Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games by Kieron Gillen, Salvador LarrocaStar Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games by Kieron Gillen, Salvador LarrocaThis is the fifth (or fourth if you don’t include the Jason Aaron Vader Down crossover) and final volume in Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER series, one that essentially follows Vader’s attempts to accumulate his own resources in secret, with the goal of eventually seeking out his son and luring him to the Dark Side — with or without the Emperor’s knowledge.

In this he’s been helped by a scrappy young thief and archaeologist named Doctor Aphra (who became popular enough to get her own spin-off series) and two droids: Triple-Zero and Beetee, a protocol and astromech droid respectively, who act like evil versions of C3-P0 and R2-D2.

As well as this, the Emperor has gathered a new set of potential apprentices, each waiting to step into Vader’s shoes. They’re the least interesting aspect of this series, as we know they won’t last and they don’t get much development before meeting their inevitable fates. But the man pulling their strings is a mad cybernetics scientist called Cylo, and he does pose a rather unique threat to Vader.

After the fairly straightforward warfare in The Sho-Torun War, this final instalment goes back to the intrigue and power-plays that made this series so interesting. Vader is on the hunt, not just for Cylo and the last of his creations, but also Doctor Aphra, captured by the Rebels but with vital knowledge of Vader’s secret plans. Everyone has an agenda, everyone is out to save themselves — but naturally only a few will survive.

As ever, Gillen delivers a twisty-turny plot that’s a little difficult to figure out on the first read, but holds up well on the second. The characterization is strong, and Salvador Larroca’s artwork manages expressions, action and alien landscapes/starship interiors extremely well. The series never loses sight of what makes Vader (or Anakin) tick, and he was in great form not only as a force of incredible brute power, but of intelligence, strategy and cunning.

Just as an extra bonus, Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 4: End of Games also includes a short story about Vader’s slaughter of a Tusken village and what the sole survivor did next. Entirely dialogue-free, it’s a fairly chilling depiction of the terrible influence Vader had over the lives he touched.

Published in 2016. Darth Vader has been secretly pursuing his own agenda, but now it is time for the End of Games. As Inspector Thanoth returns with some startling information, it seems that Vader may have passed his master’s tests. But even after finding favor in the eyes of the Emperor, the Dark Lord’s schemes may yet prove his undoing… Plus, the killer droids Triple-Zero and Beetee wreak havoc in their own homicidal adventure! Marvel’s in-depth exploration of the Dark Side of Star Wars goes from strength to strength!