Hard to believe 25 issues have flown by in more than a year-and-a-half's time, but that helps when you employ the trendy doubling-up inside a month method as Marvel did on occasion with its largely superb Darth Vader series. In the blink of a Force flick, Vader's solo run comes to a wrap within reach of the forthcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story film.
UK sensation Kieron Gillon has done a slamdango job on the Darth Vader series, which felt more like a longer investment than the finite run it was. Considering the onslaught of miniseries and the regular Star Wars run from Marvel (Han Solo # 4 also came out today, FYI), it's appropriate they devoted the extra time to sci-fi's most venerable villain.
What's been a pleasure throughout Darth Vader aside from Salvador Larocca and Edgar Delgado's reliably breathtaking graphics has been the extra characters introduced into the Star Wars canon. Vader's cunning henchwoman, Dr. Aphra, stands to take a firm place alongside Grand Admiral Thrawn and Prince Xizor as most memorable associates of the Empire without a "Darth" designation affixed to their names. Then there's the wonderfully hedonistic anti-counterparts to C3PO and R2-D2, 0-0-0 (aka Triple Zero) and BT-1 (Beetee). Considering Vader, as a young Anakin Skywalker, originally built C3PO, the nihilistic, nattering Triple Zero presents dark gallows humor, nervously grounding a series that moved at hyperspeed. Think about it, Darth Vader has zilch in the way of a personality, thus Triple Zero is his representative, ungovernable comedy relief.
"End of Games, Part VI" wraps this series on a high note (even if if this might be the fastest you'll consume a six dollar comic all year) as Vader is set to vanquish his semi-cyborg nemesis Cylo and wholly redeem himself in the eyes of his master, Emperor Palpatine. Vader was effectively demoted at the beginning of this series as consequence for losing the original Death Star in the battle of Yavin. Darth Vader has represented the lost-forever Anakin Skywalker's atonement, but it's been more his evil catharsis, a solidified pact with the Dark Side, if not wholly obliging to his master.
While Vader's loyalty to the Emperor has been tested all along, so too has Dr. Aphra's constancy to Vader. As suggested by the end of Darth Vader # 24, in this final issue, Aphra betrays Vader to the Emperor. Throughout the story, Vader has exploited Imperial resources in an attempt to thread his lineage and rectify a latent sense of guilt pestering him, that thread naturally being his son, Luke. Despite Aphra's betrayal, Palpatine praises Vader's wiliness, re-escalating him to his right hand.
Part of what's been building up through Darth Vader is witnessing the ultimate fate of Dr. Aphra, who was at one point captured by the Rebel Alliance. All this time, you just know she's been bound to get it in this series. Yes, we've detoured into the quite awesome "Vader Down" crossover tale where even a legion of Rebels is no match for a grounded Sith. Vader has toyed with an Imperial detective, Inspector Thanoth, practically for fun. Vader has squashed an insurrection on the planet Shu-Torun in his inimitable, brutal fashion. He's made mincemeat of young warriors bred into the Force, Morit and Aiolin, whom he views as abominations instead of peers. He's debunked science as a harbinger of controlled chaos, defeating Imperial scientist Tulon Voidgazer and her cyberanimate rancor. Hey, Vader's kid took on the real thing in Return of the Jedi, call it kismet.
Still, the core of the Darth Vader series comes down to a singular relationship, one devoid of emotional chemistry, given Anakin's Skywalker's only true love was killed by his own hand. Dr. Aphra is as close to an organic companion in Vader's malformed life as he'll ever get, post-Padme. Having made a deal with the devil (or worse, a Sith Lord) though, even a drunken Rodian can tell you Aphra figures less into Vader's master plan than the plot of Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Regardless of how integral Dr. Aprha's been to this story line and as a crossover character in Jason Aaron's regular Star Wars run, no matter how long Vader has spared her (even exhausted measures to rescue her), it's all control freakism. Aphra stands to be disposed on his terms.
Does Aphra bite it in the end? I know. Bleeding Cool and many comics hubs likewise know and will give you the answer now if you wanna cheat. If you're a purist, you'll take my bait here, grab Darth Vader # 25 and find out for yourself. Like I tell my son, who lacks proper start-to-finish reading etiquette at age eight (as Yoda would say, the boy has no patience) don't you dare be skipping pages!!!