After last month’s very subpar issue, Brian Wood comes back with a new artist and a new story arc centered around Darth Vader’s hunt for vengeance against those who failed him in the Empire’s latest defeat to the Rebels. Is it good?
Star Wars #13 (Dark Horse Comics)
It seems that I wasn’t the only one who was annoyed about what went down in the last issue. Darth Vader has set about putting together an elite squadron of storm troopers to root out and punish those responsible for allowing a spy to infiltrate the Empire at such a high level. He puts a very young and inexperienced (although incredibly loyal and capable) Ensign Nanda in charge of spearheading the operation. It is from her view that the story plays out.
Right off the bat, we learn that Nanda is telling us the story from 5 days in the future. She describes that period of time as “the most brutal and terrifying five days” of her life. That’s quite a bit of hyperbole, even for Star Wars standards. But to Wood’s credit, he gets right to work setting up the foundation for why her description would end up sounding like a bit of an understatement.
“I’m going to win the ‘Imperial Intern of the Year’ award if it kills me.”
Darth Vader has come to personify an ultimate force of evil not just in the Star Wars universe, but for pop culture in general. Unfortunately, many of the stories that expand upon his history (even some of the very good ones) have ended up neutering him a bit. In this tale, however, Wood reminds us of just what a cold, evil bastard the Dark Lord can truly be.
Vader kills and tortures without mercy. There is no hand wringing over who he “used to be” or what a meanie-pants the Emperor can be to him sometimes. Instead, we get an issue full of Vader working with single-minded focus and determination to punish all those who he felt had failed him.
My questions about how a character like Bircher could infiltrate the Empire like he did were not answered, but they were well addressed. In fact, Vader made my frustration and disbelief over it seem minimal, leaving a trail of bodies, blood, and pooped pants in his wake while both investigating and working out his frustration.
“Ugh…they never trained us at the Imperial Academy to deal with people emptying their bowels with such reckless abandon.”
While all of this is happening, Ensign Nanda gives us one of the few fresh perspectives we have left to examine such a story during this time period in the Star Wars universe. She’s loyal to the Empire, but also still an inexperienced kid who’s scared out of her mind at what she’s witnessing.
That doesn’t mean she disagrees with it, though. Nanda manages to be more than capable of assisting in Vader’s mission and highly motivated to help him carry it out. When the inevitable ‘Dad yelling at his kid for wrecking the car’ confrontation between the Emperor and Vader occurs, Wood portrays Nanda as showing just the right mix of trepidation and obedience that a young officer in her position would likely display.
Is It Good?
After what could be considered a major misstep last issue, Brian Wood brings the book roaring back to form with an expertly crafted opening chapter to this two part tale. Most of us probably didn’t need a reminder that Darth Vader was a badass, but this story does that as well as any you’ll find in the movies or expanded universe.
- Great Darth Vader-centric tale filled with proof of why he’s such a terrifying character
- Story told from a fresh and interesting perspective
- Gorgeous interior pencils by Facundo Perico
- While the new voice/perspective is great, it came at the cost of the reader actually seeing a couple of cool sounding events actually play out
And if you’re worried about Carlos D’anda not penciling the story, fear not; Faundo Percio does an excellent job continuing the book’s streak of having beautiful interiors.
My one complaint with the issue involved the elite storm trooper squad. Maybe it’s because I miss getting to see clone trooper units do their thing on the animated series, but Wood’s decision to have Nanda tell the reader what they did rather than utilize Percio’s beautiful pencils to show it (even with just one splash page) was a bit frustrating.
But aside from that, Issue #13 has set up this two-parter to be not just one of the best arcs in the book’s run, but maybe even one of the best expanded universe Vader stories that we’ve ever had.