Review: Vader Sets His Fury on Han Solo in ‘Darth Vader #12’
Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters continues its crossover prelude month with Darth Vader #12. After last issue’s revealing finale to the “Into the Fire” arc, this issue picks up right where we left off and refocuses for the upcoming crossover. The issue works if best looked at as an interlude rather than anything substantial.
We last saw Vader broken and subjugated by the Emperor after challenging him on Exegol. We now see what is left of Vader being repaired on Coruscant as his master watches over.
One of the strengths of the Vader series, and writer Greg Pak’s run specifically, has been the characterization of the Emperor. We’ve seen more sides of him and the way his council works. Between Sly Moore and Mas Amedda, the Emperor’s inner circle really do see both the Palpatine and Sidious parts of the man.
Vader realises, as all Sith do, that pain leads to power; so he refuses to be put under (or have his mechanical parts turned off) while the medical droids do their work. Vader’s pain is permeated by an inner monologue as we relive the pain he caused his son on Bespin.
Vader’s pain has made him strong; by Vader’s analysis, Luke’s pain hasn’t turned him to hate, and that makes him weak. He has never achieved anything without his friends. We flashback and see the destruction of the Death Star, only possible because of Han Solo’s help disrupting Vader.
The next scene is quite confusing, and sort of breaks the flow of Vader’s pain filled visions.
The red tinge of Vader’s visions fade and we’re told this take place sometime later, but it appears to be sometime later from the visions and not from when the story is set (after The Empire Strikes Back). The endgame of this issue is for Vader to decide to hunt down Solo (solidifying his role for the main parts of the crossover) for being Luke’s friend or to get to Luke, so this sequence is adding a scene to the montage of interactions we see Vader having with Han.
Vader was hunting the smuggler and tracks him to a shipyard on Corellia. He kills an unfortunate Rodian who happens to be walking down the ramp of a YT freighter that looks like the Millennium Falcon.
Solo is one YT freighter over from where Vader is and the two lock eyes.
Raffaele Ienco has not returned to do the art this issue, and while Guiu Vilanova’s art in this issue is fine for the most part, a couple of the facial shots (like the above with Solo) don’t quite work.
Faced with the Dark Lord’s wrath (and his lightsaber) the two run onto the Falcon and take off.
The Vader series’ have done a good job of keeping Vader scary and imposing, something he can’t always be when he’s facing characters we know survive. Such is the case here as we’re shown that Han and Chewie are what looks like a few steps away from Vader and escape onto their ship without harm.
The duo are pursued by Vader’s ship. In a stroke of genius and pure luck, which is very on brand for Solo, the Falcon just happened to be getting repairs at the YT-Series repair shipyard, meaning there are lot of places to hide and escape.
After losing the man that assisted with the destruction of the Death Star, Vader goes to the shipyard’s depot and searches through their database.
We see where Darth Vader first learns about Han Solo, one of his son’s closest friends.
We cut back to the red hue of the anger filled flashbacks, now going through The Empire Strikes Back: The Millennium Falcon escaping Hoth, Vader hiring the bounty hunters, torturing Han Solo on Bespin, and his freezing in carbonite. Vader implies that all the help Luke has had from his friends were just part of his own dark side design.
The repairs are finished, the Dark Lord emerges, repaired and ready for his next mission.
The Emperor allows Vader the chance to choose his own path going forward. He chooses to hunt down Solo, because he knows it will lead him to his son. This time though, when he finds Luke, he’s going to kill him.
It’s an extremely dark turn for sure, but after this series’ first arc when Vader is reminded of all the love people had for his late wife and the man he used to be, this is a road that will lead to the conflicted person he is in Return of the Jedi.
The final scene in this issue takes place in the Outer Rim, with Ochi talking to Bokku. Bokku continues the trend of augmented Hutts, with big cybernetic arms to match his surprisingly buff torso……how do slugs exercise?
Ochi demands Bokku recover Solo and give it to them, challenging Jabba’s power. Bokku has his doubts but Ochi quickly lays down the truth….they work for Vader now.
Greg Pak uses this issue as a good transition between Into the Fire and War of the Bounty Hunters, which is a way better use of the medium than a one-off adventure that sometimes happens in these comic book gaps. However, the Solo plot in the middle feels a little forced and disrupts the flow of the story. Regardless, It’s nice to have our Dark Lord of the Sith back to full strength though and he’s as vengeful as ever.
With the release of this and Doctor Aphra this week that marks the end of the May prelude month. Next week the big event begins with War of the Bounty Hunters #1!
Alex Newman is huge Star Wars fan and loves to keep up to date with the canon. He’s also loved movies for as long as he can remember. He’s a massive Disney and superhero fan but will watch anything. He’s worked at a cinema, a comic book store and at Disney World but is currently working in radio in London!