Back at the end of April, Marvel Comics launched a new four-issue anthology miniseries focused on the iconic character of Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Vader, and told using only the three hues represented in the title– Star Wars: Darth Vader – Black, White & Red.
That miniseries continued today with the release of issue #2, in which writer Jason Aaron and artist Leonard Kirk give us the second chapter of their story “Hard Shutdown.”
In “Hard Shutdown,” a group of cyborg commandos have captured Darth Vader and shut down his life support suit’s many systems, with the exception of his neural receptors that allow him to see, hear, and feel pain. They plan to torture him as revenge for their leader’s father, one of the cybernetic surgeons who created Darth Vader from the scraps of Anakin Skywalker in the first place, having further experimented on his son. But what these marauders failed to take into account is Vader’s command over the dark side of the Force, which does not in any way necessitate the use of his limbs. Naturally this means the Dark Lord is able to wreak havoc on these madmen from the comfort of his own operating table, while still chained down and immobile. Just a few of the brigands, including the leader, manage to make it to safety (what they consider outside the range of Vader’s Force powers), but they’re still overconfident enough to believe they can reclaim the upper hand. That’s where “Hard Shutdown” gives us its cliffhanger ending for this month, but there’s still two short stories left in this issue of Black, White & Red.
The second of three, entitled “The Endless Mercy” and written by David Pepose (Moon Knight: City of the Dead) and illustrated by Alessandro Vitti (Thor), essentially answers the question, “What if Darth Vader fought the alien xenomorph from the movie Alien?” It doesn’t actually use the design of the xenomorph, though the Walt Disney Company currently owns both Marvel Comics and the Alien franchise, but the intent is undeniably there. Regardless of the similarity, it’s just a whole lot of fun to watch Vader go on a bloody rampage against these creatures, some of whom have captured and assimilated stormtroopers into their brood. Yes, there’s also a queen, and yes, her destruction is equally as entertaining. The third story this month, entitled “Power” and written by Victoria Ying (City of Secrets) and illustrated by Marika Cresta (Captain Carter), might be even more disturbing in its outlook. It focuses on an optimistic young kid living on a desert planet who is bullied by the local street toughs to the point that he actually begins to look up to Darth Vader– who arrives on the planet in a hunt for a rebel spy– as a role model. I believe the message here is about how abuse perpetuates abuse, but it’s an unusually dark perspective for a franchise that is most often hopeful. But that’s what an anthology series like this (and the excellent animated Star Wars: Visions series on Disney+) is all about– bringing in different views and artistic choices like the ones on display here. They’ve all been interesting at the very least, and the use of red as the only color by each artist has been nothing short of visually striking.
Star Wars: Darth Vader – Black, White & Red #2 is available now wherever comic books are sold.