Or, the machinations of a mechanized Sith Lord…
Spoiler Alert: This article discusses plot details of the first two issues of Marvel’s Darth Vader series.
Darth Vader #2
Writer: Kieron Gillen / Artist: Salvador Larroca / Colorist: Edgard Delgado / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga / Cover Artist: Adi Granov
The machinations of the Sith remind me of a quote from Game of Thrones: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” Darth Vader teaches us that when you vie for power with a Sith, you must be a least two steps ahead…
Darth Vader #2 opens with Darth Vader at the controls of his famous TIE-Advanced. He stages a dramatic rescue of an Imperial shuttle from a corvette cruiser robotically controlled by pirates. Vader thwarts the destruction of the shuttle at the last possible second and implores the crew to “have faith.” For a brief moment, Vader’s line brings back memories of the heroic Anakin Skywalker from The Clone Wars. These panels are juxtaposed with images of Vader coolly remarking on the efficiency of the automated corvette as his wingmen are destroyed in space. The heroic Anakin is gone. Only the ruthlessly efficient Vader remains.
Having disabled the corvette, Vader returns to the Imperial Star Destroyer Annihilator (I’ve always loved how the Empire names its capital ships) to report to his new commanding officer, Grand General Tagge. The power struggle with Tagge and Vader’s demotion from issue one are the crux of this issue.
As Vader reports on his mission, Tagge relishes his role as commander of the fleet and his position in the Empire, where he is apparently only second to the Emperor. He sharply rebukes Vader and reminds him that Tagge is now the Grand General. He cannot resist chiding Vader about his part in the “Tarkin’s Folly” that was the Death Star and gloats that his plans “actually work.” Tagge further laments the wasted resources that went into the Death Star could have been better spent creating a stronger, galaxy-wide fleet of Super Star Destroyers. However, in Vader’s eyes, Tagge’s two most egregious acts must have been 1) comparing Vader to an old lightsaber—a relic from a past time that must be wielded by a skilled hand—in this case, Tagge, and 2) assigning a lowly lieutenant, Oon-ai, to look over Vader’s shoulder and report back directly to the Grand General himself. In other words, Tagge attempted to further humble and humiliate the Dark Lord by calling him an out dated instrument inferior to an Imperial lieutenant.
Perhaps this wasn’t the best choice for an opening move in their “Game of Thrones.” Undoubtedly, Tagge’s sought to put Vader in his place and claim Tarkin’s vacated position in the triumvirate with Emperor Palpatine. Tagge also suffered from the same weakness as Palpatine—overconfidence. He invests everything in his support from the Emperor. Tagge further blunders in his attempt to achieve through humiliation and grand standing what Tarkin achieved through decisive and brutal action: influence over Vader and the Dark Lord’s respect. Given Vader’s ruthless reputation, his reaction to Tagge was surprising to say the least. Vader just took it. Or so it seemed. It turns out the Vader is a more cunning and worthy Sith than Palpatine thought.
Tagge tasks Vader with repairing the corvette and using it to trace the pirates that attacked the Imperial shuttle back to their home base. During the preparation for the mission, Oon-ai, somewhat fearfully, demands access to Vader’s communications. Vader’s response sets up his larger game. Vader does as Oon-ai requests only because that is the Emperor’s will. Vader reserves respect only for the Sith master.
Vader, his squadron of stormtroopers, and Oon-ai arrive at the pirate star base in Trojan horse style onboard the captured corvette. Surprised by the Imperials, the pirates dispatch droidekas that tear through the stormtroopers. Vader, seemingly oblivious to the peril around him, dispatches his own droid to complete a personal mission on the base. In the end, Vader defeats the droidekas and the pirates and then commands that the boarding party return to the ship, but not before Vader and Oon-ai complete Vader’s unnamed, personal mission. Oon-ai, who has been in over his head the entire time, accompanies Vader as he appears to extract some information from a terminal with which his droid had just completed an uplink.
A brief side note: during the battle on the pirate’s base, one of the pirates mentions that the droidekas were supplied by someone named “Aphra.” Aphra will be making her debut in the issue three of Darth Vader next month, but readers can catch a glimpse of her on the final page of issue two that teases issue three. Aphra appears to be a smuggler of sorts and is accompanied, at least in this picture, by her own protocol and astromech droid. I’m anxious to see if any of the events from this comic lead to her introduction in the next issue.
Vader returns to the Annihilator and commends Tagge on the success of the plan. The congratulations are quickly ended by Vader’s presentation of Oon-ai’s body and accusations that Oon-ai had been leaking information to the pirates all along. Shortly thereafter, Vader confirms with his mysterious droid that all evidence that the droid had uploaded information concerning Oon-ai’s involvement with the pirates to the base had been purged from the droid’s memory. Vader then orders the droid to jettison itself into space where it explodes along with all evidence of Vader’s scheme.
I was not initially impressed with this issue. However, after reviewing issue one, and thinking of this issue as the continuation of that story, my reaction changed. The Emperor had previously chastised Vader for being no more than a blunt instrument that must be controlled. Furthermore, the Emperor openly questioned Vader’s fitness to be a Sith after Vader meekly asked what purpose the Emperor’s new agent served. Assigning Vader as a subordinate of Tagge was the final humiliation. Instead of merely acting as a “blunt instrument” in response to both the Emperor and Tagge, Vader performed as a true Sith would.
Through guile and planning, Vader set plots and schemes in motion to undermine Tagge and reclaim his lost prestige with Palpatine. In issue one, we saw Vader commence the search for the Rebel pilot that destroyed the Death Star and for the insight into the Emperor’s plans with the mysterious agent. In this issue, Vader played politics with Tagge complete with his own secret maneuvers. He completed his assigned mission, but he let Tagge know he wasn’t someone to be trifled with along the way. I suspect Tagge knows that Vader framed Oon-ai, but Tagge cannot prove it. All the evidence just got sucked out via the vacuum of space. Vader just sent a message to Tagge and his entire support staff: interfere with the Dark Lord at your own risk. Whether this raised Palpatine’s esteem for Vader remains to be seen, but Vader won the opening round with Tagge in their little “Game of Thrones.” Tagge must recover quickly; Vader is not taking his demotion to the third tier of the new triumvirate lightly.
Upcoming Star Wars Comic Releases:
- March 4–Princess Leia #1
- March 11–Star Wars #3
- March 18–Princess Leia #2
- March 25–Darth Vader #3
- April 1–Kanan: The Last Padawan #1
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.