Already being a huge fan of anything Star Wars, of course I was looking forward to this story. Not only is it a story that takes place in my favorite universe, but my favorite character is the main focus. Darth Vader has always been everything right with the Star Wars universe. I’ve never read a Vader-based story that I didn’t like. Everyone knows him as the right-hand man of the Emperor, but I always liked that these stories don’t hide the fact that he is very much in control of his own path. Now that I’ve put that out there I need to make one thing very clear; somehow something dark has risen up through the force and Darth Vader has become a victim of his own religion. I didn’t see this coming. Dark Horse neglected to mention that in the synopsis of this series. I won’t lie, I really just thought that this was going to be mainly Vader kicking ass and taking names, which is always fun, but it turned out to be much more than that. Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin leads us through mystery, bloodshed, discovery and betrayal. Darth Vader has murdered the son of a wealthy mining operation owner. This action forces the man to hire eight assassins to hunt down and bring him the head of the dark lord. So far they have all failed. But their failure hasn’t weakened this man’s resolve. The father has made it very clear that he will spend every credit that is in his possession to avenge his son. He manages to track down yet another sword for hire and turns him lose on Vader’s scent, but not without paying a very steep price. Knowing his reputation, and Vader’s ability to smell a trap, this ninth assassin devises a plan that will cause Darth Vader to come to him.
An attempt has been made on the Emperor’s life and Darth Vader has started on a journey that will lead him to the culprit, but that isn’t the only thing in Vader’s path. His mission eventually puts him on a trail that he follows to a small moon that used to be the home of an ancient cult. The cult is presumed dead, but is rumored to have been the birthplace of a dark magic that is more powerful than anything that is possessed by the Empire. Vader begins a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment when he finds out that the cult isn’t as dead as he initially thought. Unbeknownst to Vader, the assassin has been tracking every move that he’s made and following in the shadows.
The story by Tim Siedell is really strong. Like I mentioned before, I was expecting it to be a little more linear and stereotypical, but that wasn’t the case. Watching Darth Vader move from location to location was extremely entertaining too. Seeing him learn and be legitimately curious was a really good direction for the story. We don’t get to see a lot of Vader’s curiosity. He is usually portrayed as an all-knowing and infallible character. It’s a nice change to see that he hasn’t always been that way.
I wasn’t immediately attracted to the art of Stephen Thompson and Ivan Fernandez, but it didn’t take long to grow on me. Their two styles at first seemed a little simplistic for the dramatic subject matter and overall darker tone of this story, but I eventually became a fan. In fact, the art seems to be a pretty spot on representation of what this universe is supposed to look like. Like most avid comic book readers I like for artwork to be consistent and have a steady flow. If there are changes that take you out of the story, then something is wrong. I felt completely engrossed the entire time that I was reading. Any distractions caused by the artwork are a huge turnoff for me. I’m happy to say that that never happened. Their pencils combined with the colors of Michael Atiyeh created some pretty iconic images of Darth Vader, and who wouldn’t love that? Vader’s ignited lightsaber looked great too. That made for some pretty awesome looking fight scenes.
The only thing that I can think of that didn’t seem quite right was that the ending kind of snuck right up on me. It felt a little rushed. I could have lived with a lot more story content, and could have spent a few more issues worth of time in this story. But overall, it was great. I was really impressed with the final product. If you have any love for the Star Wars universe and want to learn more about the history of these iconic characters, you need to give this a read.
Writer: Tim Siedell Artist: Stephen Thompson and Ivan Fernandez Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $24.99 Release Date: 11/20/13