Target Vader #1 Review

by Dennis Keithly

A forgotten soldier joins the hunt for Darth Vader as the Dark Lord investigates a secret weapons cabal in Star Wars: Target Vader #1.

Warning: This article contains plot points for Star Wars: Target Vader #1.

Star Wars: Target Vader #1 Cover

Star Wars: Target Vader #1

Writer: Robbie Thompson | Artists: Marc Laming; Chris Bolson | Colorists: Neeraj Menon; Jordan Boyd; Andres Mossa; Federico Blee; Erick Arciniega | Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles | Cover Artist: Nic Klein | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia

Among the many things that Marvel’s current run on Star Wars comics has proven is the fact there is a near limitless number of stories that can be told about Darth Vader. Along those lines, Robbie Thompson brings us another story featuring the Dark Lord of the Sith. This time, Vader fills the role of the hunter and the hunted as investigates a mysterious smuggling ring. In addition, another character from the classic Marvel age returns to lead the hunt in Star Wars: Target Vader #1.

The Return of Valance

During the Han Solo: Imperial Cadet miniseries, current Star Wars comic readers were introduced to Beilert Valance. At the time, Valance was a model cadet in the Imperial Naval Academy. He bought into the Imperial doctrine and followed their every order. He served as a natural rival for Han Solo, who played loose with the rules and was more interested in getting out of the Empire and back to Corellia than anything.

An unfortunate thing happened though. During a mission, Valance was shot down. Eventually, Han and his squad mates rescued him after defying direct orders not to. The alternative was to let Valance die in an impending Imperial bombing raid. When Han and his friends recovered Valance, they found him with a missing limb and severe injuries to his face. Those injuries were treated with cybernetic implants. Han’s squad mates believed that wouldn’t interfere with a career as a stormtrooper for Valance though.

Target Vader #1 demonstrates that isn’t the case. Valance washed out of the Empire and became a bounty hunter. Furthermore, his life is chaotic. He is deep in debt, and he regularly infringes on the bounties of his fellow hunters, and several come looking for him. Target Vader #1 begins to reconcile the Valance of the current Star Wars canon with the character that appeared in Marvel’s classic comics.


The Classic Valance

Valance is another refugee of the Legends Star Wars universe. He originally debuted in Star Wars #16 in 1978. Then, as now, he had the appearance of a cyborg. Think the Terminator meets the classic Nick Fury. He also had a hatred of droids and would come into conflict with both Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader over a half-dozen issues of the classic comic.

As in the classic comics, the Valance of Target Vader #1 distrusts droids. When presented with a team, he quickly destroys the one droid member with an implanted weapon. Also as in the classic series, this Valance also is as a bounty hunter by profession.

Plots and Counterplots

Target Vader #1 revolves around the Hidden Hand. In numerous moments of exposition from Target Vader #1, it is revealed that the Hidden Hand smuggles weapons under the nose of the Empire and then sells them to the Rebellion. The Emperor has taken a personal interest and dispatched Darth Vader himself to eliminate this problem.

Vader wastes little time in spreading chaos and destruction as he hunts down individuals with ties to the Hidden Hand. This comes to the attention of the organization itself, and they quickly begin assembling their own response. The Hidden Hand’s solution is to assemble a team of bounty hunters to hunt down and destroy Darth Vader. Their prized recruit is Valance. Although initially reluctant, Valance relents when he hears the target of the Hidden Hand’s squad is Darth Vader.

The plot continues to thicken in Target Vader #1. Vader’s investigation into the Hidden Hand pauses just long enough for him to investigate a plot to murder him.


Final Thoughts on Target Vader #1

Target Vader starts with an intriguing first issue. Valance has appeal as a loner rogue that hates working with others with a passion. He gets away with his antisocial methods because he is successful. Valance very much seems like the type of character that hates the galaxy because of what happened to him, but that is only a first impression.

In addition, Target Vader #1 adds Dengar to the team Valance will be working with, and he and Valance don’t get along. The team also includes a Garmorrean, an apparent cultist from Jedha, and an Ardennian. The team seems like an intriguing blend of characters not unlike the bounty hunter team that appeared in the Darth Maul miniseries. Each member brings an unusual skill set and their own eccentricities to the team. One can’t imagine this team will survive a confrontation with Darth Vader, and therefore, the entertainment will likely come as the Dark Lord picks them apart.

Target Vader #1 portrays Darth Vader when he is at his best: ruthless, methodical, cold, and calculating. Thompson’s dialogue sounds like something James Earl Jones would say. Vader doesn’t spare anyone he encounters, and he punishes his adversaries with the Force and his lightsaber. There have been many great Marvel comics that feature Vader as he came to grips with his life with the Sith and his role in the Empire. However, Target Vader #1 portrays a confident Vader going about his business. It is dark, good fun.

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