Don’t insist on dancing with a Dark Lord of the Sith. Find out why not here.
Warning: this article contains spoilers for Darth Vader Annual #1.
Darth Vader Annual #1
Writer: Kieron Gillen | Pencils: Leinil Yu | Inks: Gerry Alanguilan | Colors: Jason Keith | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover Artist: Yu
With Marvel’s first Darth Vader Annual, the Dark Lord travels to Shu-torun, a new planet introduced to the saga with this comic, to deliver a gift and message to the planet’s rulers. Shu-torun is a monarchy, and the first appearance of the royal family reinforces this point. The King is sitting on his throne as he addresses his children, and they all look like they sprang from the pages of a Game of Thrones or Middle Earth story. In some ways, one could say they look somewhat Asgardian. The King counsels his heirs on their responsibilities, and counsels his youngest, Princess Trois, that her blood will serve their legacy in a unique way.
Vader then arrives on Shu-torun in his TIE Fighter Advanced. His arrival is depicted in a two-page spread that features the landscape of the planet. Shu-torun is reminiscent of Mustafar; it is covered in lava and is resource rich. Towering structures emerge from the lava and house the inhabitants of the planet. Where it differs from Mustafar is that while both planets appeared to be hellish wastelands, Shu-torun appears to favor its ruling class with opulent homes and towers. As we progress through the book, this ruling-business class are revealed to be “Ore-Dukes” that control the production of resources on the planet.
Early on, the art in this book makes frequent use of very large panels. Darth Vader’s arrival is heralded by the aforementioned two page spread. Vader then emerges from the cockpit of his TIE looking larger than life in a large, nearly full page panel. He has brought with him a gift for Shu-torun’s ruler, which he insists upon personally delivering. The gift bears resemblance to a Holocron, which is a nice touch for the comic that further grounds the story in the Star Wars galaxy. Vader has apparently arrived on Shu-torun to remind the king that it needs the ore from his planet to support an unnamed building project after the destruction of the first Death Star. Chances are the building project is the second Death Star, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to most fans of the franchise.
Vader is displeased that the king is not at the landing pad to great him. Instead, Princess Trios conveys that her father’s physical condition is not what it used to be. Therefore, Princess Trios was instructed to show Lord Vader to a ball thrown to showcase the culture of Shu-torun. The Princess defends Shu-torun’s courtly culture in protest to Vader’s remarks that the dancing and display are completely unnecessary. Regardless, Darth Vader is not impressed. As Vader enters the palace, Triple-Zero, the maniacal protocol droid, and BT-1 emerge from Vader’s ship. These droids were introduced in the pages of Darth Vader over the past year. This helps narrow the time frame for this book by adding some context.
One of the nobles insists that Lord Vader dance with his daughter. The thought of Vader engaging in a waltz is too amusing for words. The arrogance the noble displays is quite surprising and telling. Apparently, the Ore-Dukes are either unaware of the importance of Vader’s role with the Empire and his power, they are foolish in believing that a man such as Vader would bow to their presumed authority, or they are just stupid. Still, it is hard to understand what this young woman saw in Vader that created such an urgent need for her to dance with him. Of course, it is possible that this was something the Duke wanted to display his authority. Regardless, Vader repays the arrogance of the Duke by flinging him around with the Force, which in a dark way, was one of the best parts of the book.
A “Rebellion” attacks the palace and decries both the Empire and the King. The following sequence is slightly disappointing. Vader repels the attack of the Rebel forces with his lightsaber. That is what you would expect him to do, but the art is not impressive. He merely stands there for four panels deflecting blaster fire. There isn’t a single impressive pose or stance in any of those panels. What could have been a sequence that added urgency and excitement came off as largely lackluster. As for the “rebellion,” that description should not be confused with the Rebel Alliance, the traditional foe of the Empire. This rebellion appears to be more of a local matter aimed at the monarchy over their refusal to pay tithes to the Empire.
Although disguised as a Rebellion, the assassination attempt appears to have roots with the King. With the attack having failed to eliminate Vader, the King is preparing to sacrifice his daughter in an attempt to finish the job. This is when Triple Zero and BT-1 arrive in the King’s chambers posing as servant droids. When the assassination attempt on Vader fails, the droids go into action and assassinate the King and his court.
With the King dead, the Princess appears to be in a precarious position. However, Vader elevates Princess Trios ascends to become the ruler of Shu-Torun, and then presents the Empire’s gift to her. This is an excellent twist, and I will not spoil the nature of the gift here. Suffice to say, it is an excellent reminder of what happens to those that defy the will of the Emperor. Looking back, it was obvious this was Vader’s plan all along. He insisted on presenting the gift to Shu-Thorun’s “ruler,” not its “king.” Vader’s conversation with the now Queen Trios reveals that it was the Ore Dukes of Shu-Torun that caused the King to resist the Empire. They were not interested in paying their proper tithes. Vader has now established a new monarch with the promise of Imperial reprisals for those dukes that would resist the will of the Empire and not fulfill their obligations.
Despite a minor let down in some of the action sequences, this was a great story. For the moment, it is a self-contained story in the Star Wars universe, but the fall out of these events should resurface in later issues of Darth Vader. One of the things that become obvious from this issue, and the Star Wars annual, is that the writers do not need to rely on a multi-issue story arc in order to tell a good story. In fact, this story is probably better for its brevity. This is a recommended read.
When the king attempts to sacrifice his daughter, he floods the corridor Vader and Princess Trios are using to avoid assassins. Despite the Princess’s admonishment that there was no escape from the tunnel, Vader used his lightsaber to carve a makeshift raft from the corridor. He knocks out the Princess and uses his raft to float above the lava to safety. This was perhaps one of the most clever sequences in this book, and I have selected one of the panels for this week’s favorite panel.
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.