WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Darth Vader #17
by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca
This issue drops a hint that Doctor Cylo, the scientist poised as Vader’s chief rival for the Emperor’s affections throughout this series (at least by proxy of Cylo’s various cybernetic creations) has an unknown-to-Vader connection to his past. Most likely, Dr. Cylo had a hand in the creation of Darth Vader’s cybernetics, thus enabling him to live in his current form, but it remains to be seen if that’s the case and/or if there’s more to their shared past.
There’s a possible Empire Strikes Back call-out in this issue – a bounty hunter shows up claiming to have killed Dr. Aphra (in response to the bounty Vader placed on her last issue), but his only proof is, essentially, a pile of ashes, as the hunter claims he needed to use a disintegrator. Vader immediately knows the remains aren’t Aphra’s, but this sequence nonetheless seems like a clear wink at Vader’s “no disintegration!” command to Boba Fett in Empire.
Darth Vader #18
by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca
The least interesting chapter of the “Shu-Torun War” yet, this issue is mostly about people betraying Vader – both Cylo, and then his cybernetically-enhanced, lightsaber-wielding twins, and while plot beats like these are important to maintaining the idea that Vader is the protagonist of his own series, they aren’t all that engaging when they’re all the issue has to work with.
The only other notable event is when Triple Zero lays out his plan for melding human tissue to droids, saying it will create a droid that is more man than machine – a deliberate echo of Obi-Wan’s declaration in Return of the Jedi that Vader is “more machine now than man”, reinforced by the way Vader immediately shoots down Triple Zero’s proposal.
By Greg Wiseman & Andrea Broccardo
The somewhat-tumultuous publication history of this series ends with this issue, the series’ final. Originally announced as a six issue miniseries, it was promoted to ongoing before the first issue went on sale. Then, when issue #12 was solicited last December, it became the first casualty of Marvel’s new Star Wars line (sort of, because again, it technically was conceived as finite series to begin with). At any rate, it’s not really a surprise; despite strong sales relative to many other mainstream Marvel and DC books, the latter half of the series featured some of the lowest-selling issues of any Star Wars titles, and quality-wise, Kanan always seemed to land thoroughly in the middle of the Star Wars pack, rarely awful month-to-month but just as rarely never excellent, either.
At one point, Kanan says it feels like a year since he started telling his story, a metatextual nod to the story unfolding in twelve monthly issues.
Admiral Rae Sloane, a rising star in the new canonical Expanded Universe, makes an appearance in this issue. She previously encountered Kanan in the novel A New Dawn, and was the chief antagonist of the first new post-Return of the Jedi novels, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath.
The cover to this issue reflects the cover to the first issue, making the pair an effective set of bookends for the series.
Star Wars #17
By Jason Aaron & Leinil Francis Yu
The Luke/Han subplot in this story continues to be played primarily for laughs, as in this issue the pair is forced to take a job smuggling cow-like nerfs to recoup the Rebel money Han lost gambling in the previous issue. While seeing the Han/Luke relationship in the spotlight is appreciated, it’s too bad Luke’s quest to learn more about the Jedi, which has been his driving force in the series so far (albeit one he often gets driven away from by forces outside his control), is getting ignored.
The scene in which Luke makes the smuggling contract is deliberately reminiscent of the scene in A New Hope in which Obi-Wan initially hires Han, while Luke is wearing a cloak and hooded in a manner that recalls his appearance in the opening of Return of the Jedi.
Over in the main plot, Jason Aaron gets some dramatic moments out of Leia being forced to defend the lives of imprisoned Imperial criminals against the mysterious foe who infiltrated Sunspot Prison last issue, but the whole thing ends in a fairly predictable cliffhanger in which Leia (and Sana, who is still hanging around) is forced to team-up with Dr. Aphra to save the day. Leinil Francis Yu’s art continues to be rough and less polished, as well.
Obi-Wan & Anakin #3
By Charles Soule & Marco Checcheto
The best part about this mostly middling series remains Anakin’s relationships with his mentors, both Obi-Wan in the series’ present and Chancellor Palpatine in its recent past. Here, Obi-Wan gets an extended monologue about his motivations for training Anakin and the pressure that puts on him, and it’s easily the highlight of the issue.
In this issue, a member of the Tarsunt species can be seen during the Anakin/Palpatine flashback, a species first introduced visually in The Force Awakens, making it the first Force Awkens-era alien to appear in the Prequel Era
Cover of the Month: Darth Vader #17 (but the cover pickings are really slim this month, with nothing really popping much).
Book of the Month: Star Wars #17 – despite the Han/Luke subplot and scratchy art, forcing Leia to save the lives of Imperial criminals trumps the more routine happenings in the two Darth Vader issues.