Saturday, January 23, 2016

Darth Vader #12 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Gillen goes a different direction than I expected in this issue, and I can't say that I'm particularly thrilled with it.

In passing last issue, the Ante informed Vader and Thanoth that the "Plasma Devils" were on the "Thanteen Substrata on Anthan One."  We learn in this issue that the "Devils" are a squad of Rebel pilots.  Vader distracts Thanoth from chasing Aphra by getting him to agree to go after the Devils, an allegedly more serious target.  The surprising (and, frankly, difficult to believe) part is that Thanoth agrees to completely abandon his actual mission -- tracking down the thief -- to help Vader capture the Devils -- something no one ever told him to do.  General Tagge is ultimately pleased, if only because the Devils would've likely moved bases had Vader and Thanoth continued to pursue Aphra and allowed someone else to go after the Devils.  (I'm not 100 percent sure I buy that, but hence my problems with this issue.)  An additional bonus for Vader is that it makes the weird fake Jedi twins look bad, since they were the ones actually tasked with tracking down the Devils.  In even better news for Vader, the fake Jedi Mon Calamari, Karbin, hasn't yet located "the boy," prompting the scorn of one of Tagge's flunkies.

The story ends with Thanoth weirdly grateful to Vader, since Vader confirmed that it was his idea to go after the Devils when Tagge seemed annoyed.  (Thanoth noted that the Empire doesn't exactly create an environment where people defend each other.)  We also learn that Thanoth hasn't been spying on Vader:  it's been Karbin, revealed to have something up his sleeve for Vader on Vrogas Vas.  It's an odd bait-and-switch.  Gillen has put a lot of effort into showing Thanoth as a capable foil to Vader, but he essentially abandons that approach here:  Vader easily manipulates him, and Thanoth isn't ruthless enough to spy on him.  Instead, Karbin emerges as the secret threat.  In a similar vein, Vader unexpectedly lets Aphra off the hook, apparently because he's suddenly come to appreciate competence.  Sure he has...

Again, I can't say that I'm particularly thrilled with these developments.  The unexpected shift from Thanoth to Karbin as a threat doesn't feel organic; it feels more like a move intended specifically for us to feel surprised.  Instead, I'm left wondering why we spent three issues on the inquiry into the theft of the Son-Tuul Pride, if Vader was going to escape so easily.  Is Thanoth still going to try to find Aphra?  Or, is the Empire just going to put a warrant on her head and call it a day?  It all feels really anti-climactic, given how much time we've spent on this plot so far.

** (two of five stars)

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