Written by Haden Blackman
Art by Rick Leonardi
Star Wars’ preeminent bad guy is back on a mission to find a lost admiral. Time to start stapling missing notices to lamp posts.
The prospect of Darth Vader after all the annoying Anakin bits from the trilogy is usually a hopeful venture. The dark, foreboding figure of Darth Vader is a very captivating figure in our popular culture and obviously in Star Wars fandom. A book all about Vader going on a search and rescue mission full of lightsaber dismemberment SOUNDS like a sure fire hit, right?
The titular “Lost Command” is a missing battalion commanded by Admiral Garoche Tarkin, son of the infamous Empire loyalist Moff Tarkin. Vader is tasked in finding the younger Tarkin and bringing his kidnappers to justice.
Vader is definitely the high point of the series. We get to see some of the behind-the-scenes of the man who is Darth Vader, from the maintenance on his cybernetic limbs to the internal struggles and fantasy life he leads in his head. The mysterious villain from the original trilogy gains some humanity without going so far back as to be saddled with the whiny Anakin from the prequels.
Sadly the series falls flat as Vader turns out to be the only thing it has going for it. He isn’t presented with a mission that tests his abilities as a Force user or a warrior. Instead we are presented with some lingering emotional trauma following the events of Episode III that don’t go anywhere as the status quo is restored by the end. All the physical challenges he is presented with, from laser shots to being blown up multiple times, Vader brushes off and wipes away the illusion of any of this being difficult. Perhaps not much could have been expected to change given the concrete canonical status of Episode III and Episode IV, but having nothing of impact or of excitement leads to a lackluster story.
The Atoan people as characters are sadly uninteresting. With no real personality or cultural development, there’s no sympathy about their mutilation and murder by Vader and the 501st. There are seeds of possibility with some throwaway lines about their gods, their magic and their anatomy, but they lack the depth or the dedication to blossom. Instead almost all the enemy combatants are cannon fodder speaking gibberish in a weak show of a foreign language.
My interest in this story isn’t nearly as high as it is in the stories being referred to. Early on in the book, Moff Tarkin mentions a previous failed mission of Vader where his Jedi-hunting obsession got in the way of his mission. Vader versus Jedi and failing?! That’s the story I’d want to read. This one, while not horrible, feels uneventful and unnecessary.
The art is hit or miss. Overall, it looks rough and sketchy, more so on the actual individual characters. The Vader fantasy scenes are purposefully more so for stylistic choice, but even knowing the intent doesn’t make it look like a polished work.
Often, proportions will seem off. Vader’s head will be too small and occasionally neck-less on his otherwise stocky body and Emperor Palpatine will look like a troll. There are some neat Vader poses, but there are even more with awkward turns or contortions combined with the aforementioned proportion issues.
Panel angles and direction also suffer from questionable quality at times, with at least one instance where you aren’t sure what Vader is actually doing at first glance.
The technology in the series is well detailed while looking complete, with the prime examples being in Vader’s maintenance of his robotic limbs and in the vehicles. In some of the ship design, the art tries to bridge the giant technological gap between the prequels and the supposedly more advanced original trilogy. The V-Wings and Vader’s personal fighter almost look as if they could evolve into the original trilogy’s respective X-Wings and Vader’s personal TIE-Fighter, but they still look more advanced with their sleeker design.
The Michael Kutsche and Tsuneo Sanda covers are nicely detailed and textured, well proportioned and colored. The cloth looks like cloth and the metal like metal. Vader himself just looks good.
I don’t tend to expect much of franchise tie-in material, and the Star Wars expanded universe definitely has its ups and downs. Darth Vader and the Lost Command falls in the middle. It’s not horrendous, and it doesn’t ruin or really contradict anything important, but it doesn’t feel like a story that needed to be told, a story that would really expand the universe of Star Wars.
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10