This first issue of this new series is impressive…most impressive!
Spoiler Alert! This article discusses plot details of issue #1 of Marvel’s new Darth Vader series and contains minor to major spoilers.
Darth Vader #1
Writer: Keiron Gillen / Artist: Slavador Larroca / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga / Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Like the core series, Darth Vader starts with the “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” panel, the “Star Wars” title panel, and the opening crawl. However, the crawl is written from a very pro-Imperial viewpoint. The Death Star is described as “the ultimate peacekeeping force.” The manner in which the Imperial government is described is the “rightful reign” instead of the “Evil Galactic Empire.”
This issue ties in directly to the story arc that started in Marvel’s main Star Wars title, although it appears to occur a little farther along in the chronology. Vader has returned to Coruscant from Cymoon 1 and is confronted with an outraged Emperor Palpatine, who holds Vader responsible for the destruction of the Death Star. The Emperor tasks Vader with concluding negotiations with Jabba the Hutt to acquire the resources the Empire needs. However, Vader makes the best of his situation by taking care of some personal business while on Tatooine.
There is a dark symmetry between the manner in which Vader arrives at Jabba’s palace and Luke’s arrival years later as portrayed in Return of the Jedi. Both confront Gamorrean guards and Jabba’s major domo, Bib Fortuna. Both resort to “aggressive negotiations,” as the Jedi like to say, when bartering with the crime lord. However, Vader employs far more brutal and lethal tactics. I can’t help but imagine Jabba harking back to this encounter when Luke strides into his audience chamber years later to negotiate the release of Captain Solo.
The Imperial hierarchy undergoes a surprising twist in this issue and dissension among the Sith is laid bare. Vader’s confrontation with the Emperor reveals the stress between the Lord of the Sith and his apprentice. In the absence of Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Motti, Darth Sidious holds Vader squarely responsible for the destruction of the Death Star at the hands of the Rebels. To Vader’s dismay, he is made subordinate to General Tagge, who had departed the Death Star prior to the Battle of Yavin. The Emperor praises Tagge’s wisdom in preaching against relying solely on the Death Star. Therefore, Tagge is elevated to a position of primacy. Vader also elects to omit his confrontation with a certain Rebel pilot on Cymoon 1 when reporting on his failure there. Furthermore, Vader’s suspicions as to Palpatine’s intentions are heightened when the Emperor dismisses Vader from a meeting in Palpatine’s office with a mysterious new agent.
Issue one of this series confirms the totality of the Emperor’s regime in the galaxy. However, the regime is on the precipice of disaster. Palpatine chastises Vader for allowing the destruction of the Death Star, because without it, the Empire no longer has a tool to maintain order in the galaxy. The term “order,” when used by Imperials, has become a euphemism for control and oppression. Prior to the creation of the battle station, the Empire had relied on the Galactic Senate. As we learned in A New Hope and confirmed in Darth Vader #1, the Emperor disbanded the Senate as an obsolete tool once the construction of the ultimate, technological terror was completed. While the Emperor may have established a dictatorship enforced by fear, his reaction confirms that the Empire itself fears insurrection.
The Rebellion is revealed to have placed a bounty on Darth Vader. Although stated in passing by Jabba, this was one of the more interesting developments of the entire story. The Rebellion has always been held up as the defenders of liberty and justice and opposed to tyranny and evil. And yet, they would resort to placing a bounty on such a public figure suggests that at least some members of the Rebellion have adopted an “ends justify the means” mentality. This series reflects more of an Imperial point of view, so the extent of the bounty and the identity of whomever placed it may have been exaggerated.
Much of what we already know about Darth Vader is reinforced in this issue. He effortlessly and lethally dispatches those bold enough to assault him. His reputation for motivating his subordinates through physical force and threats is reinforced here. Vader does not suffer fools gladly. I found Vader’s return to Tatooine intriguing. As depicted in the saga, so many of Vader’s formative moments, from winning the Boonta Eve Pod Race to avenging the death of his mother through the slaughter of Tusken Raiders, occurred there. Palpatine chides the sentimental nature of such a visit for Vader, and Vader’s past does provide motivation for a chilling conclusion to this issue.
This issue establishes plot lines that supplement the events from the first two issues of Star Wars. First, the Emperor meets with the aforementioned mysterious agent. Vader believes the Emperor is hiding something from him, and Vader does not appreciate not being let in on the secret. Second, Vader cannot let the identity of the rebel pilot that destroyed the Death Star go, and this obsession is compounded the recognition of Anakin’s old lightsaber in Luke’s possession in Star Wars #2. These matters prompted Vader’s personal business with Jabba at the beginning of the issue. As it turns out, Vader wanted access to Jabba’s best bounty hunters, including the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy: Boba Fett. Vader assigns Fett the task of tracking down the X-Wing pilot that left Tatooine with Obi-wan Kenobi and bringing him back alive. I cannot help but wonder if this plot line will culminate in the reason why Fett is prohibited from employing disintegrations when hunting Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back.
In addition to Fett, Vader has a mission for Fett’s associate, Black Krrsantan. A new character to the saga, Krrsantan is an enormous, gnarly looking Wookiee with black hair. A scar runs over his scalp and across his left eye. He lives up to the reputation of Wookiees everywhere by having a fondness for removing limbs. Vader assigns Krrsantan the job of bringing back Palpatine’s mysterious agent so that Vader might interrogate him. I find Krrsantan to be an interesting character. He works against the Wookiee stereotype of noble savage, loyal warrior, and protector. I’m excited to see what happens with this character, although I speculate that his days may be numbered as he is not one of the bounty hunters summoned to the bridge of Vader’s Star Destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back.
Overall, this was an outstanding first issue to the series. Marvel continues to deliver with its new comics set in the galaxy far, far away. The art and storytelling in this issue were first rate. Darth Vader does not strike me as an easy character to draw, but he was consistently drawn well here. Although many might consider it minor, I really loved a series of panels that portray Vader taking a look back at the Emperor as he departs the Imperial Palace. It was a subtle thing, but so well done. Marvel has provided intriguing new plots to follow that admirably supplement the ongoing story in the core Star Wars title.
Fortunately, we do not have long to wait before Darth Vader #2 is available. It is set for release on February 25, 2015. The new Princess Leia series debuts on March 4, and the core series resumes on March 11 with issue #3.
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.