The only thing worse than being hunted by Darth Vader is being hunted by Vader while suffering from hallucinogens as one man learns in Vader: Dark Visions #5.
Warning: This review contains plot points for Vader: Dark Visions #5.
Vader: Dark Visions #5
Story: Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum | Art: Geraldo Borges | Colors: Lee Loughridge | Lettering: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover Artist: Greg Smallwood | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia
Over the course of the series, Vader: Dark Visions has concentrated less on Darth Vader and more on those that are caught in his wake. In one culture, Vader became a Dark Knight of legend after defeating a monster that plagued a civilization for generations. An Imperial officer feared the consequences of failing the Dark Lord, and that fear cost him everything in the end. In the last issue, one pilot overcame fear only to succumb to the fear of Darth Vader’s reputation and bring ruin to his cell of Rebels. Dark Visions #5 concludes the series. Once again, Vader is present, but he really isn’t the focus of the story. Instead, Dennis Hallum tells a horror story in which Vader and the presence of an intoxicant drives a man to insanity.
No Staying Neutral in a War
Dark Visions #5 features a cantina owner, or bartender, operating his establishment on Lokud 7. He has a simple rule for his business: check your weapons and your allegiance at the door. It is a pleasant idea. However, Darth Vader doesn’t care about such rules. When a Rebel squad brings prized intel capable of bringing down a local Imperial armada, Vader comes knocking. To be fair, the bartender isn’t at the door to greet Lord Vader. Once Vader arrives though, he answers the demand from the bouncer to surrender his weapons with a lightsaber.
The lesson of this part of Dark Visions #5 is clear. Neutrality works so long as everyone respects said neutrality. The common soldier wants the services the bartender offered. Therefore, they respect his terms and demands. Vader doesn’t need the camaraderie or libations available at the cantina, and furthermore, the cantina harbors the very Rebels that stole his intel. Therefore, he doesn’t respect the sanctity of the establishment. When he arrives at the cantina, he begins killing everyone in his path as he searches for his lost data.
The Terror of Vader
Vader by himself is terrifying enough. The Dark Lord of the Sith dresses in all black, wields a bright red lightsaber, speaks in an ominous voice, and kills anyone in the path of his objective. His arrival and slaughter of the cantina patrons was enough to send the bartender running, but not before he grabbed anything he could out of the locker he stored his patron’s belongings in. It just so happens he grabbed the case carrying the prized intel that Vader wants so badly.
Star Wars Becomes a Horror Story
Vader isn’t the only terrifying thing in Dark Visions #5. As the bartender flees, he trips over a plant in the jungle and is infected by a poison from the thorns of a flowering anxynth. Although it isn’t deadly, it does induce nightmarish hallucinations. Everything becomes a threat to the bartender and he can’t separate reality from the hallucination even when he knows he has been poisoned. For instance, when the Dark Lord catches up to him, Vader’s saber develops a dragon’s head. An abandoned house becomes a haunted mansion complete with the zombies of those that died at the cantina. The bartender’s uncles hunting trophies come alive and menace the hapless bartender as he tries to hide. His attempt to wait out Vader fails when he gives into the hallucination and begins shooting back at everything he finds threatening.
Hallum and artist Geraldo Borges sell the sheer terror of the pursuit well here. The panel frequently features a close up of a portion of the bartender’s face. His eyes turn yellow from the poison and sweat drips down his face. Frequently, the bartender is seen clumsily rushing through the jungle. Despite his familiarity with his surroundings, his panic causes him to make mistakes. Then there is Vader’s breathing. It keeps returning to remind the bartender of the horror he faces.
Final Thoughts on Dark Visions #5
Dark Visions #5 wraps up the miniseries well. Although it isn’t a crucial story to the Star Wars saga, it is entertaining. Unlike previous entries, Dark Visions #5 is less about Vader’s influence and legacy and more about the terror experienced by the bartender. Vader is a contributing factor to be certain, but he was not crucial to this story. It could have been Boba Fett. Contrast that to Dark Visions #2 where Vader’s intolerance of failure drove the Commander of a Star Destroyer to sacrifice everything rather than fail his Dark Lord. Vader was absolutely essential to that story.
With the conclusion of the Dark Vision series with Dark Visions #5, it is fitting to evaluate the whole. None of these stories are essential to the greater universe. Each is self-contained. The stories demonstrate Hallum’s skill as a storyteller though. Three of the stories (issues 2, 4, and 5) made clear that Vader’s power, presence, and reputation are enough to strike fear into just about anyone from Imperials to Rebels and bystanders to the war. Despite his menacing presence, one nurse was irresistibly and tragically drawn to him. In one other culture, Vader became a mythological culture.
The Dark Visions series was an interesting experiment by Hallum with some of the stories likely to be remembered as intriguing, if not crazy, examples of Vader’s reputation and power. In three of the stories, the main character doesn’t even have a name, but this series overall will likely be remembered more for the protagonists than for Vader.
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.