Darth Vader II Shadows and Secrets
Writer: Kieron Gillen, Artist: Salvador Larroca
“I do not consider eliminating a few rebels a matter that requires comment” Darth Vader
When we last left Vader, he had secured a secret robot factory for him, an evil adventurer team to do his bidding, a group of people gunning for his job and massive amounts of oversight on his activities. If you ask me for a growing Dark Lord there can be nothing more frustrating then over sight. Competition and young rivals are to be expected, comes with the territory really. If nothing else a cadre of young men, women, aliens... cyborg... things? All lusting after your position should be considered a sign of success and growth, after all no one plots to take over your position if the heroes are at the door and the empire is crumbling around your ears right (well you would think that but history keeps telling me people are not as rational as I would like...)? But over sight? That means your boss doesn't trust you and is thinking of shining a light on just what it is you're doing on Friday night. Which as any Dark Lord will tell you is a nightmare, I mean Dark Side bosses are not entirely known for approving of personal side projects using official resources and Vaders got... Well he's doesn't want anyone looking too close let's put that way.
One of those side projects is his obsession with finding the man who blew up the Death Star, Luke Skywalker. However, finding people costs money and when you have to turn in daily expense reports, squeezing out the budget to find a highly mobile rebel becomes... Troublesome. So Darth Vader decides if he can't use imperial resources to finance his search, well then he'll steal some imperial resources. As the Emperor has sicced him on a number of crime lords in the Outer Rim (not incidentally doing Jabba the Hut a solid in the process), there's a lot of seized ill gotten gains to be stolen. As a side note there's a brief conservation between Vader and an representative of Jabba's that I really enjoyed. You could just about see the contempt and disgust rolling off Vader that he has to cut deals with the lackey of a Hutt Crime boss. He signed up to bring order to the galaxy after all, not be a government sanctioned hatchetman in underword wars after all. Still his dislike doesn't stop him from arranging his own thievery using Aphra as his point woman to hire himself a dirty crew of adventurers to steal a literal fortune. Unfortunately that money had already been made part of the naval budget (don't you just hate when that happens) so they assign a crack crew to find the thieves and get the money back. This crack team is to be lead by Inspector Thanoth... And by Darth Vader himself.
Let me talk about Inspector Thanoth for moment as he's pretty much the only new character with any real screen time (well there are the bounty hunters but they were kinda here and gone). I really like the guy, first off there's his really awesome distinct look, backing that up though is a character who is calm, calculating and actually pretty smart. Lastly he's the kinda of imperial you need to keep the regime going. He's the guy who believes that the Empire is the best shot for setting up a stable galaxy where people can actually live their lives without worrying about raiders or war or whatever the fuck it is this week that is going to bring civilization down. The best part is that he never says any of this! There are no tiresome speeches or sermons about how the Empire is civilization or Order is barely holding back Chaos and blah, blah, blah, we've all heard this speech 10 million times now! No, Thanoth acts like he believes it, he acts honestly, loyally and intelligently to uphold a vile, brutal war machine of a regime that is grinding billions beneath it's white armored boots. Characters like Thanoth are vital if you want to show how something like the Empire can function. Because if it's all backbiting psychopaths held in check by the Empire then the rebels don't need to conduct any military operations. They can simply sit back and let the Imperials tear each other apart. Darth Vader clearly likes the man (well, as much as he likes anyone) while holding many of his rivals and superiors in contempt.
Which is kind of funny because Vader continues to consider the rebels a secondary problem compared to his Imperial rivals. Now I will say this, Vader is shown trying to keep causalities among Imperial footsoliders and enlisted men to a minimum (he seems to prefer killing officers frankly... Which I find myself strangely okay with). This isn't to say he ignores the rebels but he's clearly unconcerned with them. For example he lures a Rebel cell to a moon and murders all of them simply to cover his tracks against other Imperial agents. He roots out clues to the location of another cell to cover for Aphra capers across the galaxy. However even that is secondary to his obsession of finding Luke Skywalker to that end he repeatedly proves he'll move planets and void, betray anyone and even let anyone live to fulfill that objective.
As for our other recurring characters, we learn a bit more about Aphra, a woman who honestly seems to enjoy repeatedly putting her life at risk and seeing how close she can get to the lightsaber's edge. I suppose that's what I should expect from a woman (or anyone really) who is excited to work with Darth Vader. I mean he's a lot of things but a good boss ain't one of them. We get this through a conservation where she revels that she's got her own broken past and loses due to the clone wars. Which helps remind us that these big epic splashy scenes we love in the movies... In real life they would come with some pretty harsh price tags. I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy those scenes, this is fiction after all but maybe chew on what might be going on in the background of those epic moments from time to time.
Mr. Gillen's writing remains damn good and Mr. Larroca's art is wonderful to behold. They brought a good variety of characters to the Star Wars universe that help expand the breath and depth of Star Wars. While telling a hell of an interesting story about Darth Vader and the people around him. Shadows and Secrets achieves an A easily. Which makes sense as after all... The Mouse does not tolerate failure. Next week we dive into more serious subject matter with a nonfiction work Empire of the Summer Moon. See ya then.