Beilert Valance continues his relentless pursuit of the one person in the galaxy who usually does the pursuing: Darth Vader. Valance has effectively closed the gap between the Dark Lord of the Sith and his team of bounty hunters, leaving little left to do other than to see if they can outsmart and outmaneuver the deadliest foe in the galaxy. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Before the story gets going, we are treated to a flashback of Valance’s time on the frontlines of the Empire. Valance served loyally even though the Empire held out on his treatment, giving him third-rate cyborg components and stoking his bitter disposition toward them. When we meet him here, Valance is still a loyal soldier and he recalls his first memory of seeing the one he would eventually come to target.
Vader always knows how to make an entrance. It should be noted that Vader saves Valance’s life here, so that adds an interesting dynamic to this cat and mouse relationship they have. I also thought this was a very cool frame, so I had to include it. The art by Stefano Landini and colorist Neeraj Menon is so distinct from other Star Wars series. I love the retro look of these books, which seems fitting, since Valance is a Legends character reintroduced here.
Valance and his crew have arrived at a Hidden Hand outpost on the planet Heva. Just a reminder, Hidden Hand is the secret organization contracting them to take out Vader. The ex-Imperial turned bounty hunter isn’t interested in a match of brawn against Vader, he’ll do it the most practical way, by taking out the life support system keeping Vader alive. From one cyborg to another, he knows intimately that’s the best way to bring down the seemingly invincible Sith Lord. His bounty hunter co-horts are a bit confused about why he chose this specific planet to engage Vader. Valance wants to use a fleet of drone ships that sit in storage on the planet, part of a scrapped weapons program intended for the Empire. Resident slicer Chio Fain can pilot them remotely and just as they are gearing up for the big dance, their target arrives.
Vader’s ready for their tricks as soon as he arrives. Valance’s ship, Broken Wing, heads for a direct assault on the Star Destroyer. Vader deploys a TIE Fighters, assuring the commander of the Star Destroyer there are more ships to be worried about than Broken Wing. The drones and Broken Wing give the destroyer a lot of trouble, while the remainder of the bounty hunter contingent on the ground below get ready for whatever the next phase of Valance’s plan is.
Valance and the mysterious Urrr’k are taking on the pursuing TIE Fighters and Vader himself has joined the fight in his TIE Advancedx1. Vader is making short work of the drone ships and hot on the tail of Valance. From the ground below, the bounty hunters looking on don’t expect this to be much of a fight. Valance assures them he has a plan, even as Vader gets the ship in his sights and the game seems to be up. But, yes, oh yes, Valance has a plan.
Well, you don’t see that everyday. Valance turned the drone ships into a super-cannon and blew the bridge right off the Star Destroyer! Vader doesn’t care though and he proceeds to bring down Broken Wing, quickly making his way onto the ship only to find it empty. Once he reemerges from the ship, the bounty hunters already positioned take out his TIE Fighters and TIE Advancex1, leaving Vader exposed on the hull of the Broken Wing.
The Dark Lord is surrounded and there is only one thing left for Valance and his team to do…
Yes, good luck with that. What could go wrong?
Despite a promising start of Target Vader, this issue does very little to move the needle for me. I’m not very invested in any of these characters and we’ve seen this scenario SO MANY TIMES. Vader’s ship crashes or something happens leaving him vulnerable, a group of people think they finally have a shot at him, then Vader kills them all. Now, there are four more issues of this series to go, so I hope whatever iteration of that scenario we get is a little more interesting. To be quite honest, I’m really hoping the recent housecleaning Marvel just announced regarding their Star Wars titles in 2020 will leave Vader behind. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Dark Lord, but this issue is a clear example of there is only so much you can do with this character before it starts to feel stale. Aside from the art, this issue left me with very little, but I’m not completely giving up on the series. Valance is an interesting character and I am genuinely curious how this will situation will unravel. If you’ve been holding out for Target Vader, I say holdout a bit longer and wait to see what future issues bring. Writer Robbie Thompson has written some great stuff, so I’m optimistic, only a little bit bored.