– Spoiler Review –
Darth Vader #20 starts the
new final (see below!) 6 issue arc, “End of Games.” Series’ stalwarts Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, and Edgar Delgado continue their fantastic work on the series so far with this exceptional start, where I found myself exclaiming my surprise (and definitely some laughter) out loud several times, as issue #20 both honors what has come before and pushes on to something new and exciting. This review also contains thoughts on the bonus one-shot within the issue, “The Misadventures of Triple-Zero and Beetee,” which finally proves there can never be enough of the murderbots. Ever.
Issue #20 not only looks back on the series so far, as Palpatine concocts a story about his plans with Cylo, but also pushes us onward as Vader is now assigned to destroy Cylo once and for all following his betrayal of the Empire by sabotaging their attack of the Ore Barons of Shu-Torun just to get at Vader. #20 also sets up the story thread of Triple-Zero and Beetee personally going about finding Dr. Aphra again, who has escaped and gone free from the Rebel prison Sunspot (which this issue kind of spoils since she’s still in the jail for the Star Wars arc “Rebel Jail,” kicking ass with Sana Starros and Princess Leia, that has yet to wrap). There’s also the interesting tease of the Super Star Destroyer Executor being built and wily Inspector Thanoth finds out his ambitions and smarts (as he makes a rather shocking deduction) are too much for his own good. The past wraps up and the present continues, albeit even more exciting than before!
Cylo is now on the run, for his aforementioned betrayal, though Grand General Tagge’s involvement hasn’t come to light yet. It was Tagge who spurred on Cylo to take out Vader on Shu-Torun, so could Tagge be hiding Cylo or has he washed his hands of everything in an attempt to stay on the Emperor’s good side? If Tagge is helping Cylo escape in someway, I wouldn’t be surprised it’s because he’s connected to a group/ideal called the ‘Eternal Empire,’ who seems to want to overthrow Palpatine (more on that group in a bit!) and was first mentioned by Inspector Thanoth this issue. I think Tagge could be connected since it was Tagge who put Thanoth on Vader’s tail and Tagge’s not been terribly secret he was disdainful for some of the Emperor (and Vader’s) practices. Likewise, the introduction of Executor being built for Tagge, which is Vader’s flagship by Empire Strikes Back, signals that something has to happen to Tagge for Vader to have it. If Tagge is part of an coup, what better reward for Vader having taken it down than a giant ass spaceship?
First teased in issue #17, Palpatine confirms that Cylo was actually responsible for Anakin’s survival of his Mustafar injuries thanks to the suit he now wears. Their confrontation will be personal for both of them, as Cylo will have to face his first and greatest invention (which none of his subsequent ones have lived up to), while Vader will confront his creator, à la the Monster confronting Dr. Frankenstein (as now retroactively teased by his “Rise, Lord Vader” scene in RotS). If we’re going to see the fall of Tagge and a kind of Frankenstein-type reference, I’m all in for this arc already and we haven’t even discussed the murderbots, Aphra, or Thanoth’s big moment!
The conversation between Vader and Palpatine has to be my favorite of the series so far and makes me wish we’d spend more time with these two together. Palpatine gives a grand speech to Vader alone, of how powerful he is and how ingenious he was in his plan to take down the Jedi, but his audience already knows the story. Luke Skywalker had it right in Return of the Jedi‘s dissing battle scene with his observation about Palpatine, “Your over confidence is your weakness.” Listening to Palpatine here, he sounds more full of himself than some of the jocks I had put up with in high school to the point that it almost sounds like ol’ Sheev here is literally getting drunk off himself. It fits with Palpatine’s appearance in RotJ more so than his attitude at the end of Revenge of the Sith, where he was bold, clever, and cunning. It’s been over 20 years since then though and he’s been soaking in his own abilities, becoming too lax in his high towers and too confident…to the point he’d call a bunch of Ewoks and Rebels a ‘pitiful little band’ and not see his own demise standing before him (but, who could blame him for thinking Ewoks and Rebels could be anything more than pitiful?). Before Luke sees the Emperor’s weakness, Vader himself sees it here and totally calls him out on it (in one of a couple moments I actually shouted something out loud while reading this issue): Vader understands that had any of Cylo’s creations managed to overthrow him, Palpatine would’ve had the same speech with that victor, which is, in a way, Vader pointing out Palpatine’s not as foreseeing and powerful as he boasts considering his speech only needed a few tweaks to fit whomever won. While a short scene, it’s packed with tons of interesting implications and one of many highlights from the issue.
Inspector Thanoth has his own chance to shine in DV #20, as he surprises both myself and Vader with his alternative plans for the Empire, amazing deductions he makes about Vader’s past and his plans for the future, and makes an exit worthy of his intellect (and all those Sherlock Holmes comparisons). It always kind of felt like Thanoth knew Aphra was working for Vader and here he admits he did, but let it slide when they took out the Rebel’s known as the Plasma Devils. However, he kept investigating into her and followed her path and Vader’s to his pursuit of Luke Skywalker, which has led him to reach out to Vader. Thanoth has Aphra’s location and thinks Vader should take her out because she knows too much about Vader’s plan to take Luke and train him to help him overthrow the Emperor! Thanoth not only deduces this strategy, but he wholly supports it, thanks to his belief the Emperor is weak (it seems a lot of people are coming to that conclusion at this point) and Vader is better for the Eternal Empire, as he calls it. He believes in an Empire without Palpatine (which sounds an awful lot like the Centrists in Claudia Gray’s Leia-centric novel, Bloodline, set 6 years before The Force Awakens), and for Vader to succeed, to the point that he’s comes to Vader with all this in person so Vader can kill him now, instead of wasting time hunting him down for his information on Aphra. Thanoth, who’s deductive reasoning and ambition have made him a highly entertaining character, is so damn committed to his ideals he’s willing to die early as to save everyone time, proving Sherlock Holmes ain’t got nothing on him! But before he does, he makes one final epic bombshell (another out loud exclamation moment) deduction: that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, as he says it was a pleasure to work with Anakin. One wonders what the galaxy would’ve been like had this brilliant mind not gotten in the way of Vader’s brutish anger and tenacity….Goodbye, dear Inspector, you will be missed!
So, still wondering about the Eternal Empire? In one way, this could simply be an ideal that he and possibly others prescribe to, as that the Empire as a form of government could live on forever without some weak, old, and self-centered leader like Palpatine (again, sounding much like the Centrists and eventual First Order of TFA‘s era). Or, if you want to go there, it could be tied to a Legends group called the Eternal Empire that was started…well, actually it’s hard to summarize (as its Wookieepedia page can attest to), but it’s part of The Old Republic‘s story (the on-going MMORPG). Either possibility is intriguing, but personally I’m hoping for this simply to be an ideal/early type of rumbling for what would eventually come the ideals of the First Order. Time will tell.
However, time does not need to tell anyone that Triple-Zero and BT-1 are simply superb characters at this point. Triple-Zero’s final line of the issue, about his desire to torture Cylo, nearly left me with a side-ache. The two murderbots, along with the droid army Vader amassed in the first arc and Black Krrsantan, have been given the mission to bring back Aphra alive, though dead will be alright, too. Why Vader continues to prioritize Aphra’s life is an interesting question to ponder, but for now I think it’s safe to say he finds her more useful alive at the moment, even after Thanoth’s insistence she be killed. Either way, the prospect of the two droids going about their own adventures has me very excited, especially after the one-shot hiding at the end of this issue…
Bonus One-Shot: “The Misadventures of Triple-Zero and Beetee” (Written by Gillen, Pencils & Ink by Mike Norton, and Colors by David Curiel) This one-shot takes places shortly after issue #20 ends, as we find Triple-Zero and Beetee rearming themselves with the help of an old business acquaintance of Aphra’s named Ruen. The murderbots have a few short moments in #20 to shine and throughout the series so far each subsequent appearance of these two seems to somehow outshine their last, but I’ve kind of wondered if they’d do as well as characters if the story solely centered on them. This short story dispels those worries, as I can honestly say there will never be enough of these two in my life, ever. Give them their own series, A Star Wars Story film, novel, video game…I’ll take it, as these two are even better alone than I could’ve imagined. One of the many funny moments include Triple Zero’s response to why he installed himself a syringe, as he claims it’s for medical emergencies, to which Beetee bleeps about that being a lie, and Triple-Zero gets defensive as he wasn’t lying since he didn’t specify if the syringe was for ‘solving’ or ‘creating’ medical emergencies. And it only gets better from there with these two in the short.
“Misadventures” also gives us some backstory to the Triple-Zero matrix, which Aphra stole and put in the protocol droid’s body way back in issue #3 (her excellent introduction issue). Ruen gives us the story: Triple-Zero, created way back in the Old Republic, was given new life by the Tarkin Initiative (a part we already knew), but the droid managed to escape for three years while going on an extensive murder spree (Triple-Zero’s thoughts on the matter are another hilarious moment). Ruen figures out he has the Triple-Zero and attempts to bring him back to the vault Aphra took him out of in DV #3, but he doesn’t realize what Beetee is until too late and his plans are foiled. And despite putting in a fail-safe, he’s no match for the murderbots penchant for subterfuge and violence, ending the one-shot with beautiful explosions. The art, by Norton and Curiel, pays homage to Larroca’s by staying somewhat similar in look and color scheme, which was a nice touch.
Here are a few other things:
- UPDATE 5/13: I did not see this one coming at all: the Darth Vader comic ends with issue #25 i.e. the end of this arc!
- The first printings of this issue have an error, titling this part 1 of “The Shu-Torun War” which is the arc that just wrapped up in the last issue. This is definitely the start of “End of Games” as noted on the covers, solicts, and other official sites.
- Wonder what those lingering debates for Aphra’s doctorate are all about…which we could totally find out about in a solo series for her. *HINT HINT WINK WINK* Marvel…
- Also, if you’re looking for more Palpatine, Charles Soule’s been writing an excellent young Palpatine in Obi-Wan & Anakin.
Darth Vader #20 brings about the start of “End of Games,” which holds many new and promising story threads to follow, setting the stage for several epic confrontations and the return of the Aphra to the series!
+ Palpatine’s weakness showing
+ Vader calling out Palpatine
+ Inspector Thanoth’s bombshells and sweet goodbye
+ Muderbot’s “Misadventures” truly shine
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)