Star Wars: Age of Rebellion – Darth Vader #1 Review

by Dennis Keithly

Darth Vader learns the nuances of loyalty to the Emperor and the Sith in Star Wars: Age of Rebellion – Darth Vader #1.

Warning: This article contains plot points for Star Wars: Age of Rebellion – Darth Vader #1.

Age of Rebellion - Darth Vader #1 Cover

Age of Rebellion: Darth Vader #1

Story: Greg Pak | Art: Ramón Bachs | Color: Stéphane Paitreau | Lettering: VC’s Travis Lanham | Cover Artists: Terry and Rachel Dodson | Production Designer: Anthony Gambino | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia

Marvel has no shortage of comics featuring Darth Vader. Dennis Hallum’s Dark Visions series recently concluded. Kieron Gillen wrote an expansive story about Vader’s days in the Empire after the destruction of Death Star I. Vader isn’t necessarily an easy character to write, but Charles Soule probably did it best with his exploration of Vader’s earliest days following the events of Revenge of the Sith. It is undeniable that Vader has as much, if not more, appeal than any villain in science fiction and fantasy. His fall from the light, his presence, and iconic look have captivated legions of fans. Readers are hungry for more about him. In Age of Rebellion: Darth Vader #1, Greg Pak revisits Vader’s earliest days in Palpatine’s new Empire as Vader learns how to navigate the politics of a new age.

Vader's Fighter

Second to Sidious

Darth Vader knows his place in the Empire. He is second only to Emperor Palpatine himself. Therefore, it isn’t really any surprise in Darth Vader #1 when he disobeys a local governor and destroys a Rebel base and their stores of coaxium. After all, who is this governor to him? Naturally, like any good bureaucrat, Governor Ahr complains to Vader’s superior: Emperor Palpatine.

Palpatine takes a moment in Darth Vader #1 to remind Vader where he stands. First, none outside of the Emperor outrank Vader. Second, the Emperor has a need of bureaucrats. They help him run his Empire. Therefore, Vader will serve the Emperor by following Governor Ahr’s every order.

The Emperor’s command isn’t as simple as that though. As the Emperor commends Vader for kneeling before him, he also commends him for his hatred of subservience to anyone whether it was Watto as a child, the Jedi Council as an adult, or the Emperor now. That hatred and ambition is what drives the Sith.

To The Letter

The Emperor’s specific instructions to Vader were to obey Governor Ahr’s orders “to the letter until you have learned your lesson.” Vader obviously picked up on the qualifier at the end: “until you have learned your lesson.” Governor Ahr wasn’t quite so observant. Ahr relishes in the new authority that the Emperor has bestowed upon him. He spends the rest of his time in Darth Vader #1 making life for Vader difficult. Ahr is a bit drunk with power and leaves Vader out to dry by putting him up against overwhelming droid forces without any support on one occasion. On another, he withdraws all of Vader’s support against a Rebel stronghold. He hides behind the authority he believes the Emperor granted him.

However, Ahr forgot about the Emperor’s qualifier. Vader was only to obey Ahr “to the letter” until Vader “learned his lesson.” After suffering several indignities at the whim of Ahr, Vader finally learns the lesson. When Ahr sends Vader into an asteroid field on a solo mission, he casually orders Vader to “destroy the greatest threat you find.” There is a lot of grey area there. Ahr should have been more precise with his orders.

Having received this order, Vader pulls an abrupt U-turn. Ahr clearly anticipated Vader would find the giant crab monster lurking on an asteroid and engage it in battle. Likely, Ahr hoped Vader would die in combat or take a beating. Things didn’t go as Ahr planned. Vader finally learned his lesson and returned to Ahr’s ship. He identified the greatest threat in the asteroid field: Ahr. He obeyed Ahr to the letter as well, and he lead the monster right to the Governor, which finished the bureaucrat off. The Emperor was pleased.

Governor Ahr

The Lesson

So, what exactly was the lesson the Emperor wanted Vader to learn in Darth Vader #1? It is not unlike the lesson that Vader needed to learn in Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader series when the Emperor placed Grand General Tagge in charge of Vader. The Dark Lord had a lesson to learn there as well, and once he did, he reclaimed his rightful place in the Imperial hierarchy. In this case, Vader needed to learn that the Empire can’t function with the Sith alone. As the Emperor stated, it needed its bureaucrats and their knowledge of the local area.

Although Vader was devoted to the Emperor and his Empire, he also ran over anything that got in his way regardless of the cost. The Emperor reminded Vader in Charles Soule’s series that he couldn’t rule an Empire of dead things. That is a lesson that needs refreshing from time-to-time. While Ahr might have had valuable knowledge of the local area, he abused the power that the Emperor invested in him. He became the greatest threat in the asteroid field.

Vader learned his lesson well. There was value to the knowledge and service of the officers in the Empire, but those officers could be a liability. When Ahr outlived his usefulness, Vader eliminated him rather than let his clumsiness become a threat. This is a lesson Vader would apply time and again in the future (see Admiral Ozzel).

Final Thoughts on Darth Vader #1

Greg Pak’s Age of Rebellion series ended on a high note. Darth Vader #1 joins other excellent issues in this series, such as Jabba the Hutt #1 and Luke Skywalker #1. Pak did an excellent job matching the themes of both Gillen and Soule’s work while creating a story that was all his own. The art by Ramón Bachs compliments their work as well. As an anthology series, Age of Rebellion contributed a lot in a little space for each of the characters highlighted. Perhaps the best thing about Darth Vader #1 was that it was a perfect Sith lesson. Vader understood Sidious and what his instructions meant. He followed his orders well, and in the end, Vader got his revenge.

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