Rollin’ with Vader has an expiration date.
Spoiler Alert: This article contains plot details for issue #4 of Darth Vader by Marvel Comics. A major spoiler has an additional warning preceding it.
Darth Vader #4
Writer: Keiron Gillen / Artist: Slavador Larroca / Colorist: Edgar Delgado / Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga / Cover Artist: Adi Granov
Darth Vader #4 continues the adventures of Vader and his new ally, Dr. Aphra, the droid archaeologist. As Aphra promised in the previous issue, she has taken Vader to Geonosis to begin assembling an army that is loyal to him alone. It just so happens that Aphra has a droid army in mind, and for that reason they are locating a droid factory under the control of the last surviving hive Queen on the planet. The story begins as Aphra, Vader, and their two new droids, BT-1 and Triple-Zero arrive on the dusty plains of Geonosis to begin their search.
There are many aspects of this comic that intrigued me. The first is that the Geonosians were exterminated in a mass sterilization bombing by the Empire. It may be that I’m behind in my knowledge of galactic events in the Star Wars universe, but I do not remember ever reading or hearing that this particular act of genocide had occurred. As detestable as it is, this move makes sense in the broader scope of the Star Wars saga. Emperor Palpatine took steps to eliminate the Separatists after the Clone Wars by sending the newly christened Darth Vader to Mustafar to destroy their leaders. Other expanded universe stories have made mention of the deactivation of the droid armies. It would be in character for Palpatine to order the elimination of the Geonosians in order to quell future resistance, destroy potential adversaries, and protect secrets that he doesn’t care to see the light of day.
The second intriguing aspect of this comic is Aphra’s character development. Aphra reveals to the reader that Geonosis has undergone some sort of mass sterilization. Apparently, this does not bother her in the least. This reaction would not be surprising coming from someone like Vader. Aphra’s character proves to be consistent with the character established in the previous issue. Instead of any empathy for the Geonosians, she wonders “what weapon they used” and notes that it would be nice to get hold of it.
Aphra’s character continues to develop. After she and Vader accomplish their goals on Geonosis, Aphra cuts straight to the point: she asks when Vader is going to kill her. Aphra expects to die. She acknowledges that Vader would be taking a risk to leave her alive, and pleads for a quick death by lightsaber. She accepts that Vader no longer needs her after they have acquired the means to create an army for him. Aphra does not mind dying because she would be “happy [her] blood’s doodling in the margins of a story worth telling.” This series has established her as a character with a history of chasing droid relics, but no real purpose. She seems to have found the purpose she “had been looking for all her life” in Vader and would rather die now than become insignificant again. She knows the time will come, and just wants a merciful death.
Despite Aphra’s pleas for a quick death, Vader elects to spare her, and tells her that she will live as long as she remains useful, which is the third intriguing aspect of this issue. Vader has no apparent use for Aphra now that she has fulfilled her purpose in helping him find an army. Yet, he chooses to keep her around for reasons only known to him. This issue raises possibilities. Perhaps there is something about Aphra that reminds him of Padme. He briefly reminisces to the moments before Anakin and Padme’s entrance to the arena from Attack of the Clones. Or, perhaps Vader seeks some sort of companionship. The only other beings sharing in his journey for redemption are droids and bounty hunters. Then again, Vader may have some other purpose for Aphra in mind that is only known to him.
As Aphra and Vader suspected, despite the Empire’s attempt to eradicate the Geonosians, they were not entirely successful. One sterile Queen remains. The droid factory that Aphra and Vader set out for is a surrogate womb for this Queen. No longer capable of laying eggs, she uses the factory to create new droid children. These children are battle droids modified to resemble Geonosians. In a way, Vader and Aphra commit further genocide on the Geonosians by stealing the factory from her.
The theft of the droid factory from the queen includes my favorite panel in this week’s comic. After Triple-Zero and BT-1 clear the Geonosian droids from the caves harboring the Queen, Vader leaps from a platform overlooking the Queen’s lair. This is the best panel in the book. Vader’s cape billows out behind him as his ignited saber is ready to dissect the droid factory from the Queen. Larroca and Delgado did an outstanding job illustrating and coloring this panel that spans the majority of the page. The theft of the droid factory leads to some additional excellent panels where a J-Type 327 Nubian starship, Queen Amidala’s ship from The Phantom Menace, makes a cameo as it stands at the ready to haul the factory away. Vader standing atop the factory as it is lifted out of the Queen’s lair is perhaps my second favorite panel of the issue.
MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD: After accepting the job from Vader in issue one of the series, Krrsantan returns with the Imperial Agent in his clutches. The agent resists interrogation until Triple-Zero is set to torturing him. The Agent’s name is revealed as Dr. Cylo-IV, and he does not survive Triple-Zero’s interrogation techniques. It turns out the deceased doctor was tasked with creating rivals to challenge and replace Vader on behalf of the Emperor. Upon hearing the news, Vader immediately sets off to Dr. Cylo-IV’s base, which is the setting for the next issue based on the final page tease.
I was slightly disappointed that this issue did not feature Vader attempting to evade or confront Imperial overseers on Geonosis. Aphra noted at the end of issue three that Geonosis was under the oversight of the Imperials, and that they would have to deal with that upon their arrival. I had assumed some sort of a confrontation was inevitable and that Vader would either use the Force to conceal himself and Aphra, or he would simply dispose of any interfering Imperials. Whether he had to and whether he did or not is not portrayed in this book. I suppose that Vader disposing of expendable stormtroopers has been adequately portrayed throughout Marvel’s Star Wars titles at thus far and would have been an unnecessary and redundant addition to this issue.
Overall, I was pleased with this issue. It took two readings to truly appreciate it. Most of the book comes off as an issue necessary to transition the story into the next phase, but it does establish important aspects of Aphra’s character. If this series continues to tell the story of Vader’s redemption, then this story will truly be an important part of the Star Wars canon unlike the recent novels, which have told stories that are interesting, but not necessarily essential to the legacy of the Saga.
- April 22, 2015–Star Wars #4
- April 29, 2015—Princess Leia #3
- May 6, 2015–Kanan: The Last Padawan #2
- May 13, 2015–Darth Vader #5
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.