Starting in April this year, Dark Horse Comics published a five-issue miniseries taking place only months after the events of Revenge of the Sith. On one level, Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin tells the tale of an unknown assassin as he tracks down the Dark Lord on behalf of a wealthy industrialist—it’s a fun framing story that occupies about a third of the overall plot. On another level, however, this miniseries ties together Vader’s actions in both Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi… and throws in a wink to Star Wars: A New Hope for good measure.
The deeper plot involves an ancient order of cultists who look to Vader to destroy both the Jedi and the Sith. “Balance of the Force” is not their goal, however, instead worshipping chaos in place of order. There’s a rich mythological motif being hinted at here, with both Jedi and Sith being associated with obedience and discipline at the expense of “freedom”. In the final days of the Republic, the Jedi did indeed lose sight of the human spirit, fixating on procedure, bureaucracy and (literal) ivory tower thinking, and in turn losing touch with the Force all the while—in this sense, the cultists aren’t far off the mark.
But there’s also a lot more than philosophical pondering on offer. A lot of what’s dished up is classic Star Wars, including seedy bars, ancient ruins and monsters galore, not to mention a young Vader showing who’s boss on more than one occasion.
The storytelling is tight and never wastes time on unnecessary excursions. Meanwhile, the art is both colourful and atmospheric. It really is hard to find fault with this miniseries.
This isn’t essential reading, but it is fun and has some real substance to boot. For those reasons alone, it comes highly recommended.
Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin is now available as a hardcover collection from Dark Horse Comics.