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Replacement for canceled Darth Vader comic series alienates fans, original writer

Star Wars: Vader — Dark Visions is a very strange anthology indeed

A panel from Star Wars: Vader — Dark Visions #3. Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, David Lopez, and Javi Pina/Marvel Comics
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The Star Wars: Vader — Dark Visions miniseries kicked off in early March, receiving a relatively favorable reception from fans and critics alike. But its third issue, titled “Tall, Dark and Handsome,” contains what many are calling a problematic and insensitive storyline. Writer Chuck Wendig, who was fired from a similar Darth Vader project just last year, has noted that the story resembles a part of his canceled series.

If you ask me, Marvel has been flogging the Dark Lord a bit much these past few years. But, even after two 25-issue series and a handful of smaller runs and one-shots, the first two issues of Dark Visions have been full of surprises. They include an epic battle between Vader and a towering kaiju, as well as a particularly gory encounter between an Imperial star destroyer and a space slug.

A panel from Star Wars: Vader — Dark Visions #2.
Things do not end well for this particular exogorth.
Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and Brian Level/Marvel Comics

Vader comics have always been a platform for showing just how powerful a Sith Lord can be, and these issues are no exception. But the series has hit a bit of a speed bump this week with a hard right turn into a one-sided love story.

“Tall, Dark and Handsome” introduces an unnamed medical technician who develops a romantic obsession with Darth Vader. Her hobbies include collecting bloodied bits of his armor, and fantasizing about him. The dalliance ultimately leads to her demise. Along the way, however, it also manages to devalue her as a person, openly mocking her motivations. Held up against Kylo Ren’s own obsession in the modern trilogy, this feels like a particularly callous portrayal of a troubled woman.

One of the better breakdowns of all the issues with this particular storyline comes from Katie Horn on Twitter, co-host of the Wampa’s Lair Podcast. Her analysis has been retweeted more than 700 times.

She manages to narrow in on several of the comic’s more ham-fisted beats, including its use of tropes from Phantom of the Opera. That musical includes a famous scene where Christine removes the phantom’s mask, only to fall madly in love with him. And that scene, Horn points out, is “hugely important to a lot of female fans.”

“It resonates STRONGLY with a large female fanbase,” Horn said, “and you shouldn’t dismiss that iconography carelessly.” Horn’s entire thread is well worth your time.

While the controversy over its storyline is one thing, the tweet from Wendig is something else entirely.

Fans may recall that Wendig, who wrote the well-regarded novel Star Wars: Aftermath, was fired mid-way through his work on Marvel’s Shadow of Vader comic series. The progressive writer said at the time that Marvel’s decision was made based on his inflammatory social media presence.

According to Wendig, that canceled comic series was to include a similar plot line with a male protagonist.

“My issue three of SHADOW OF VADER was about a toxic fanboy (a morgue attendant on the Death Star) who became obsessed with Vader,” Wendig wrote. “(And it didn’t end well for him. Er, obviously.) I thought it was good and I’m sorry you won’t see it! Onward we go.”

Wendig’s Shadow of Vader series was officially canceled in November of last year. Whether or not the similarity was intentional, for Marvel to appear to be recycling his work in any way is unseemly, to say the least.

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