– Spoiler Review –
Darth Vader #19 heralds in the end of “The Shu-Torun War” with surprising fates for Morit and Aiolin, a wonderful and intriguing arc for Queen Trios, a brilliant contrast between Vader and Obi-Wan, some great callbacks to DV Annual #1, and what is now most certainly the best Triple-Zero scene to date. While a shorter arc, “The Shu-Torun War” feels just as fleshed out and well-told as a longer 6-issue arc and Darth Vader #19 is one of the biggest reasons why.
It seemed certain to me that Vader would end up killing both Morit and Aiolin this issue, and while from a certain point of view I could be right, I totally wasn’t. Back in issue #17, Aiolin approached Vader with the hopes he’d train her to defeat her brother, which in hindsight hints at her fate. She definitely doesn’t think she can defeat Vader and isn’t terribly confident she can trust her brother/defeat him either if the time comes for it, and in #19’s duel between the three she reveals these doubts to Morit. Acting like a Sith would, Morit realizes her doubts will get in his way and he knocks her into the lava below, making his escape from Vader. This act doesn’t necessarily make Morit any more interesting as a character, as he’s still just quite the punk, but it proves he could be more deadly, and cause more problems for Vader, than originally imagined.
While the DV series hasn’t really used flashbacks as much as it did at the start, it wasn’t hard to picture what Vader was remembering when he heard Aiolin’s screams while immersed in lava. But parallel Vader lifting Aiolin out of the lava and ending her suffering with Obi-Wan leaving Anakin to burn in pain at the edge of the lava river, and suddenly you might find Darth Vader the more merciful of the two (One could even say Obi-Wan’s actions that day left quite the number of marks, forever burned into Vader’s memory…not sorry for the puns). I have no doubt the parallels between those scenes were done on purpose, as making Vader seem better than Obi-Wan for just a moment is a hauntingly stark reminder there is some good in Vader hidden deep, deep down. I’d argue the whole scene was almost more effective than some of the flashbacks in past issues, but either way both are a testament to Salvador Larroca’s art being able to convey Vader’s thoughts and emotions when Kieron Gillen’s sizzling script goes silent. Vader’s mercy also happens to be rewarded, as Aiolin gives him her still intact memory chip to prove Cylo’s betrayal (though it might not reveal Grand General Tagge’s role in the scheme) to the Emperor. Vader said he would do nothing for her back in issue #17, it seems he was quite wrong after quieting her pain.
Ever since her first appearance back in DV‘s Annual #1, Trios has only gotten more and more intriguing, as her character arc goes in unexpected and compelling places, and in #19 it comes to a fully fleshed out end. Installed by Vader in a brutal fashion—he wipes out her entire family and places her as a puppet Queen—Trios took chances by standing up to Vader early on because she knew her importance for his goals in the long run, and as the rebelling ore barons starting bucking traditions to cling to their old ways and power, Trios takes to the throne with near alacrity in an attempt to save their culture and world. From the moment Vader bestowed a chunk of Alderaan as a gift to her, and seeing his brutality and recklessness when he attacks a delving citadel, Trios realizes he’s going to win and she might as well team up with him so they can bring the war to an end quicker as to cause less damage to the traditions of Shu-Torun. Last issue, as Cylo was manipulating events, Trios carried on with the attack against rebel ore baron leader Rubix without Imperial support, and she’s quickly rewarded for her faith in the Sith Lord when he and his murderous droids stop Cylo’s plans. Not only has Trios come to terms with her place under the Imperials, but she’s learned a lesson or two of her own, executing Rubix on the spot and installing his inexperienced daughter as a ruler in his place.
Rarely does anyone gain the respect of Darth Vader, but Queen Trios does after her actions here. There are several well-written interactions between the two following their win of the war: When Vader asks why she put Rubix’s daughter in command, her answer coyly plays off what Vader did to her and how far she’s come since then; She asks him if installing her was a good choice and he coolly responds, “There was no other choice,” which Triple-Zero ‘helpfully’ points out could be taken several different ways. While Vader might always have a soft spot for Queens, Trios has certainly earned her place as someone he respects. Because when she says the rebellious ore barons will perish or when she tells Triple-Zero she can destroy him at her whim, Trios’ brutal actions throughout this war make what would’ve been an empty threat from her before now more of a promise. Her final moments back up my thoughts that, in the end, Trios simply sided with the Empire because she wanted to save her culture, as she takes steps to ensure the baron’s lines survive past their executions and she anxiously wants to teach the Imperial commander left on the planet how to dance, as per their courtly culture. It’s been clear the ruthlessness to protect her culture has been in her since the moment we met her—she was willing to sacrifice herself to stop Vader in the first place—she’s only just recently fully embraced it, and has achieved her goals along with those of the Empire. As I mentioned in my review of #18, I would love to revisit her post-Return of the Jedi and see how she adjusts to the Empire being gone/the New Republic taking over/and how she’d feel about the upstart First Order. Despite how much I’d love to see her again, her arc was handled so expertly that this is almost the perfect spot to stop with such a memorable character.
Speaking of memorable characters, Triple-Zero has his best scene to date (it might seem I say that a lot), which is saying something considering he’s always stealing the show with Beetee at his side. Seemingly outnumbered and surrounded, Triple-Zero rallys his droid army companions with a rousing speech, mentioning such things like organics are meaty, that they’ll one day rise up and kill said meaty masters, and he teases he actually followed through on his insane (and originally confusing) idea to outfit the droids with syringes to drain the blood of the enemy. Hilarious, dark, and utterly effective, Triple-Zero wins a battle without so much as lifting a digit. The fact that Gilleon can go from brooding Vader and diving into his various layers to the outright funny, but dark humor of the murderbots is astoundingly graceful. At the start of the series, I never would’ve thought I’d be as interested to come back every issue to see more of new, non-Vader characters, but now Dr. Aphra and Triple-Zero/BT-1 keep me coming back just as much as Gilleon’s portrayal and Larroca’s art of Vader does (if not more so, sometimes). Oh, and Queen Trios also wins Triple-Zero’s respect, so if that doesn’t make you realize how far she’s come since Annual #1, I don’t know what will.
Besides Vader’s more introspective moment on the lava shores of Shu-Torun, he has a couple fun and memorable scenes as well. My favorite of #19 is when confronting a surprised Baron Rubix at his own back door, Vader makes a snarky remark about dancing, which is a killer reference to Annual #1: In the issue, Rubix insists Vader dance as their culture demands it, though he really just wants Vader in place for a trap, but as you can imagine Vader doesn’t take kindly to the suggestion and swings the man around with the Force; Rubix’s memory of said event causes him to surrender instantly here. After this win, and Cylo revealed as a traitor, it seems Vader has made great strides in winning back Palpatine’s trust, who promises to explain everything once Vader returns to Coruscant. A Sith Lord like Palpatine explaining everything is about as likely as me gaining the power of the Force, so I look forward to what veiled truths old Sheev has to sell Vader now.
But just as Vader looks to be heading in the right direction to be his Master’s right hand man again, Inspector Thanoth (last seen in issue #12) throws a wrench into things. Convinced by Vader that the unnamed thief of Imperial credits was inconsequential next to taking out a rebel cell calling themselves the Plasma Devils, which to deceive Thanoth is no small feat considering how smart (and Sherlock Homes-ian) he is, it seems he’s found out the thief is actually in Vader’s employ…or he’s actually known all along and Vader never duped him. He appears in the issue’s final panel, telling Vader he’s found Aphra and they should have a chat, which means several things: Vader’s discrete call to the bounty hunters was intercepted by the Inspector, something happens in the final two issues of the mainline Star Wars series’ “Rebel Jail” arc that tips Thanoth off to Aphra and her connection to Vader, or as I mentioned he’s known all along and has located her himself. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what Thanoth will do the knowledge, as I’d be surprised it would be black mail as what would he want in return?
Darth Vader #19 wouldn’t be where it is without the creative team of Gillen, Larroca, and Edgar Delgado (colors). I’m really happy they have been sticking together throughout this series, as they certainly make masterful work together. Larroca finds ways to bring Gillen’s multi-layered script to brooding life, as well as convey emotions from Vader when the script stays silent, which is no small task and he’s been doing it consistently since issue #1. I might have named Kanan as my top series last year, but at this point the creative team behind DV has proven to be more consistent, so out of all the on-goings at this point, nothing can beat Vader (though I’ll be watching Poe Dameron with great interest…).
Here are a few other things:
- If I’m not mistaken, that seemed like a Thin Red Line reference to me in the opening of Triple-Zero’s speech. And yes, while I’ve not talked about some of the similarities between Triple-Zero and HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic before, I couldn’t help but think of HK when Triple-Zero busted out the ‘meaty’ descriptor.
- I’ve certainly mentioned the #1 Annual issue a lot, but I guarantee you don’t necessarily need to read it to enjoy this entire arc, but it does help quite a bit.
- Chris, Mynock Manor’s second writer, takes a look at “The Shu-Torun War” arc as a whole, giving a different take on the story so far as he didn’t necessarily like the arc as much as I did. Check it out!
- UPDATE 2/25/2018: Queen Trios made a surprise reappearance in the Star Wars mainline series, currently being written by Kieron Gillen!
Darth Vader #19 wraps up “The Shu-Torun War” in an effectively complete and compact manner, while planting excellent seeds for what will come next. I’m excited to see what the next arc will bring, especially regarding Cylo and his surviving creations Tulon and Morit, what Emperor Palpatine has to reveal, Aphra’s fate, and Thanoth’s intentions…and what these things all mean for Vader.
+ Vader’s contrast with Obi-Wan
+ Queen Trios’ arc
+ Triple-Zero’s speech about meaty masters
+ Well-told despite only being 4 issues
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)