Welcome to part three of my editorially unaware, multi-column tribute to the greatest space saga of our, or any, generation – STAR WARS!
First was – Cultural Junkdrawer – Who the %$#@ is Kylo Ren
Second was – Adult Continuity – Star Wars XXX
Now we got…
Kieron Gillen – Writer
Salvador Larroca – Artist
Edgar Delgado – Colorist
Darth Vader is a bad-ass.
I know this isn’t any blinding revelation, but, it seems, that the Lucasfilm powers that be felt the need to utilize its vast, multi-platform resources to reiterate this fact.
Let’s be honest; we probably needed to be reminded. A whole generation has come up with milquetoast Vader; a whiney, sullen Anakin Skywalker for most of three movies ending in the unintentionally hysterical/slap in the face of Darth Vader going “Nooooooooooooooooo!” Which embodies, even more than Jar Jar, what was wrong with the prequels. I understand that Lucas was trying to frame him as a tragic figure but using nothing but a visual cue from “Frankenstein” to transmit that was a bad idea… On top of a slew of bad ideas.
Gone was the Sith lord who casually snaps a helpless rebel’s neck cause he was ticked off. The terrifying, ominous and powerful presence of Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader seems blunted with time and forced context. Even the thrilling moment of Vader’s redemption in Return of the Jedi was diminished by tinkering (with George cutting in that same “Nooooooooooooo!” as Vader grabs the Emperor. Giving Lucas one last middle finger to his fans and their expectations.)
We needed to be reminded that this cat is one of the most feared figures in the galaxy. Boba Fett answers to HIM! Luke had daddy issues over Darth Vader even before he knew he was his father! Imperial Admirals, Generals and human resources lived in fear of his reprisals! Vader was, nay… IS one of the most iconic villains in movie history!
It was high time we were reminded that Darth Vader was the leading figure of menace for my age group (apart from Tony Danza, of course) and why he got that status in the first place. Fortunately that’s been happening from the Disney/Lucasfilm corporate juggernaut…
Movies: Obviously Kylo Ren is fanboy #1 rocking the ultimate collector’s item…
The whole “finish what you started” line which seems to be, to Ren’s reckoning, more Death Star type galactic destruction and not a complete set of Pokémon – Kaiburr crystal cards.
Television: Star Wars: Rebels did a great 2nd season opener/teaser where Vader single handedly kicks the crap outta a whole rebel fleet and makes the crew of the Ghost understand that they are no longer sitting at the kiddy table.
Comics: Vader Down – a Darth Vader centric “event” story told across a few of the Marvel Star Wars titles which opens with Vader, once again, kicking the living crap outta a whole rebel fighter squadron while searching for the pilot who killed the Death Star.
Darth Vader #12, which I chose semi-randomly out of my comic shop’s back issue bin, leads into the events of Vader Down. The issue does an excellent job of not only reinforcing the “Vader is a bad-ass” mission statement but shows a side of Vader’s life that requires not the menace, force choking the shit outta people that annoy him, and outright fear generation that he’s best known for. Vader also has to cunningly navigate a viper’s pit of political back-stabbing and the daunting task of resource management while trying to complete his objectives. On paper that may sound dangerously close to “trade federation negotiations…” but in Gillen’s capable writing it is what it should be; a fascinating story of an apex predator among lesser but still dangerous predators circling the same prize while warily eyeing one another.
Vader is on the hunt for a rebel squadron known as “The Plasma Devils” which is a damn cool name. Like a hockey team from the sun. Although this isn’t, strictly speaking, his assignment. He has been tasked with chasing down a thief who stole imperial credits. Boring stuff for the Sith lord but the thief and Plasma Devils location dovetail nicely into each other.
He also is keen to find the “strong in the force” pilot the made that one in a million shot. Primarily because he would like to kill or turn the pilot but also because there are opposing forces in-house; a set of twins and a cyborg Mon Calamari who’s assignment include finding that pilot first. I haven’t been following this series but I’m running on the assumption that the pilot’s name (Skywalker, duh) isn’t known to any of team Empire, yet. Marvel had a similar plot thread way back when they had the original license in the 70’s before any of us (including Marvel) knew how significant that name would be to Vader. It’s a great card to play in context of everything that’s known now. Imagining Vader’s reaction when he gets wind of a Skywalker knocking around! It would be epic and could spin off a great story of Vader trying to hide that info from the Emperor. At the moment, though, it’s a Sith thing and a middle finger to the other imperials Vader is being set against.
The issue opens with Vader and a Capt. Thanoth about to flush out a data pirate named Aphra who stole a bunch of Imperial cheddah and also has the 20 on that rebel pilot. A two for one for Vader. But the attempt to capture the thief distracts Vader and co. from netting the Plasma Devils, which would give Vader a hat trick… or helmet trick in Vader’s case. Vader abandons the thief to prevent the Plasma Devil’s escape. He risks pissing off Supreme General Tagge (his current boss) in the process. But, he figures, it’s worth it.
Vader has Thanoth bomb the Devil’s base flushing them out and right into a well-timed light saber attack. Taking out a star fighter squadron in a single custom T.I.E. fighter is bad-ass but taking out a whole squadron by flinging your laser stick is another level entirely. Vader > Bad-ass.
Technically the job of wiping out the Plasma Devils fell to the twins under Tagge’s command so Vader robbed them of that victory, points to Vader.
The maneuvering plays out like a finely tuned episode of an HBO crime drama. Just the verbal dust up post Plasma Devils between the Imperial factions is loaded with barbs and feints. Everybody is trying to one-up each other while Vader just brushes off the whole pissing contest. Vader even flips the fact that the thief he was tasked to capture got away and shields Thanoth from punishment. It’s a side of Vader we never got in the movies. Sure we heard a lot about Anakin’s political acumen but, as with most everything in the prequels we’re never shown. Gillen and Larroca, in one illustrated scene, accomplishes what Lucas couldn’t do with a world of green screens and two movies.
And to top it all off Vader knew where the thief was going to end up! It seems Aphra wants to work for Vader as his go-to information source/analysist. This is a smart move on Aphra’s part because 1 – Vader will keep her busy and well paid and 2 – Vader won’t kill her. She gives the location of Luke as soon as Vader’s shadow falls on her. She’s damn scared, that much is obvious. Again, demonstrating through character, what a freaking bad-ass Lord Vader is.
Vader takes off to find Luke and straight into the Vader Down event while Karbin, the cyborg Calamari reveals that it is a trap he’s laid for the Sith lord. Karbin, apparently, hasn’t really paid attention to the Vader > Bad-ass equation. Bad news for him.
Random thoughts somewhat pertaining to the book but I couldn’t work in organically in the main review…
Could you imagine being human resources with Darth Vader on your beat?
Mercifully the twins aren’t named Romulus and Remus or Castor and Pollux.
Other plot things similar to the first time Marvel had the Star Wars license: Tagge vs Vader. One story arc had the brother of General Tagge train with a lightsaber with the endgame of Killing Vader. Didn’t go so well for him. A great story pitting Vader against Leia for an X-Wing fighter loan on a banking planet. Vader won that one by stealing her collateral; the crown jewels of Alderann. Vader and a bounty hunter in a race to capture a rebel deserter that knew Luke’s name.
Obviously things flipped as far as pecking order by the time Vader force choked Tagge on the Death Star.
Vader slices apart a Y-wing by flinging his light saber, didn’t break a sweat. Bad-ass!
Of course by now you’ve all heard the theory that Jar Jar was a Sith lord? Even if true the prequels still suck!
Are Mon Calamari supposed to be squids or salmon? I’ve heard it both ways but having dined at almost as many Italian restaurants as Billy Joel I know what Calamari is. My vote Squid.
It’s implied that Aphra sought out employment from Vader; her theft of the credits and tracking down Luke as a kind of audition. I can’t imagine Vader is a good boss… I mean death would probably be the result of getting skim milk instead of full in his latte… maybe he offers dental.
NEXT: I also picked up a Star Wars Legacy comic maybe as a super special bonus I’ll do that before the end of the month.
Later: Got that Spawn waiting patiently.