals throughout this captivating first issue.

In “Hard Shutdown,” the color red doesn’t really come into play until Vader ignites his lightsaber and unleashes his fury on Sendvall’s son, while in the next story (“Inescapable” by Peach Momoko, who has previously contributed to The Clone Wars and The High Republic comics), the crimson hue once again represents the blood-red energy of the Dark Lord as he haunts a young woman’s nightmares. Then lastly, in “Dissolution of Hope” by Torunn Grønbekk (Marvel’s The Mighty Valkyries) and Klaus Janson (Daredevil), a rebel strike force attempts to take out a posh party on the planet Torku attended by some of the Empire’s highest-ranking members, potentially including Darth Vader himself. Naturally this does not go well for the rebels, but again the key element here is the art and its colors, with red coming into play from the planet’s twin moons and from the explosion that fails to kill its intended target. It’s great to see what all these writers and artists have come up with given this more limited palette and a shorter page-count than would be usual if they were writing full-length comic-book stories, and the results definitely remind me of Lucasfilm’s non-canonical Disney+ animated series Star Wars: Visions. The difference here is that these tales can theoretically be consumed as part of the ever-expanding Star Wars chronology, but it isn’t really of consequence in the long run– this is a comic you should absolutely pick up for the variety of artistic expression on display, not to help flesh out Darth Vader’s Wookieepedia page.

Star Wars: Darth Vader – Black, White & Red #1 is available now wherever comic books are sold.