– Spoiler Review –
Darth Vader #21 marches us one issue closer to this series’ finale (making “End of Games” a rather appropriately named arc) and while #21 might feel like set-up on top of last week’s set-up/wrap-up focus, it’s delivered entertainingly and gains a lot of tension from knowing fan-favorite characters’ fates i.e. DR. APHRA are all up in the air.
Darth Vader #21 is fast paced but purposeful, much like most of the series to date, as it begins with Vader in hot pursuit of Cylo and his creations while Triple-Zero and Beetee waste no time in locating Dr. Aphra. Vader, no longer distracted by having to play Palpatine’s game of pick-the-apprentice, is bringing the full brunt of his brashness and boldness against Cylo and his remaining creations. As the Devastator loses rather handily to Cylo’s living cyborg whale ships, first seen in issue #5 (Vader calls them simply abominations, which I’ll be using going forward), he decides to use one of his seemingly favorite tactics: blow a hole in the enemy ship and drive right into (he’s used it in Lords of the Sith as well). However, this was moments before the abomination ship jumped to hyperspace, leaving him all alone with his enemies…which something tells me is exactly how Vader wanted to approach the situation. As I mentioned before, he seems even more focused than usual here, dispatching Imperial officers despite them being helpful (which was a pretty funny moment, in my opinion) and brazenly boarding ships where he’s vastly outnumbered. But with the knowledge his Master isn’t as powerful as he claims to be, both because Palpatine lied/didn’t know Anakin had children and that ol’ Sheev didn’t rightly know who would actually become his right-hand again despite always claiming to be able to foresee everything, Vader wants to not only prove himself worthy for the time being to Palpatine, but also to prove to himself he’s capable of breaking out from under his Master’s rule and strike out on his own. The beautiful thing about that is this momentum happens to be exactly what Kieron Gillen set out to write with this series, taking Vader from the henchman of A New Hope to the brutal, but man-with-the-plan father in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s coming to fruition and about to bloom folks and I can’t wait to see how that plays into the final four issues (which is both a really happy and sad thing to write!).
Fresh off her break from the Rebellion prison of Sunspot in the “Rebel Jail” arc of the mainline Star Wars series, where she got to kick ass with Leia and Sana Starros as well as reveal she was probably in a relationship with Sana back in the day, Aphra’s taking hiding from Vader much like anyone would: drinking heavily to obscure the dread of looking over her shoulder everyday. Her worst fears literally come to life however as Triple-Zero and Beetee descend upon the village she’s in and lay waste to it so, as Triple-Zero so hilariously puts it, “Eliminating witnesses. Master Vader was very specific about making sure you hadn’t spread word to anyone else. Who knows what you could have said in one of your drunken binges, Master?” It’s been a while since we’ve seen the droids paired off with Aphra again and damn, how I’ve missed it. Aphra’s ability to think swiftly in any situation, even throwing in quips when possible, paired against the dark, demented humor of the droids is comedy gold. And while Aphra stays her execution here by surrendering once she learns one of Vader’s orders was to bring her in alive if she didn’t resist, knowing she’ll be in the belly of the beast (while Vader is literally in one) doesn’t make me feel any better about her chances of survival. But living one more day for Aphra might be just enough time she needs to think of a way out, or a way to get Vader to allow her to leave, and I seriously hope the next issue doesn’t avoid her completely while she waits on the Devastator for Vader’s return. I can only imagine she’ll be using that time to her advantage, coming up with various contingencies for whatever comes her way. But, if one recalls her pledge and wish for Vader to take her life when he needed to once she got in the way of him winning (as seen in issue #4), she might be coming willingly to let Vader fulfill that wish, hence her heavy drinking. Let’s hope Vader has other plans for her and she realizes she’s not in his way of winning, thus attempting to fight for her life more.
Speaking of things cropping up from older issues, #21 ends with Vader coming face-to-face with a cyberanimate Rancor (unleashed by Tulon Voidgazer to experiment against Vader), which basically means its been intelligently augmented by science. We meet the first cyberanimate adversary Vader faces in issues #5/#6, which was a Trandoshan he quickly dispatches of, and it’s in #6 Cylo boastfully tells Palpatine he has the ability to bring the cyberanimate system to a Rancor; I love how what felt like a throwaway line of dialogue from an issue written nearly a year ago actually came to reality! I really look forward to seeing what else they’ll call back to in these final issues.
I can’t speak enough on how wonderful it’s been having the same team working on the Darth Vader series from the start, as Salvador Larroca’s art makes the bizarre match up of those abominations versus a Star Destroyer not only coherent to read, but fit within the Star Wars universe (something one wouldn’t usually expect to). My favorite panel from the issue is the one of Cylo sitting in his command chair, as seen from above, so that we see the creature’s brain under the floor. It speaks to Cylo’s arrogance purely in visual form, as no humble being would construct a ship out of another living thing and place their chair directly over said creature’s brain.
Here are a few other things:
- My one big question from Darth Vader #21 is: what’s the importance of Krrsantan at this point, since he was just chilling around this issue? Is he just around so they have a more convenient time killing him coming up?
- PREVIEWSworld has interview with writer Kieron Gillen, though it covers some of the same tracks as his interview with IGN when the series coming to an end was announced.
- In what is simply a must-read, Mike Cooper’s piece at Eleven-ThirtyEight backs up, from a fan’s point of view, Gillen’s thoughts from his recent interviews about how this series is ending at the right place and going any further wouldn’t do the work they’ve done so far any justice.
- I love Dr. Aphra. You love Dr. Aphra. Over at the official site, Catrina Dennis names the top 5 reasons why Dr. Aphra is a fan favorite (narrowing it down to five must have been very difficult!).
Darth Vader #21 puts everything in place for what promises to be an action-packed final 4 issues, bringing this phenonmal series to close. As for Aphra…I’ve already begun praying to the Force and you should too.
+ Vader’s coming for you, Cylo and friends
+ Aphra and the droids, together again (though not in an entirely friendly way)
+ Fast paced
– Feels a little too much like set-up on top of last week’s set-up
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games: #20 | #22 | #23 | #24 | #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)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)