Last week I wrote about how the destruction of the Death Star impacted Imperial leadership, which perfectly paves the way into this week’s discussion of Darth Vader’s independent actions that take place directly following the events of A New Hope. Again, this focuses mainly on content from Marvel’s Darth Vader series issues 1-15.
Last week I talked about how after the destruction of the Death Star the Emperor had lost faith in his apprentice, Darth Vader. The Emperor began to confide in the mysterious Dr. Cylo-IV (eventually Dr. Cylo-V), and refused to let Vader in on his new plots. This led to Vader taking matters into his own hands, setting into motion plots that went directly against the will of his master.
One thing that needs to be mentioned here is the Sith Rule of Two. Created by the ancient Sith Lord Darth Bane, the Rule of Two states that there should always be two Sith lords at a time: a master and an apprentice. This prevents the massive amount of infighting among the Sith that prevented the Sith from defeating the Jedi. The point of the Rule of Two is for the master to pass down all of his knowledge, strength, and influence to the apprentice once the apprentice has grown stronger than the master. The apprentice is expected to eventually kill the master, thus proving that he is worthy of the title of master. The ultimate goal is for all the power of the Sith to accumulate along one line, until one day the Sith are strong enough to defeat the Jedi. In this way Darth Sidious had gained power and fortune and influence by killing his master, Darth Plagueis. So it was expected that eventually, Darth Vader would either grow strong enough to kill his master or die trying. The obvious downside to the Rule of Two is that once the apprentice begins to show potential, a large amount of distrust can be accumulated. I think that this Sith history, as well as the Emperor clearly attempting to plot behind Vader’s back helped to drive wedge between the two Dark Lords of the Sith.
So, in order to prevent his death at the hands of his master, and to insure his eventual inheritance of the Sith lordship, Vader began three major campaigns: 1. Investigate the Emperor’s new companion, Dr. Cylo, 2. Find the Rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star, 3. Acquire the resources to operate independent of the Empire.
When you go to work against the most powerful being in the galaxy, it is not wise to use their funds, their troops, or even their starships. So what is a Dark Lord of the Sith to do? It is wise to note that before he was the evil cyborg Darth Vader, he was Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, ace pilot, and skillful mechanic. He battled all across the galaxy against all manner of soldiers during the Clone Wars, so he had an idea about where to go to obtain troops that would escape the ever-watchful eye of Darth Sidious.
Vader knew that he needed an army, but first, he needed someone with a particular set of skills. Enter Dr. Aphra and her droids, BT-1 and 0-0-0:
Dr. Aphra: “Thank you Mr. Lord Vader. Sir? Your majesty? Your illustriousness? Honestly, no idea. I’m a rogue archeologist, not a protocol droid.” Dr. Aphra is a human who describes herself as a rogue archaeologist. She specializes in stealing weapons and droids for the highest bidder. After joining Darth Vader, she essentially becomes Vader’s representative when it can’t be known that Vader is doing something. Probably because it’s easier to disguise a human woman than a 7’-tall cyborg (fact check: Darth Vader is actually 6′ 8″).
0-0-0: “Ah, better not shake hands, then. May route a fatal shock through my palm. Old habits die hard and all that. And in my experience they certainly die harder than most organics, ma’am.” A specialized protocol droid, 0-0-0 was originally used by Dr. Aphra to awaken BT-1, as both droids spoke an R&D language only associated with the Tarkin Initiative. Afterwards, Aphra gave both droids to Darth Vader to use as he pleased. 0-0-0’s specialty in torture was often used by Vader to get information from the unwilling.
BT-1: “No, BT-1! No! You can’t possibly do that. They are our masters! Also, who would clean up the mess?” BT-1 was the only blastomech assassin droid created by the Tarkin initiative. The reason being that he destroyed the staff that created him as well as the base. Designed to look like a common astromech droid, BT-1 had an obscenely large arsenal hidden within him. After being given to Darth Vader, he was often used as the muscle to 0-0-0’s brains.
Once Vader teamed up with Aphra and the murder droids, Aphra brought them to Geonosis, the sight of the opening battle in the Clone Wars, as well as the former largest battle droid manufacturing facility. The planet had essentially been sterilized by Imperial activity after attempting to mine for minerals. When they got there, Darth Vader and Dr. Aphra discovered that a Geonosian Queen, driven mad by her need to produce offspring, had fused with a droid manufacturing module. After a struggle with some weird Geonosian/battle droid hybrids, Vader took the droid manufacturing module and killed the Queen, effectively acquiring the means to build his own army of battle droids.
Furthermore, enlisting the help of a few bounty hunters, Aphra successfully robbed an Imperial cruiser of a large amount of credits. While this provided a large amount of funds for Vader’s enterprises, it did put Vader in a dangerous situation as he was paired with the highly-intelligent Inspector Thanoth to investigate the robbery, but this was discussed in last week’s post.
Before meeting Dr. Aphra, Darth Vader traveled to Tattooine under the pretense of negotiating with Jabba the Hutt for the Emperor. Before meeting with Jabba, however, Vader met with two bounty hunters: a Wookie named Black Krrsantan and a Mandolorian named Boba Fett (note: while this is not Boba’s earliest appearance chronologically, it is the first time he is seen in his full armor that he used in The Empire Strikes Back). Black Krrsantan was hired to investigate Dr. Cylo while Fett was hired to find information on the pilot who destroyed the Death Star.
Black Krrsantan was the first to return, bringing with him the Emperor’s new associate, Dr. Cylo-IV. 0-0-0 tortured Dr. Cylo-IV to death, but was able to learn the location of Cylo’s base. Darth Vader, leading his new army of battle droids, assaulted the base, where he found Dr. Cylo-V waiting for him, along with the Emperor and a group of possible Vader replacements. I discussed the rest of this last week, so I won’t re-hash it here.
While this was going on, Boba Fett was carrying out his investigation of the Rebel pilot on Tattooine. He discovered that the pilot’s name was Luke Skywalker and he was last seen on Tattooine with the crazy desert wizard Old Ben Kenobi. Fett investigated Kenobi’s home, where he found Luke Skywalker, searching for clues about the Jedi (I will discuss this more next week). There was a short fight and Skywalker was just barely able to escape. Boba Fett returned to Darth Vader empty-handed except for the pilot’s name.
During the destruction of Weapons Factory Alpha (see last week’s post), Darth Vader had a very brief encounter with Luke. Luke was utterly defeated in a lightsaber duel (duel being very loosely used here) but was just barely able to escape. This was not before, however, Vader saw Luke’s lightsaber, which had belonged to him while he was a Jedi Knight alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi. Hearing the boy’s name, however, dramatically changed Vader’s character. After the fateful duel between himself and Kenobi that left Vader limbless and barely clinging to life, the Emperor told Vader that he had killed his wife and that the child she was carrying did not live either. Afterwards, Vader completely severed all ties to his old life, even referring to Anakin Skywalker as a different person entirely. However, after hearing that he had a son, he began to make plans to bring Skywalker to his side and overthrow the Emperor.
To confirm Fett’s information, Vader sent Dr. Aphra and the murder droids to a mortician on Padmé’s homeworld of Naboo. After she died, Padmé’s body was shown as still carrying child, to prevent the Emperor or Vader from suspecting that she had actually given birth to twins. This apparently worked, as Vader never checked the Tattooine Yellow Pages for a Skywalker living in his old hometown. 0-0-0 tortured the mortician until he confessed that yes, Padmé had given birth to a son before she died (still keeping the fact that there was also a daughter hidden). 0-0-0 then killed the mortician and BT-1 made the scene look like a robbery.
Afterwards, Dr. Aphra is able to pay a criminal informant for information on Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts, and tells Vader that he is on Vrogas Vos. This begins the Marvel comic event Vader Down. Luke is on Vrogas Vos after learning of an ancient Jedi temple there, but so is the rest of the Rebel Fleet. Vader, attempting to find Luke, runs directly into the entirety of the Rebel fleet. Luke brings Vader down, and Vader is forced to fight off the whole military power of the Rebel Alliance with nothing but his lightsaber and Force abilities. Eventually, the Rebel Alliance suffer so many casualties and decides to abandom the attempt to capture Darth Vader. However, they do capture Dr. Aphra, leading into the next Marvel Star Wars story arc: Rebel Jail.
These events are of huge importance to the Star Wars canon. First of all, this shows a direct change in character of Darth Vader. While he used to be fiercely loyal to the Emperor, the discovery of Vader’s possible replacements and that Vader’s son was still alive marked Vader’s first steps towards the desire to overthrow the Emperor and rule for himself.
Once again, I highly recommend the Darth Vader and Star Wars Marvel comic series for anyone interested in the expanded Star Wars universe as it really fills in the gaps between movies. Next week I plan to explore more of the Star Wars comic series, as well as some events in the novel Heir to the Jedi as I discuss how Luke continued his Jedi training after the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you!