Star Wars – Target: Vader is my kind of Star Wars story. The new Marvel Comics miniseries’ first issue was released today, and it’s set entirely in the Outer Rim and focuses on a ragtag group of bounty hunters tasked with tracking down and killing Darth Vader by a mysterious smugglers’ syndicate called The Hidden Hand.
We get introduced to some new characters in Target: Vader, but this series most notably focuses on the character Valance the Hunter (full name Beilert Valance), who had a recurring role in the original Marvel Star Wars comic book and was recently resurrected into current canon in the pages of Han Solo: Imperial Cadet.
Valance is hired by The Hidden Hand– an organization which has become notorious for selling weapons to the Rebel Alliance under the Empire’s nose– and teamed up with fellow unscrupulous bounty hunters Dengar (first seen in The Empire Strikes Back), a Gamorrean named Honnah, a female Tusken Raider named Urrr’k, an Ardennian named Chio Fain, and a droid called R9-19. I don’t think it spoils too much to say that Valence isn’t happy with all of these choices and has a mutual grudge against at least one of them, though the fellowship is not his idea and how he deals with the animosity makes for some interesting conflict right from the get-go.
There’s nothing I love more in stories set in A Galaxy Far, Far Away than when a group of ne’er-do-wells are forced to work together toward a common goal in the galaxy’s underbelly, meeting in seedy cantinas, having clandestine rendezvous with shady personalities, and generally having trouble getting along though their wants are the same. In this case, their want is credits and their target, as the title implies, is a Dark Lord of the Sith.
Seeing as how he’s one of the most infamous villains in contemporary culture, Darth Vader makes for an unlikely protagonist, even in books with the familiar Star Wars label. That’s why the success of two previous Star Wars: Darth Vader comic titles since Marvel took over the license again in 2015 is so remarkable. But launching another Vader-centric miniseries makes sense in their wake, though the spotlight falls squarely on Valance, with the Sith-formerly-known-as-Anakin-Skywalker taking a supporting role as he hunts down his hunters.
We know Valence and his crew cannot possibly succeed in their mission, as by all indication this story is set prior to the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, and obviously Darth Vader survives to confront his son Luke on several occasions after this. But the thrill is in the hunt, not the inevitable outcome, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how a man (now cyborg, after the events of Imperial Cadet) as cutthroat as Valance manages to hold his own against such a formidable opponent.
Writer Robbie Thompson (Solo: A Star Wars Story, Spider-Man / Deadpool) immediately draws us in to the dingy Outer Rim locations, skillfully and evocatively rendered by artists Marc Laming (Hulk, Fantastic Four) and Cris Bolson (Danger Girl, Doctor Who). The first few pages throw us headlong onto the rainy planet of Fikari, where smugglers live in fear that their operations are being taken down one-at-a-time by a shadowy figure whose name they dare not speak, all because they dared to do business with The Hidden Hand. Needless to say, that figure soon makes his presence known, and the threat is established: Darth Vader must find those who wish him harm before they find him.
Similar to my very high expectations for this fall’s first-ever live-action Star Wars television series The Mandalorian, Target: Vader has piqued my interest by trading in some of my absolute favorite elements of the saga born more than forty years ago: bounty hunters, back-alley deals, and badass characters going toe-to-toe with one another. I can’t wait to see where this miniseries takes us.
Star Wars – Target: Vader #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general since a very young age and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.