– Spoiler Review –
The Darth Vader series gets its first Annual issue, which showcases the Dark Lord’s thinking man’s brutality as he puts a manufacturing planet of ore into line for the Empire (with a little help from Triple-Zero and Beetee) and leaves a “gift” no one will soon forget.
While I’m not sure when this takes place, it’s either sometime before Vader Down or just after it, I’d argue I like what this Annual does for Vader as a character over what Vader Down has been doing so far. Don’t get me wrong, I love how VD has brought the badass to Vader in a way like never before, but the Annual shows off a far better side to the Dark Lord: Anakin’s smarts mixing with Vader’s brutality. So far the Darth Vader series has done an admirable job of giving us a more layered Vader (making it one of my favorite series so far) and Annual #1 continues that trend in one of the best short stories yet about him. Whether it’s his reaction to dancing, sending the murderous droids in on a separate but important mission, how he escapes a trap, or his “gift,” Vader’s at his true power here.
Shu-torun is an ore producing planet and it seems new quotas for production aren’t being met to the Emperor’s liking, which brings Vader to the planet to whip it back into shape. The Shu-torun society is straight out of the middle-ages, mixed with some advanced technology of course, thanks to it’s courtly family and penchant for throwing balls, quickly making it intriguing and very odd to see Vader juxtaposed against. The current ruler isn’t happy with the Empire’s new demands just as much as his subjugates are, causing him to rebel against the Empire and try killing Darth Vader. To do so, he demands a high-price from his third child Trios: she is to lead Vader into a trap, sacrificing herself for her people’s benefit. The fact that she goes along with it sparks my interest even more about this society, as sacrifice is quite the step to take especially after she learns her other two siblings get to live and rule long after she and the King would die. Trios seems to struggle with it, as it shows her father doesn’t care much for her, but going through with such an act would show she cares for him more than she actually does. Vader finds it as equally intriguing as I do, and his reaction to it all sets up for a whopper of an ending.
The King believes Vader isn’t on to the fact he’s trying to kill Vader, but we find out otherwise once Triple-Zero and Beetee’s mission becomes clear: assassinate the King. How they go about doing it is all in true classic murderous droid duo fashion, injecting some of the best dark humor around, whether it’s them arguing whose methods of killing should be used or soaking up the King’s misery for having to sacrifice his own daughter. As Vader finds himself beset with dancing, an attack by assassins, and a death-trap tunnel, he’s been carrying a case which he intends to bring to the ruler of Shu-torun as a gift. By the end, the King, his other children, and trusted guards are all dead, but Trios lives. However, she only lives because Vader allows it, as he believes her sense of duty and empathy for her people make her both the perfect new ruler and perfect pawn of the Empire. He bestows on her the gift he has been carrying throughout the entire issue: the last remaining chunk of Alderaan. BOOM. Yeah, my jaw about dropped open once he reveals the rock’s significance, as it signifies to Trios that staying subservient to the Empire and asking for their help to keep their “efficiency” up could prevent a similar tragedy to befall the Shu-torun. Cold, brutal, but damn does it make a good point.
Here are a few other things:
- Kieron Gillen, writer for the DV on-going and Star Wars‘ Annual #1, weaves an excellent tale with new and old elements, giving us a quick but hard look into the Shu-torun society. Leinil Yu (pencils), Gerry Alanguilan (inks), and Jason Keith (colors) all do an exceptional job on the art front especially as it gives life to how Vader (and the droids) doesn’t quite fit in with the opulent and bright society of the Shu-torun.
- Part of me wonders if that’s truly the last chunk of Alderaan or if he’s got tons of boxes of them left so he can bring the same message to other planets not fulfilling the Empire’s desires.
- I can only imagine the reason the Empire raised Shu-torun’s ore quotas would be due to trying to fast track Death Star II.
- Gillen says this sets up the world of the next arc following Vader Down, but it’s not clear when this roughly takes place…which isn’t terribly important in the long run though.
Darth Vader Annual #1 gives us more of the nuanced evil we all love Vader for, while mixing in some new elements like his murderous droid sidekicks and the Shu-torun society, but it caps up nicely with a truly cold ending.
+ Vader’s “gift”
+ Anakin’s smarts mixed with Vader’s brutality
+ Triple-Zero and Beetee
+ Shu-torun society
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | 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)