Star Wars #14 [Advance Review]

Star Wars #14 (Dark Horse): “Obsession.” It ain’t just a cologne by Calvin Klein. Darth Vader is obsessed in this issue, while the other principal protagonist becomes haunted. The fuel for Vader’s galaxy-wide rampage is a slightly revisionist sequence of his duel with Ben Kenobi and what occurred during those final moments with his former teacher. He’s hunting for a kid named “Skywalker” and a certain outspoken Senator from Alderaan named Princess Leia Organa, unbeknownst daughter of the Sith Lord. The contentious nature of the relationship between Lord Vader and Emperor Palpatine is a good example of the logical narrative extensions taking place in this interstitial space from writer Brian Wood. The true nature of their relationship is something we never really saw in the films, but it makes a ton of sense given how their relationship  ultimately ends high above Endor. In short, there’s a lot of conflicted resentment embedded in ol’ Anakin.

The issue ostensibly centers around a milnet kill-or-capture order for the scientist Leia found drifting in the debris a couple issues back, which momentarily disrupts Vader’s secret mission. In the process, we get to see Kel Bircher’s homeworld, talk of the “Tarkin Doctrine,” which dredges up politicized visions of Dubya’s dubious “shock and awe” campaigns, and Vader ends up putting down an attempted mutiny. The dissention in the ranks is over which of these orders, the kill-capture or his own black ops campaign of vengeance, supersedes the other. It’s a procedural guffaw that not only sets off some Crimson Tide style moments full of brinksmanship and intensity, but actually gives the typically nameless/faceless/non-autonomous Stormtroopers of this era some free will personality and decision-making ability that’s usually lacking.

Facundo Percio is on art duty for these “Five Days of The Sith,” and while I find the occasionally awkward pose or facial expression, there’s no doubt that his renditions of all the tech, whether it’s the gleaming corridors of the Death Star, or the profile shots of a CR90 Corellian Corvette, are spot on. If some of the other figure areas are a little lacking, then he seems to focus the might of his art prowess on Ensign Nanda, capturing her pause, her hesitation, or her sheer fright perfectly, right where it needs to be emotionally to sell this story, all the way until that final sorrowful page. Nailed It! Of course, it’s all held together aesthetically by series colorist Gabe Eltaeb.

I will say that if I was the series editor (like that’d ever happen), I would have changed the line to read “Don’t breach the hull,” because “Don’t hole the hull” is an alliterative nightmare that just doesn’t pass the scientifically proven “Read It Out Loud Test” for dialogue. That’s being super nitpicky, but hey, that’s the level of scrutiny you sign up for when you get involved with the property.

Everything I just mentioned aside, the real core of this issue is twofold. One, it’s essentially a character study of Darth Vader. We see his primary motivations as personal – personal vengeance, personal embarrassment, personal family ties, and personal betrayals. Uh, yeah, it’s personal. All aspects of this deep-seeded, intimate anger, are driving him to erase all vestiges of his former life, his failures with the Emperor, his failure to root out Bircher, his failure at staying on the Jedi path and veering to the Dark Side, all of that needs to be erased in a way that justifies his new existence. He emphatically says “There is no Anakin Skywalker” in an effort to convince himself. That said, I don’t think he’s really interested in killing Bircher, subordinates, or even wanting to find Luke or Leia. What he really wants is to kill Anakin Skywalker, to erase him from existence, in order to misguidedly prove he’s found his rightful place in the universe. This is the arc of his character, this is “the conflict within” that Luke senses years later. Anakin Skywalker was bad at being good, but Darth Vader is so good at being bad.

The second piece of this issue revolves around Brian Wood’s creation of Ensign Nanda. Like he did in DMZ with characters like Wilson or Soames or Decade Later, Wood is great at showing the other sides of conflict, or the “Hidden War,” the casualties of war that lurk in these side stories, away from the ostensible series leads. Nanda is the sole witness to this deliberate transformation of Vader’s soul, following the metamorphosis that occurred much quicker with his body. She was an eager soldier conscripted into Lord Vader’s personal service, the atrocities of war disillusioned her regardless of her original intention to serve honorably. It’s only five days of her life, five days of work, which on the surface has been such a boon to her career, and has resulted in considerable financial gain for Ensign Nanda, yet her experiences are something which will likely haunt her for the rest of her days, not unlike the poor scientist from Alderaan, nicely echoing that plot thread. It’s yet another example of the depth of character Wood is willing to imbue his creations with, going so far beyond sci-fi action sequences or tapping fanboy nostalgia buttons. Well, that’s two you owe me, LucasFilm! I demanded a Kel Bircher action figure, and now I demand an Ensign Nanda action figure! Grade A.


Post a Comment

<< Home