Comic Book Galaxy explores Marvel’s Star Wars comic book releases and provides a discussion point on the culture and climate of the Star Wars comic book universe.
Comic Book Galaxy is back to discuss the latest Star Wars comic books from a galaxy far, far away! This week we reflect on Darth Vader #23 and Star Wars #21, look ahead to issue #2 of the comic adaptation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and explore the fundamental qualities of crafting a new Star Wars villain.
The Week That Was
Highlights from Darth Vader #23
- Darth Vader survives the TIE Advanced crash, much to Dr. Cylo’s bemusement, and boldly sends a message to Cylo proclaiming, “I am coming for you.” Cylo’s answer is to send his last cyborg, Morit, leading to a lightsaber duel atop the Executor. If you’re going to face an angry Sith Lord in outer space, you might want to take into account the whole Force push thing. Morit didn’t get that memo, much to his regret.
- Triple-Zero and his murderous astromech, Beetee, work in conjunction with Dr. Aphra to escape Imperial stormtroopers and attempt to rescue the Emperor aboard the Executor. Aphra is a crack shot and master strategist, who appears to be equally adept at avoiding stormtrooper blaster fire and ignoring Triple Zero’s macabre sense of humor. To keep her wits, she’ll need to be proficient in both categories.
- Keeping in tradition with this excellent series, we have another cliffhanger, as Darth Vader finally comes face to face with Dr. Cylo, who presents his ace in the hole: a remote controlled device Cylo implanted which forces Vader to kneel before him. This plan has apparently been in place ever since the end of Revenge of the Sith, and seems to have done what no one in the galaxy (not named Palpatine) has been able to do: subdue Darth Vader.
Highlights from Star Wars #21
- The villain-centric issue focuses on a new group of stormtroopers named the Scar Squadron (or Task Force 99). Scar Squadron consists of seven elite soldiers who take on the toughest jobs for the Empire, but make it look easy. Think of them as the stormtrooper version of the A-Team (minus mohawks, unfortunately).
- The group storms the secret Rebel hideout on an abandoned moon, and surgically mows down the unfortunate band of soldiers, who have never encountered such ruthless military strategy on this level. It’s the last thing they will ever see.
- The leader of this lethal task force is someone we have seen before — Sergeant Kreel (from Star Wars issues 7-12). After serving undercover as the Gamemaster, he was offered the opportunity to accept any position in the Empire. He elected to lead this bunch, and is deadly to any who oppose him. And did we mention he has a lightsaber and answers directly to Darth Vader? #YeahYouBetterRun
Top of the Stack: What’s Out This Week
Star Wars: The Force Awakens #2
Issue # 1 of Marvel’s adaptation, written by Chuck Wendig, ended with Rey and Finn quickly deciding that piloting the “garbage” off of Jakku is a better alternative than being blown to bits by the First Order. While we know this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Finn and Rey, what we don’t know is what tricks Wendig has up his sleeve for the next installment. However, issue #2 promises to feature the reformed stromtrooper and the scavenger from Jakku’s first encounter with the duo voted most likely to drive Jabba the Hutt crazy, Han Solo and Chewbacca. It’s the beginning of the passing of the torch from one generation of Millennium Falcon pilots to the next, and it’s going to be fun!
Word Balloon: Bring on the bad guys: ingredients of a new Star Wars villain
The last year and a half of canonical Star Wars comics has introduced a number of brand new villains to the Star Wars pantheon. Let’s be honest: so many of us are fascinated by the bad guys. Why is that? It’s not because we want them to succeed as they battle our heroes; there is no Star Wars without those brave enough to stand up against oppression. And it’s not just because they are all kinds of cool (although that certainly doesn’t hurt!). But what makes these new anti-heroes so engrossing and captivating?
Maybe it’s the design of these dastardly ne’er-do-wells that is so absorbing. A creator takes an iconic element of Star Wars, like stormtrooper armor, and kicks it up a notch. Star Wars #21 is the perfect example. Jason Aaron and Jorge Molina have introduced an elite squad of stromtroopers to the Star Wars universe that are equal parts confident, creative, and lethal. They are instantly recognizable for the white armor of the Imperial enforcers, but each of these new characters has a modified look that creates fear in their opponents — and grabs the attention of the Star Wars faithful. The leader, Seargent Kreel, has a solitary shoulder pad first seen on sandtroopers, but also carries a lightsaber. It’s subverting what we know about Star Wars and is kind of brilliant.
So you can give a stormtrooper one of the most famous blades of all time, or give a fussy protocol droid a dramatic personality makeover; that works well, too. Triple Zero was first introduced in issue #1 of Darth Vader, and has left an indelible mark on Star Wars. While he looks quite similar to See-Threepio (save for the dark coloring), he is anything but. Whereas Threepio is respectable, yet nervous, Triple Zero is malevolent and aggressive. In Darth Vader #23, Triple Zero exhibits “professional jealousy” for not having the opportunity to create the havoc Dr. Cylo has aboard the Executor. This macabre humor is a trademark of the assassin droid, and it makes him something of an alternate reality C-3PO. No wonder fans love him.
And let’s not forget Dr. Aphra! She is not just a new villain in Star Wars, but a captivating new character with a fresh approach to wrecking havoc across the stars. She has the trademark qualities of a bounty hunter (skilled combatant, pilot, and collector of credits) with the snark and wit of Princess Leia. Throw in a complex relationship with the main character of the series, and you’ve got something special. It certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s an archaeologist either, especially since that title harkens back to another beloved character in the Lucasfilm collection.
It’s a mix of the old and the new. Combine classic elements of the franchise, and add the unexpected. Whether you are making a stormtrooper as formidable as Darth Vader, creating a bloodthirsty protocol droid that is more deadly than an angry Wookiee, or giving Darth Vader a clever sidekick, you’ve got the building blocks of an exciting, new Star Wars villain. Marvel’s creative team has continued to insert new sources of scum and villainy into the Star Wars saga. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Dan Zehr is a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning, and runs Coffee With Kenobi (with co-host Cory Clubb), a Star Wars podcast that analyzes the saga through critical thinking, analysis, interviews, and discussion. He is an avid comic book consumer and longtime reader of the medium.