Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 3: The Shu-Torun War by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca
The fourth volume in Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER series focuses more on political strategy and warfare than the earlier volumes (which were more to do with espionage). In the wake of the first Death Star’s destruction, the Empire is desperate to regain a foothold on the galaxy and reverse the morale acquired by the Rebellion through the loss of their great weapon.
Vader is sent to the planet of Shu-Torun, a place rich in natural resources that help fuel the Empire, where Ore Barons are fighting against their new ruler. Queen Trios was crowned by Vader himself after he assassinated her father, and in what feels like a deliberate reflection of Padme Amidala, she’s beginning to flex the boundaries of her power. To keep Shu-Torun under the control of the Emperor, Vader goes to support her rule.
It’s certainly a simpler storyline than the previous instalments, though Vader is also joined by the Astarte twins and Tulan Voidgazer, the creations of mad-cybernetics-scientist Cylo, who is clearly gunning for Vader and using his protégés to try and supplant him. It’s fascinating to watch how this younger generation responds to Vader — a mix of intimidation, bravado and envy.
Also on the scene are Triple-Zero and Beetee, a protocol and astromech droid who act as dark parallels to C3-PO and R2-D2, what with their great love of torture, poison and explosions. Not present is Doctor Aphra, the young thief and archaeologist that’s been helping Vader track down Luke Skywalker, and who was captured by Rebels at the end of Vader Down. Finding and silencing her is a priority for Vader, especially when other Imperials are looking for her too.
The aesthetics of Shu-Torun are interesting, kind of a mix of Asia, Flash Gordon and the costumes worn in the cartoon He-Man (I can’t be the only one who saw something of Teela in Trios’s hair and clothing). It made for a change of pace in this series, to see Vader up against courtly rituals and royal lineages, forcing him to tread a little softly — at least at first. His ability to power through obstacles with brute force is naturally just a matter of time.
More standalone than other instalments, and with a more straightforward story, things are left on an interesting cliff-hanger as we head into Vader: End of Games. As always, it feels strange to be rooting for the villain, but as we all know how Vader’s story ends, there’s a certain satisfaction in seeing him out-manoeuvre so many of his fellow Imperials.