Star Wars: Vader Down by Jason Aaron & Mike Deodato
It took me a while to figure out how Vader Down fit into the VADER series by Kieron Gillen that I was making my way through: turns out that this should be read after Vader and Shadows and Secrets, but before The Shu-Torun War (which is technically the third book in the VADER series). This is a crossover between the storylines in Gillen’s Vader-centric arc and those by Jason Aaron in his Rebellion-centric series.
Still with me? Okay, so Vader Down deals with Vader following up a lead on the pilot that destroyed the Death Star, and who in previous issues he found out was his son Luke Skywalker. Along with plans to build his own power base to undermine the Emperor’s authority, he now wants to hunt down Luke and turn him to the Dark Side.
Unaware of Vader’s connection to him, Luke has journeyed to a former Jedi Temple on Vrogas Vas to find more information about the Force and the Jedi. Both will converge on the desert planet, where members of the Rebel Alliance seize the chance to destroy the Empire’s most formidable general.
Unsurprisingly, it does not go well for them, and many of the panels in Vader Down take on the feel of a horror film as assorted Rebels go up against Vader and are effortlessly mown down (remember that scene in Rogue One? This is like that, only more prolonged).
Also involved are Vader’s allies Doctor Aphra (a young thief and archaeologist who’s out for her own personal gain), two droids that work for her (who are essentially the evil versions of C-3P0 and R2-D2) and Han, Leia and Chewie, who are desperately trying to find Luke before Vader does. Also thrown in the mix is one of mad-scientist Cylo’s creations, a Mon Calamari warrior that’s been grafted onto a cybernetic body and is out to prove himself to the Empire by defeating Vader.
Yeah, a LOT of individuals with opposing agendas end up on the surface of Vrogas Vas, but part of the fun in this story is how they all converge and try to outwit each other to achieve their own goals. It can be funny, frightening and very clever at times (what Aphra does to disguise Triple-Zero is particularly good) and you’re never quite sure whose got the upper hand at any given time.
This is the graphic novel that contains what is perhaps Vader’s most iconic non-filmic line: “All I am surrounded by is fear and dead men,” but Star Wars: Vader Down also gives us a sharp look at Leia’s pragmatic side, when she considers destroying Vader to be more important than saving Luke, and pitting Han against Aphra, two characters that have more in common than they realize (that Aphra seems partially inspired by Indiana Jones, who was of course played by Harrison Ford, is an extra bonus).
It was a fun interlude, though I’ll be glad to get back to the Dark Side perspective in The Shu-Torun War.