Previews: Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #1

Let’s get this out of the way before anything else.

I *want* to like this comic. I really do.

But the first issue makes it very hard for me to buy into the concept, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Writer: Tim Siedell Penciller: Stephen Thompson Inker: Mark Irwin Colorist: Michael Atiyeh Cover Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Writer: Tim Siedell
Penciller: Stephen Thompson
Inker: Mark Irwin
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Cover Artist: Ariel Olivetti

Let me set the scene for you: In Dark Horse Comics Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #1. The Rebellion has just won a major victory against the Galactic Empire by destroying the planet destroying Death Star. And in order to make sure that they are no longer able to strike a blow like that again, Darth Vader is overseeing… contract renegotiation for a mining consortium between what are apparently the human executives and the Nautolan workers (I’m not sure, it’s never really made clear) on a faraway planet. Anyway, the humans are getting the raw end of the deal (something that flies completely in the face of all of the Empire’s uber-humanocentric policies, by the way), and so what is the immediate response? The son of one of the executives bursts through the door to assassinate the Nautolans. This is a bad idea with the Dark Lord of the Sith standing in the room and he leaps into action defending the aliens and killing the executives son.

Driven by a need for revenge, this executive – you know what? I’m just going to make a command decision and call him Ex for the rest of the review. He’s never given a proper name.

Anyway, Ex decides the only way he can get his revenge is to kill Darth Vader. But he’s not going to do it himself. Oh no. He hires assassins. Eight of them in fact. Predictably, they all fail, because it’s Darth Freaking Vader that they’re going up against. So Ex spends several life times worth of credits to track down the “ultimate assassin,” and seeks him out with a group of hired bodyguards, intruding into his sanctum in order to beg for his assistance (cue them finding the figure on the cover).

Now, I could have overlooked the bad exposition, the lack of proper characterization (or you know, a damn name), and minor inconsistencies in the lore. But then we actually meet the title character of “The Ninth Assassin” (who we’re going to call Number 9). And we meet him by way of having him kill dozens of hardened mercenaries and soldiers of fortune in less time than it takes you to say “The Ninth Assassin.” This is of course all done off-screen and is apparently absolutely silent, like it was ripped directly from the pages of 

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease.He finds your lack of faith, more than disturbing.
He flies through the air with the greatest of ease.He finds your lack of faith, more than disturbing.

That’s right – the character on the cover isn’t even the assassin. He’s simply one of the assassin’s “associates.” So this mysterious “ultimate assassin” is apparently a humanoid, possibly cybernetic ninja with a sword and black body armor with a metal mask. Yeah, he kind of looks like Darth Vader. And to make matters worse, the mask looks exactly like HK-47, the assassin droid of Knights of the Old Republic fame (and if that’s the direction they decide to go with this comic, I’m out).

Anyway, it should come as no shock that the price that Ex has to pay to hire Number 9 has nothing to do with monetary wealth. Just what it is I won’t say, but it’s a little bit awkward to see in a Star Wars property. In fact, much of the last third of the comic just doesn’t jive with the Star Wars milieu. At it’s heart, it’s always been about the good finding the strength inside to overcome the more powerful and numerous forces of evil. A ninja-(possibly) cyborg assassin that hides in an invisible lair and demands unorthodox forms of payment is not that kind of story. It might work in other science fiction settings, but it just doesn’t feel like Star Wars. 

Beyond that, the book is great. It’s gorgeous, with Stephen Thompson doing the pencils and Michael Atiyeh doing the colors. Ariel Olivetti’s cover invokes a certain something – it’s just a shame that the character on the cover apparently isn’t going to see more screen time. It’s no Jan Dursema artwork, but it’s very good. It’s just a shame that there’s nothing more than a thin skeleton of a story to drape that art around. That’s not to say that Tom Siedell’s script is bad, it’s just… lacking body.

Final Verdict: Skip this particular issue. You’re not going to be missing anything by jumping into this story at issue #2. And that’s only if they can get their feet back under them after the missteps of this issue.

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