– Spoiler Review –
After Darth Vader’s deadly show of force and Force prowess in the crossover event, Vader Down, he’s back in his own comic series with a new arc, “The Shu-Torun War.” Darth Vader #16 brings back the thinking man’s Vader the series has been so well known (and loved) for, while setting him up for a crash course with his biggest and most threatening rivals yet.
Issue #16 actually ties into the events of the series’ Annual #1, which was Vader’s first visit to Shu-Torun and is described in this issue’s opening crawl. Set before Vader Down‘s events, Vader arrives to the ore rich planet to persuade the ruling King to keep loyal to the Empire, but the King is so hell-bent on killing Vader he asks his youngest daughter Trios to sacrifice herself to achieve their goal. The Sith Lord is two steps ahead of course, as he sent Beetee and Triple-Zero in to assassinate the King and his other family members. In the end, Vader saves Trios and installs her as Queen, but leaves her a chunk of Alderaan as a reminder about what it means to cross the Empire. While she’s seemingly understood his message and has kept herself aligned with the Empire, the other barons aren’t afraid of the Empire and rebel anyways, which is what brings Vader and a few of his ‘friends’ to Shu-Torun again.
As Vader Down wrapped up, it was revealed Commander Karbin was the one behind the scenes manipulating the events which transpired within the arc. Vader confronted and killed Karbin, with a little help from Doctor Aphra, and in DV #16 he brings the failed creation of Doctor Cylo to his Master’s feet. It’s a bold move considering it was Palpatine who commissoned Cylo to create replacements for Vader in the first place and because Palpatine explicitly stated he did not want them to slay each other, as long as he didn’t find out about it. By presenting Karbin’s corpse and not denying he killed the cyborg, he’s directly disobeying orders, but in the sick twisted world of the Sith this looks to gain him back some ground with his devious Master.
Palpatine then gives Vader the mission to Shu-Torun as a sign of good faith, but he also heeds Grand General Tagge’s insistence that Doctor Cylo join Vader in the task. Both of Vader’s superiors know this isn’t a good idea, but they have their reasons, which Palpatine offers to explain as long as Vader returns (alive). But it’s Palpatine’s final line to his apprentice which sparks most of my curiosity: “I rely on you more than you can understand.” Admitting such a thing seems like a big time weakness for a Sith Master, so why he’d be willing to admit it and what exactly he means by the comment could lead to some surprising answers. Until that’s possibly answered, the irony in his comment is priceless, as his reliance on Vader will be his downfall.
Tagge hasn’t shown a lot of love towards Vader, so I’m wondering if Cylo asked Tagge to allow him to join Vader after the Sith Lord killed one of his creations. Cylo, the twins Morit and Aiolin, and Tulon Voidgazer all accompany Vader to Shu-Torun with only the latter willing to actually work with him. While it’s hard to tell if Tulon has any ulterior motives or desires to kill Vader under those blue implanted eyes, it’s sure hard to miss the looks on both Cylo and the twin’s faces. They tell him how eager they are to see Vader stumble so they can swoop in for the kill and something tells me the Shu-Torun war might become just a backdrop for a big battle between them and Vader by the arc’s end.
Queen Trios, who had some great character work in Annual #1, continues to be another notable new female addition to the universe (thanks to the comics). While she has little choice other than to obey Vader and the Empire due to what they could do to her people if she doesn’t, she’s still willing to stand up to Vader if necessary. After being embarrassed in front of her people by Vader, where he tells her she must simply obey him as she argues about his methods to quell the rebellion, she confronts him with some solid reasoning for why he can’t treat her like that publicly: her people are unlikely to obey her once he leaves. Since she doesn’t argue with him due to her pride being hurt, but instead of her reputation, he grants her no public displays of the like again. Seems Vader still has a soft spot for Queens, hey? Either way, her strength and disagreement with Vader’s tactics could be something Cylo might try exploiting.
Since Doctor Aphra is my favorite new (comic) character, her capture by the rebels at the end of Vader Down left a lot of questions, including if Vader would attempt to rescue her, leave her, or just have her outright killed (the latter of which would upset me greatly!). DV #16 closes with an answer, as Vader reaches out to ragtag group of bounty hunters to have Aphra returned to him, though he nonchalantly mentions he doesn’t care whether it’s dead or alive. As frightening as that revelation is for Aphra fans, note that her ‘rescue’ won’t be shown in the Darth Vader series, but instead she’ll be part of the Star Wars series for its next arc; I’ll be watching her career in prison breaks with great interest.
Here are a few other things:
- Three arcs in and having the same creative team as the first issue is a true blessing for DV. The top spot for my favorite series of 2015 was basically a tie between DV, Lando, and Kanan, but if Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, and Edgar Delgado keep up their consistently solid work the clear winner could be DV for 2016. Gillen seems to understand Vader better than anyone, digging deep into the twisted psyche of the fallen Jedi and finding a brutal, but strategic warrior full of anger (and many of Vader’s line can easily be heard in James Earl Jones’ voice). And as important as good writing is, Larroca’s ability to draw emotional responses from Vader despite having only a mask to work with has been exceptional and just as critical for the series’ successes, with Delgado’s colors being the icing on the comic cake.
- In case you’re wondering about some of the bounty hunter’s identities: Dengar should be the most obvious one; the silver droid next to him is a Highsinger, one of which worked with young Boba Fett in his Syndicate during the Clone Wars; Zuckuss should also be familiar to most; Black Krrsantan, a lethal Wookiee comics fans have come to know very well; IG-90, the red droid; Mister Beebox, the short one wearing Mando-inspired armor; and last but not least, Chanath Cha!! Marvel’s SW Editor Jordan D. White confirmed her identity and this is absolutely exciting news. She was one of the many great things about the stellar Lando series, which revealed her to be a highly skilled bounty hunter that even Palpatine respected, while her past with Lando and Lobot came at odds with his specific demands regarding her latest job. Here’s hoping her role is more than just a cameo, but hey, I’ll certainly take that as well! Her appearance makes me wonder if this is set before or after the Lando series now…
The consistent Darth Vader creative team has started what looks to be another great arc for their series in Darth Vader‘s sixteenth issue.
+ Brutal thinking man’s Vader is back
+ Vader and Cylo (and Cylo’s creations) forced to work together
+ Queen Trios standing up
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-13) | Remastered (#14-19) | Annual: #1
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)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-10)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)