The title of this issue really should've been, "No More Mr. Nice Vader!"
Aphra makes an almost fatal mistake in this issue, throwing around the money that she made by ripping off the Son-Tuul Pride. In doing so, she makes it clear to the Ante -- the crime lord that knows Luke's location -- that she was responsible for the hit. After all, someone like the Ante would obviously question how she was able to outbid all the other important crime lords trying to get the identity of the boy that blew up the Death Star. The fact that she gave him even more money than his asking price for this information, even jauntily telling him to "keep the change," certainly confirmed for him that she ripped off the Pride. As such, when Thanoth storms the Ante's HQ asking for the identity of the perpetrator, she made herself a liability. Vader had to kill her. But, of course, he can't, since she tells him the one thing that would save her life: she knows where the boy is.
There are a lot of great moments in this issue, and it's hard to chose which one I liked the most. Is it Triple-Zero lamenting that he didn't get to kill the guy who cheated against him in holochess because the Storm Troopers arrived? Is it Beetee randomly killing someone to spark a gun fight that led to the aforementioned cheater getting killed? Is it Vader deflecting a blast to kill the Ante before he can reveal anything more than Aphra's identity? Is it Vader ominously telling Thanoth that Aphra won't escape? It's a very hard call. But, the winner is probably the awkward moment between Aphra and Vader, after he tried to kill her and she played her trump card. Gillen leaves a lot hanging in this moment. Vader needs her alive to get Luke's location, but Aphra knows that the minute she gives it to him she'd dead. Gillen irrevocably changed the dynamic between the two of them, and I can't wait to see where we go from here.
It will also be interesting to see what the characters learn from this episode. I wonder if Aphra will realize that she was too rash. All her brilliance does her little good if she's dead. But, Vader also has something to learn here. He knew that Thanoth was following the paper trail but did nothing to warn Aphra not to make herself more conspicuous than she needed to be in tracking down Luke. On the heels of Vader's failure to save the Death Star, Gillen makes it clear that Vader is off his game here. Is he over-confident? Too emotionally involved? It'll be interesting to see what Gillen wants us to believe.
**** (four of five stars)