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Much of the first twelve issues of Brian Wood’s run on Star Wars has been focused on the Rebel Alliance, which in the aftermath of Episode IV: A New Hope (when this series is set) is still an upstart endeavor. However, in the latest arc, he’s focused more on Darth Vader, which is a welcome change. Although the series has been excellent so far, Vader hasn’t been as central of a presence as he is in the original trilogy.
Wood has chosen an interesting moment in the story to focus on Vader because he’s not the powerful commander we’re used to seeing. After the Rebel Alliance win at the Battle of Yavin (and the destruction of the Death Star), the Emperor is not happy with Vader. In fact, in this series, Vader was relieved from command of The Devastator, which was given Colonel Bircher. It turned out the Bircher was a Rebel spy, which resulted in another bad defeat for the Empire. So things aren’t going so well for Vader.
Well, he’s decided to, well, strike back. Specifically, Vader is going on an unsanctioned run of revenge, to punish those whose incompetence led to Bircher rising through the ranks of the Empire. Issue #13 is told through the perspective of Ensign Nanda, a young female Empire administrator, who was chosen to be Vader’s special assistant during his mission. She doesn’t hide her fear or trepidation. There’s reason for her to be terrified. She’s the assistant to a ruthless commander, who kills his own crew members for ineptitude, while also on board with an elite group of Storm Troopers, who are psychopaths.
The Vader we’re given in Star Wars #13 is also fascinating because it’s clear his pride has been wounded. He tortures and kills staff members of The Devastator because they allowed a spy to take command. When one officer chides Vader for blaming them, saying that since he was the commander of The Devastator, he should also assume some responsibility, we know two things. 1) This guy will not live for much longer (although it’s actually not Vader who kills him). 2) He’s actually right – it is partly Vader’s fault. Furthermore, it’s pretty clear that Vader knows this, too.
Part of Vader’s fury that he is spreading across the galaxy on this mission of revenge is the fury that he feels towards himself for failing to see Bircher’s treason. If anything, being in touch with the Force, he should have much culpability. His mission has not been approved by Emperor Palpatine, who eventually catches up with Vader after he ignores The Emperor’s messages. Vader tells him that “your satisfaction and mine are one and the same.” It doesn’t appear that either really believes this.
The art in this issue is by Facundo Percio (with inks by Dan Parsons), and it fits in with the stylistic look of the first dozen issues of Star Wars. Perhaps the most important task in an issue like this is to make sure that Darth Vader looks like Darth Vader, and Percio does make Vader’s iconic uniform look perfect. His other main task is to make the art work with Wood’s script to make us care about Ensign Nanda. On this note, Percio makes Nanda’s wide-eyed shock and fear effectively palpable.
With the news that the Star Wars franchise will be switching from Dark Horse Comics to Marvel in 2015, we know that Brian Wood’s Star Wars may be coming to an end in the next year (although considering Wood frequently writes for Marvel, it’s possible he would be a part of a Star Wars series over there). The first 13 issues of it have been very enjoyable, managing the tricky task of using characters from the original Star Wars trilogy and making it feel like the original, beloved movies. Wood and the artists who have contributed to Star Wars have really succeeded, with issue #13 being an interesting latest chapter.