Valance’s history and drive becomes center story as Star Wars: Target Vader #5 examines the soldier that gave everything for the Empire.
Warning: This article contains plot points for Star Wars: Target Vader #5.
Star Wars: Target Vader #5
Writer: Robbie Thompson | Artist: Chris Bolson, Roberto Di Salvo, Marco Failla | Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover Artist: Nic Klein | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia
In Target Vader #4, readers learned that Beilert Valance’s crew all had personal reasons for hunting Darth Vader that extended beyond personal greed. That is all, everyone had a reason except Dengar, who betrayed Valance and his team to Vader and the Empire for crates full of credits. As Target Vader #5 begins, Valance finds himself in Imperial custody, and his past comes into sharper focus as his own personal vendetta against the Empire is explored. Will the cyborg escape from the clutches and Vader and the Empire? Darth Vader has plans for a man not so different than himself.
Beyond a Grunt
Veteran readers of Star Wars comics likely remember Valance’s appearance in the Solo: Imperial Cadet series. It has been referenced in previous reviews of issues of Target Vader. At the end of the series, Valance has lost his position as an Imperial pilot after suffering grievous wounds when his fighter was shot down. When Han Solo and his squad mates rescued him, Valance had cybernetic implants grafted onto his body, and he was reassigned to the infantry. Until now, Valance’s history was left at that.
Target Vader #5 creates a more sympathetic history for Valance. In Imperial Cadet, Valance was the thoughtless bully. He was eager to serve the Empire and equally eager to demonstrate his superiority over his fellow cadets, especially Han Solo. Even when he received his horrific injuries, he used his own funds to pay for some of the cybernetic implants to return to service. However, there is more to his past.
Target Vader #5 reveals Valance is from the planet Chorin. Like many protagonists in Star Wars, he came from humble beginnings. His planet was a mining community. He left the family business behind to join the Empire and fight for a better galaxy. A would be girlfriend, Yura, gave him a token to remember them bye. Valance had something to fight for.
Valance’s loyalty and service was for naught. After receiving his initial wounds on Qhulosk (see Imperial Cadet #4), Valance was fitted for cybernetics and returned to service as a stormtrooper. Later, somewhere in the midrim, he suffered even more grievous wounds. He became as much a machine as Darth Vader. Yurib Nakan, the former flight instructor at the academy, advocated for additional resources from the Empire to heal him. Then, they discharged Valance against his wishes.
Upon returning home, Valance learned all his sacrifice was for nothing. His father and many of the people of his village are dead. Once the Empire took everything they wanted from the mines, they abandoned Chorin. This left the people as easy prey for the raiders (reflecting themes from Doctor Aphra). So, despite Valance’s sacrifice of so much of himself, literally and figuratively, the Empire betrayed him yet again.
Target Vader #5 then reveals that the Hidden Hand was born of the Empire’s betrayal. However, this issue is a little vague by what is meant by that. Valance explains to Vader, as they visit the planet, that he kept doing what he always does, and that is to “keep moving.” After he and Vader failed to protect Valance, “something was born on this mountain…the Hidden Hand.” It is unclear whether he meant Valance had a role in the formation of the Hidden Hand or the Chorin people did. Considering the Hidden Hand is a syndicate of weapons dealers, this seems a little odd at the moment.
Back in Service
Darth Vader isn’t done with Valance yet. First, Vader reminds Valance that what remains of his people on Chorin are still safe…for now. The implication is that won’t always be the case, so Valance should do whatever it is that Vader requires of him or his people will pay the penalty. Vader then welcomes Valance back to the Empire.
Although unspoken, Valance’s mission seems clear: help Vader root out the Hidden Hand and possibly factions of the Empire. Target Vader #5 ends with Vader paying a visit to a Rebel comm center on Lowik. Valance finds Gita, the operative who disguised herself as Urrr’k, and another Rebel debating where they might find more weapons since the Hidden Hand has gone silent. It is then that Valance makes his dramatic entrance. The Rebels need weapons, and he needs the Hidden Hand. Working together, they can both get what they want. Just like Dengar was the mole in Valance’s team, Valance now becomes the mole in the Rebellion looking for Hidden Hand.
Final Thoughts on Target Vader #5
Target Vader #5 is a great study of Valance. Just like Darth Vader, he is more machine now than man. Valance even says so himself. His reasons for hunting Vader on his own are laid clear. Plus, there is an opportunity to juxtapose the two cyborgs. Whereas Vader unleashes his hatred towards the galaxy at large, a galaxy that is now devoid of the only thing he truly wanted — his wife Padmé, Valance redirects his anger over betrayal back at those that betrayed him — Vader and the Empire. They are both fueled by anger and hate.
Robbie Thompson continues to write a fantastic story with Target Vader. His dialogue is effective and efficient. The action works as a Star Wars story. Valance has evolved from a bully in Solo: Imperial Cadet to a rich character with a compelling backstory in Target Vader. The story has shifted from a scheme to hunt down Vader and collect a bounty to a story of survival and revenge. Gone are all of Valance’s bounty hunter allies. Gita is around, but she was never really a bounty hunter to begin with. Dengar took his bounty and got out of town. Now, Valance occupies more of the spotlight. It is up to him how this story ends. This is the penultimate issue of the series, and everything sets up well for an explosive conclusion.
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.