”What We Said Then” is an ongoing feature at Comics Bulletin, displaying past reviews from Comics Bulletin and how they relate to the prevalent comics of the present.
With Marvel’s New Star Wars setting sales records, we thought it would be fun to look at a very different Star Wars comic. This was originally posted May 17, 2012.
Jeffrey Brown seems to have a knack for knowing just exactly how to tug at the right heartstrings with his autobiographical comics; whether they’re stories of relationships (his “Girlfriend Trilogy”), growing up (Funny Misshapen Body), or even just simple comics about his cat (Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations), he’s carved himself a home in many readers’ hearts and bookshelves.
While Brown’s written great humor and parody comics before (Bighead, Incredible Change-Bots, I’m Going to be Small), none of them really seem to match the sincerity I felt from his autobiographical work. Darth Vader and Son changes that. Birthed from a commission from Google for Father’s Day, Brown decided to take the idea and run with it.
Darth Vader and Son asks just what kind of a father Vader would be to a young Luke Skywalker, often with hilarious results. The juxtaposition of the Dark Lord of the Sith raising a four-year-old boy is amusing in and of itself, but if that’s all Brown brought to the table, Darth Vader and Son would lean much closer to the realm of novelty than it does.
Instead, Brown presents fatherhood in a bit of a different light; Darth Vader obviously isn’t the perfect dad, not by a long shot. He’s awkward and uncertain and I’d bet there’s at least a little bit of Brown’s relationship with his son Oliver written into their interactions.
But there’s a love here, too. Despite the strangeness of it all, Brown actually portrays Vader as a pretty competent, caring father, despite the thirty-five years of pop culture Vader’s got opposing him. It would be easy to just see some of the jokes for what they are: references to a series of movies that the readers probably know and love, but Brown also manages to make them meaningful interactions between a father and his son.
There a value in silence that is mostly unappreciated in the realm of comics; sometimes you just need to let the art breathe and tell its own story and Brown manages to nail it every time.
Darth Vader and Son is Brown at the top of his artistic game with beautiful full-color pages, many of which seem imbued with a sincerity that I would expect to find in his next autobiographical work, A Matter of Life. Darth Vader and Son is a book for fathers and sons and Star Wars fans and, well, pretty much anyone who enjoys happiness and smiles.
I only wish there were more.
David Fairbanks doesn’t get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books, and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.