– Spoiler Review –
The Darth Vader series’ second arc, “Shadows and Secrets,” comes to a satisfying conclusion in issue #12, all the while setting the stage for the first crossover event of the new canon comics (between the DV and Star Wars series): “Vader Down.”
All of us Aphra fans out there can take a big sigh of relief. One of the best new additions to Star Wars in general (not just the comics) lives to fight for and serve Vader another day. First, knowing Aphra has Luke’s location, Vader manages to redirect Thanoth’s obsession over closing the case on the credit thievery by reminding the inspector that they can’t let the Plasma Devils find a new hiding spot. Then, after she makes her case for her usefulness, which not even Vader can deny, Vader decides to let her live…as long as her usefulness continues. While Aphra has known for a while that she’s been on the razor’s edge with Vader (she jokes, “You know, one of these days, I hope we’re going to get past this is-he-going-to-murder-me-this-time stage of our relationship”), this is the first time we’ve really seen a crack in her tough persona around him, as the realization she’ll probably die after she shares the info she withheld from Vader in #11 about Luke’s whereabouts takes hold. But she’s back to her old self by the issue’s end, her life safe for now, and her morally ambiguous and wholly interesting character survives. How will she (and how long can she) continue to prove her worthiness? By saving Vader in the upcoming “Vader Down” crossover event? Whatever the answer, hopefully she’ll live on even after Vader finds her useless.
Vader’s attack on the Plasma Devils, while short, was nothing short of spectacular. While we only got to see him destroy one Y-wing, the fact that he did it only with his lightsaber was stunning enough (thanks to Larroca’s art) to make missing out on the rest of Vader’s attack totally alright. It turns out the Plasma Devils were a Rebel cell striking where it thought it could hurt the Empire, but ultimately it was unable to withstand the might of Vader’s fury. But the Devils were actually the Astarte twin’s mission assigned to them by Grand General Tagge, both of which we see again after a prolonged absence. The twins are obviously angry and while Tagge is unhappy the thief got away, he agrees with Vader’s actions. I was a little disappointed Vader didn’t manage to kill one of his rivals already, but he’s been so busy with hunting his own agent while being under the ever watchful eye of Inspector Thanoth, it’s not a complete surprise. However, that’s looking to change soon.
I’ve been operating under the assumption Thanoth knew about Vader and Aphra, as in #10 it’s revealed someone’s probe droid was listening in the Dark Lord’s conversation with his hidden agent. But from Thanoth’s actions, demeanor, and words in #12, it seems he wasn’t the one who was spying in the conversation. At the issue’s end, it’s revealed Karbin planted the information regarding Luke’s whereabouts on Vrogas Vas and is hoping to prevent Vader from hijacking his mission as well as accomplishing it at the same time. It’s not entirely clear if the probe droid was Karbin’s, but it seems like a safe bet at this point if Thanoth didn’t play that hand at all. Instead Karbin, as an ex-General (and modeled after General Grievous), uses his military mind to orchestrate a collision between a sizable portion of the Rebellion and a completely alone Vader i.e. “Vader Down.” While Vader threatens to finally kill Aphra if the Vrogas Vas lead is misinformation, neither of them are quite ready for a set-up of the magnitude that Karbin has created. With movie characters colliding with new comic characters, will our new characters survive through “Vader Down?”
What I can’t forget to mention is how well this second arc has dealt with a Vader who has just learned he has a son. For over 20 years he’s been convinced that not only did he kill Padmé (who he, for the most part, considers a traitor) but that he also killed their unborn child (it’ll be too late for him to learn about his daughter, though). How does Vader react to that and how does he get to the point in The Empire Strikes Back where he is obsessively tracking Luke down? First, Vader decides to ascertain the truth: did he actually kill Padmé or did she live long enough to have a child? Thanks to Aphra’s visit to the Naboo mortician, Vader learns what he already knows as the truth to be exactly that. Next, Luke’s location, which is where we end #12. Knowing the Emperor lied to him, something Vader has seen first hand over the years including Cylo’s menagerie of replacements, has changed Vader’s priorities. And while it’s clear he wants to devote all his time to finding Luke, to bring his son to his side, it’s obvious why he doesn’t get to start on the obsession in full until closer to TESB, as he has Grand General Tagge and Cylo’s replacements to contend with, along with gaining back the Emperor’s trust (if only to use it against Palpatine at the appropriate time). I was surprised Vader took such a level-headed approach to gaining the facts, but now that he knows the truth, his obsessive nature is beginning to slip in the cracks in his search for his son. Well-handled Kieron Gillen, well-handled.
Here are a few other things:
- At the end of the issue, Marvel included a handy guide to follow the “Vader Down” crossover series (as you can see in the picture). I’ll be making sure to tag upcoming reviews with “Vader Down” as well as include which part a particular comic plays in the series in the review’s title.
- Just as I was surprised this arc didn’t end with the death of at least one of Vader’s rivals, I’m even more surprised he lets Thanoth live as well. No one was seemingly more of a pain in his suit’s rear than wily old Thanoth, but it seems Vader is not without respect for those with bright minds.
- The Triple Zero and Beetee humor is used to full effect within #12, like their banter with one another about the ways Vader could kill Aphra. But the best moment came with Triple Zero, who interjects after Aphra breathes a sigh of relief that the Empire abandons their chase of her: Aphra: “I’m going to live.” Triple Zero: “For now, Mistress Aphra.” I laughed really hard at that, especially Aphra’s facial reaction.
- The Plasma Devil’s Rebel group mentions an evacuation plan called Kay-One-Zero. In the novel Battlefront: Twilight Company, the same plan was used by the Rebels at Hoth when the Empire won the battle, a plan which is essentially: take only what you don’t want the enemy to have.
- Someone playing as Vader in the Star Wars Battlefront Open Beta managed to take down a snowspeeder with just the Dark Lord’s saber, but it’s nice to see that’s possible in canon too!
- Salvador Larroca’s art has been to die for in the series and I look forward to what he can do with the all the new characters he’ll get to draw in “Vader Down.” As much as I’ve been enjoying his art, again his stormtroopers come off a little too weird for my taste. You’ll know what I’m talking about on the first page.
While not as emotional as the series’ first arc’s finale, which found Vader learning he has a son, this second act has done a magnificent job showing the fallout out of such a revelation on the Dark Lord. Darth Vader #12 gave Aphra a new lease on life and set up the events of the upcoming crossover event without ever compromising its story.
+ Aphra’s continued existence
+ Vader getting his groove back
+ Satisfying conclusion to arc
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets: #7 | #8 | #9 | #10 | #11 | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25)
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25) | Annual: #1
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Poe Dameron (on-going)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)