Review – Lessons in Obedience and Subtlety in Age of Rebellion: Darth Vader
“TO THE LETTER” – The Republic is no more. The Jedi Order is destroyed. It is the age a new Empire! Emperor Palpatine rules with his mighty and mysterious apprentice – Darth Vader – at his side. Vader has slaughtered many Jedi and brought entire star systems to heel… So what more does the Dark Lord have left to prove? And to learn…?
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Ramón Bachs
Colors by Stéphane Paitreau
Star Wars fans have been given a great amount of Darth Vader since the establishment of the new canon. Whether in comics, novels, or movies – all stages of Vader’s life and his galactic career were touched and explored in some manner since 2015. It isn’t unfair to ask if demystifying such an iconic character is a good move. On the other hand, there is no discussion about the future of Star Wars without someone asking for a Vader series or game. Even after more than 40 years, the character’s popularity isn’t waning.
In this issue, the duo Pak/Bachs brings us back to the time before A New Hope. Vader is known, at least to the Imperial side of the galaxy, but his authority is far from respected…
The issue opens in the Mid Rim where Governor Ahr is trying to deal with the insurgents on the planet Namzor. He is forced to call off his fighters so they don’t destroy the coaxium Ahr and Empire want to capture. But, the TIE Advanced with Emperor’s Fist – Darth Vader – at the helm appears and destroys the rebels as well as Ahr’s desired hyperfuel.
The Governor complains to Palpatine accusing Vader of stealing his prize. It is fascinating to watch the Emperor dealing with both the obtuse Imperial and Vader. The way he subtly mocks the Governor, while Ahr thinks he is complimenting him is masterful. Palpatine says to Vader that by obeying Ahr he serves his will.
We are treated to a series of flashbacks to Vader’s past experiences during which he had to bow his head and/or was humiliated. It is something he still hates, even when it comes to Emperor himself. He is ordered to obey Ahr’s every order to the letter until he learns his lesson. He will know when those orders have run their course.
We are then transported to the planet, which has been overrun by droids for decades. They had time to rebuild and develop themselves to become a thousand times deadlier than security droids. Governor is therefore informed that trying to rescue the lost imperial patrol would be a suicide run. Ahr has the clever idea.
Naturally, Vader deals effectively with the threat to Ahr’s surprise and chagrin. And whether this initial success is the reason for it or Ahr simply lacks any self-preservation instincts, the tasks he has for Vader are increasingly more difficult and unreasonable. For example, he leaves Vader to fight the entire planet full of desperate rebels alone.
Ahr’s behavior becomes agitated too when Vader manages to rise to every challenge. His intent to actually kill Vader couldn’t have been more blunt even if he carried a mallet. He orders Vader to destroy the greatest threat he finds in Kankalo Belt Containment Zone. The zone is filled with space monsters. But, instead of dealing with gargantuan crab-like space monster, Vader turns back the ship: monster is not the greatest threat to destroy. Enraged Governor orders Vader to obey his orders as the Emperor commanded to the letter and kneel. And Vader does just seconds before the monster breaks through the Star Destroyer and grabs Ahr. Vader finishes him off. On the other side of the galaxy, the Emperor is pleased with his apprentice.
I enjoyed the simplicity of this issue’s story: Palpatine trying to teach Vader not only how to be a team player but also to be less of a blunt instrument in his dealings with the opposition. It is a test because everything with Palpatine is – and a trial Vader needs to pass if he is to take his intended place. Additionally, a peek into small minds which make the Imperial machine is always fascinating. Lately, we have seen several examples of pedant, narrow-minded Imperials. It can’t be coincidence that the Emperor pledges Vader’s services to a type of person Dark Lord would despise the most, but also a type of person he wouldn’t mind losing.
If there is a highlight of this issue, that was Ramón Bachs’ art. Somehow he managed to capture both Vader’s posture from the original trilogy and make his emotions clear on page. There are elements of what I called ‘monster Vader’ when writing about Giuseppe Camuncoli depiction of the character: use of reflections and shading to make Vader’s helmet expressive. You can actually see Vader slowly losing patience. A couple of action scenes could easily be framed and displayed on your wall. Stéphane Paitreau’s discrete coloring perfectly compliments the art. When I called for restraint in my latest review, this is what I had in mind.
As I said in the beginning, we have seen Vader at many points in his life over the past few years. But, there is something poetic in saying good bye to Age of Rebellion with depiction of Vader as we were introduced to him. Before we dive into Age of Resistance…
THIS ISSUE GETS 7.5/10 STARS.