I finally caught up on and finished the Star Wars: Darth Vader series, and I was happy to see that Keiron Gillen brought the menace back to Darth Vader. I am one of the few who wasn’t completely thrilled with the prequel movies simply for the fact that I never believed that it was necessary for us to have the entire backstory of Anakin Skywalker. Worse was that even, in learning how Anakin transformed into Vader, we were presented with a whiny, petulant kid who was easily manipulated into doing wrong. Sure, I get it that this was early on but after waiting 20+ years to tell this story, the prequels took so much of the mystique out of what he was to become.
I have always loved the original Star Wars films, and what made Vader in those films was his ruthlessness and determination to get what he wanted. The prequel was the peek behind the curtain that I didn’t ask for.
from the first issue of Star Wars: Darth Vader, I felt that Gillen was bringing back something that we lost in that character. It was something that appeared in fleeting moments when Dark Horse had the license – but never fully realized. I think a bigger issue is that it wasn’t canon. But with this series of books, not only was it canon but it was a chance for Gillen to redeem what Vader was, and I am glad that I stuck to reading this.
Family bonds and the Scheming Servant
The first six issues of the book really set the tone for righting the ship with Vader. Marvel and Gillen used the perfect setting to start the story. Vader has been reeling from the destruction of the Death Star; and of course the Emperor is none too pleased. Vader is trying to understand how some unknown pilot used the Force to take the Death Star out and then we learn that his son is responsible. Only Vader is not yet aware that Luke is his son. Furthermore, Vader is playing his cards close to his chest by not informing the Emperor that he battled a Force user at the Battle of Yavin. Aside from the plot line, what really sets the book up is how deliberate Vader is with his actions; how he deals with Jabba the Hutt, him bringing Boba Fett in to find out more about Luke. However, what really makes the story interesting is that at every turn, Palpatine will pop up to show Vader that he still holds his leash and only allows Vader a minimal amount of room to run. Vader knows that his master is up to something and seeks to find the truth and he has his own schemes forming to get those answers. While he tries to find out about Luke, he also plots against Palpatine by bringing in Dr. Aphra and some of the most evil versions of C-3PO and R2D2 you would ever hope to meet in Beetee and Triple Zero. This opening arc was all one could hope for in redeeming Vader. He was treacherous, manipulative and did not take crap from anyone, but was still loyal to his master…because well, Sith.
This series was the highlight of Gillen’s run. If the opening arc wasn’t enough to bring the baddassery of Vader back, then this should have done it. What happens when an entire battalion of soldiers with as many weapons they can bear surrounds Darth Vader? Let’s just say that it doesn’t end well for many of them. This series shows Vader at his most savage. The proverbial gloves comes off and Vader, under Gillen’s and Jason Aaron’s hands, is at his best at being bad. While everything else is going on with Luke getting captured by Aphra, Chewie battling Black Krrsantan, Vader is focused on taking out as many Rebels as he can and snagging Luke in the process. This moment was Darth Vader at his most unstoppable.
The End Games
Vader was tasked in quelling a rebellion on Shu-Turun and finding that task a bit more challenging than he thought, he does manage to subdue the planet and procure the needed resources for the Empire. At this point, Gillen gives us the last portion that made Vader what he is. Vader’s ease at cleaning up his mess by severing loose ends…literally. Inspector Thanoth, who was assigned to Vader to keep track of his activities, was killed when he learned that Vader was guilty of stealing credits from the Empire to finance his own army. Vader also faces off and finished his closest rival Cylo. The cool part of this story line is that Cylo had low-jacked Vader’s armor at one point incapacitating Vader. Undaunted, Vader channeled the might of the dark side of the Force and subsequently finished Cylo.
Everything comes to fruition in the final issue when Palpatine, after being informed of all that transpired via Dr. Aphra, expresses to Vader how pleased he is that he is doing as a proper Sith should. He is amazed! “You robbed a bank, built an army and…and…you KILLED YOUR RIVALS?? My Apprentice, I am touched!!! Your Baddassery Club Card will be mailed within the week!” That’s not all, Vader tosses Aphra out of an airlock instead of killing her by lightsaber as she requested, and as he kills General Cassio Tagge, he sets the tone for the Vader we will see in The Empire Strikes Back. Admiral Ozzel is put in charge of the Executor and is given two weeks to prep the ship and then a victorious Vader awaits what’s next.
The end of Star Wars: Darth Vader reminded me so much of what made The Godfather such an iconic movie. In the final moments, everyone knew what Vader was about and what he was capable of. As he stood there alone on the bridge, just as Michael Corleone sat in that room surrounded by his lieutenants, those nearest to him could only guess what would come next.
I was very pleased with how this ended up as Gillen gave Vader the edge back that he had lost. This series really pushed the character along, re-shaping him back to what we did eventually get in the rest of the original movies. Vader is a cold calculating man, who still makes a few mistakes here and there but has no problems tying up loose ends. In this series, we saw him at his most savage that we have seen him in years and in the end, his darkness is what pleases the Emperor and the writing of this book reflects what the original movies brought us long, long ago. Whatever becomes of Vader in any later comic series, I hope will stand with what Kieron Gillen presented to us here and with that, thank you, Mr. Gillen for restoring Vader to his rightful place and one of the baddest villains of all time.