Star Wars – Darth Vader Vol 1 & 2

I was pleasantly surprised by both Star Wars – Darth Vader: Dark Heart of the Sith and Into the Fire. This is the best story arc I’ve read in any Star Wars comic yet. The storyline gives depth and insight into one of the greatest villains of my childhood. As long as Greg Pak is on this series, I’ll be reading it.


The events take place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Vader had failed to turn Luke Skywalker to the dark side, which leaves Vader at a loss for meaning and purpose. He told Luke he is his father and was rejected by his own son. I never really thought about how that might affect the stoic villain, but thankfully Pak did.

In his anger, Vader ignores the Emperor and sets out on a quest to destroy everyone who helped hide Luke through the years. This takes him to Tatooine, Coruscant, Vendaxa, and Naboo where he eventually visits the tomb of Padmé. It quickly becomes clear that this isn’t just a quest for revenge. Vader is dealing with his own past and with the Emperor’s part in it.

Pain & Anger

The Emperor senses Vader’s grief and decides to teach him a lesson in pain and anger to strengthen the dark side in him. Vader is left completely broken and told he must survive using his own strength to get back into the Emperor’s good graces, but he is forbidden to use the force. I’ve never seen Vader like this.

Pak does a brillant job showing us the inner workings and turmoil of Vader. Star Wars – Darth Vader uses flashbacks to powerful effect. Artist Raffaele Ienco demonstrates what Scott McCloud calls the invisible art beautifully. The imagery and repetition of Vader seeing Luke fall over and over—or is it Padmé—or is Anakin—captures the core of Vader’s psyche. I highly recommend these two volumes and look forward to more from Pak and Ienco. You can pick up volume 1 here.

Fagin The Jew by Will Eisner Fagin the JewWill Eisner is obviously the genius and father behind the birth of graphic novels. As Alan Moore says, “Eisner is the single person most responsible for giving comics its brains.” He has captured the existential joy, striving, desire, and despair of everyday life in his comics from the beginning. In many works, Eisner focuses on the lives of working-class Jews. In Fagin The Jew, Eisner does the same, but different. Oh, the paradox! Right?


Eisner presents a counter-narrative to Charles Dickens’ caricature of Fagin, the trainer of a gang of young thieves in Oliver Twist. Dickens portrays Fagin in the racial stereotypes of his time. This is an interesting graphic novel to study, especially with the racial tension and examinations we see in today’s culture.

In the foreword, Brian Michael Bendis explains the impetus of this graphic novel. Eisner wrote a comic called The Spirit in the 1940s, which included a character named Ebony. Ebony was a racist caricature, plain and simple. As time went on and Eisner experienced more of life, he felt guilty about it. Bendis says he thinks he was even haunted by it.

Bendis writes:

Will took his complicated feelings about race and caricature and applied them directly to his feelings about Judaism and how Jews have been reflected in the media for hundreds of years, by sinking his teeth directly into the classic Oliver Twist and one of the most famous Jewish stereotype characters in all of fiction… Fagin.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Eisner has Fagin present his counter-narrative directly to Dickens as he waits for the hangman. Fagin tells of how he grew up in London’s Ashkenazi community. A combination of systemic anti-semitism, cruel fate, and poor decisions force Fagin into crime in order to survive. Unfortunate circumstances follow Fagin throughout his life. Although he wants to do good, fate places stumbling block after stumbling block in his way.

Eisner’s sepia artwork gives Fagin the Jew the visceral grime and glory of 19th century England. Eisner captures expressions and gives life to characters like no other. Unfortunately, the narrative device tends to drag and over-simplify in order to work in the events of Oliver Twist, plus Fagin’s own story. In terms of narrative, Eisner seems to have tried to cram too much into a short format and does more telling than showing. Regardless, Fagin the Jew is worth the read. You can pick up a copy here.

Moby Dick – Chaboute

Chabouté Moby Dick coverHerman Melville’s Moby Dick has been adapted and reinterpreted many times for good reason. It is the great American archetype of mad obsession and the struggle distinguishing between good and evil. It captures something deep about the human condition. If you’ve ever struggled reading the original, it’s understandable. The narrative is full of interruptions with scientific jargon about whales and detailed whaling processes. However, the underlying story is something everyone should read. So, if you struggle with the classic, you should check out Chabouté’s graphic novel version.

Shrunken Heads

Chabouté’s version of Moby Dick closely follows Melville’s narrative. You would think that would be easy; however, Chabouté uses very little narrative, unlike the original. He let’s dialogue and textless panels do the storytelling. He does more with less, proving that a picture can be worth a thousand words.

That is where I think this version of Moby Dick shines. You hear the sound of Ahab’s wooden leg on the deck overhead and the creaking of the ship and the sounds of the dock in the fog. You feel the visceral dread of the sailors—all without reading a single word. That’s the magic of comics.

Black and White

Chabouté draws the book in a stark pen and ink. The style gives the book an ancient, seafaring feel. On one hand, it works really well with the overall tone of the book. It’s edgy, tense, and bleak. The sharp black and white captures Ahab’s madness and the crew’s apprehension. There is no reasoning with Ahab. It is a black and white matter.

On the other hand, Moby Dick as a novel is rich with meaning. The driving theme of Moby Dick questions where exactly the dividing line is between good and evil. Aren’t there shades of grey? Why is Moby Dick white, and yet called evil, when Ahab is clearly insane and leading the men to their deaths? The minimalistic pen and ink struggles to capture that richness. I would have liked to have seen Chabouté work the themes into the artwork.

Several defining moments in the original story cry out for color. For example, the firing of the Try-Works is when they burn parts of the whale’s body in three ovens on the deck. The ship looks like a floating funeral pyre. Melville describes the process as smelling and looking like “the left wing of the day of judgement; it is an argument for the pit.” Pen and ink just doesn’t do this scene justice.


Despite the lack of color or shading, Chabouté captures the essence of the characters, ship, and sea. Ahab’s face leaves no doubt to his single-minded purpose and madness. The sailors grow increasingly worried and anxious without saying a word. The whaling scenes give you a sense of salty chaos and crashing waves. The story moves at an excellent pace.

Chabouté’s adaptation is well worth your time. Overall, he captures the spirit of the book and transports the reader to the Pequod’s deck on this dangerous journey. If you’re interested in Moby Dick, you should also check out Classics Illustrated Moby Dick drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz. You can find a copy of Chabouté’s Moby Dick here.

Amazon Music: Six Months of Disney+