The Star Wars Masterpiece Edition
The Story of Darth Vader
by Stephen J. Sansweet, with Daniel Wallace and Josh Ling
Published by Chronicle Books
Scott's Rating: 2 out of 4
This hardback book comes in a large box with a limited edition 13" Anakin Skywalker doll from Kenner. The box has a Velcro secured flap that opens to allow access to the doll and book. The book is broken up into three chapters. The first is a history of how Darth Vader originated in the scripts and how he was designed. It discusses how Lucas came up with the name, how Ralph McQuarrie designed him, etc. There is also some discussion with the actors who have portrayed him. The second chapter covers what happened in the movies. This recap is a majority of the book. The third chapter covers the toys. It starts with 5 pages of commentary, then a text listing of almost every toy relating to Darth Vader. Every two pages has three pictures. The cover price is $75.
The box has a bit of nice, eye-catching artwork on it. It's also nice that you can open the box and examine the contents before buying it. It's also good for storage. The doll's face is fairly well sculpted and the clothes are good quality. The book has some nice photos and sketches of Vader. The early designs especially caught my eye. There's some great discussion with Ralph McQuarrie and Ben Burtt.
The box is enormous. It is 16" long at the base and very tall. Plus, it is cut like Vader's helmet, so it is an odd shape. I can't put it on my bookshelf, unfortunately, or anywhere else easily. This book has something for the toy collector, the film geek, and the fans that love the continuity. For a $75 cover price, it had better deliver. Unfortunately, I felt the payoff was mediocre across the board. The doll is rather plain. No lightsaber, weapons, or anything. Plus, Anakin was a GHOST when we saw him this old in the film. But here he's flesh and blood and plastic. If he was in spirit form, maybe glow in the dark, I would have been impressed. Then the book is cut in this odd shape to conform with the box. While I understand they were trying to make it like Vader's helmet, it was just plain awkward reading it. As for the contents of the book, it was not the greatest. The description of the creation of Vader was filled with quotes from The Annotated Screeplays, the Star Wars Insider, Magic and the Myth, etc. These are all books I already have. It needed some original content. Then the recap of the films took up waaay too much of the space. We already saw the movies, there's no need to repeat them in text. Finally, the toy section was awful. It was simply a text listing of what was made. I'd much rather see pictures of a few of them than have a text rundown of them. And there were very few pictures as it was. However, the pictures looked like they had been cut and pasted from the latest Insider catalog. Over half the stuff were things you can buy off the shelf now, none of it rare or interesting.
In short, this is not the definitive Darth Vader book. It understandably doesn't get into the prequels, so I guess they plan a second edition. Here's a few things I think they can add to make it better. Talk about Darth Vader in the books and comics. Talk more with the actors. Talk about Vader's appearances at concerts, in commercials, etc. What's it say on Vader's chest? Show more artwork. Forget the text listing of toys and show pictures. If I want a listing, I'll go to a price guide. And forget the oddly cut shape. It doesn't work.
This book was $75 (and not to mention my early Christmas present). I'm assuming the figure was about $30, the book about $35, and the box around $10? Ugh. Would I have bought any of these if they were by themselves?