Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Circle of Life!
Insert Mufasa joke here.
Even though I don't read them as religiously as I did the old Marvel series, I do enjoy the occasional Dark Horse Star Wars story, particularly anything that manages to be 'one-and-done.' And Star Wars: Empire #14 is a good example. "The Savage Heart" Written by Paul Alden, art and coloring by Raul Trevino.

Set immediately after the Battle of Yavin (for the non-geeks, right after the Death Star blows up in Episode IV...fine, the first Star Wars movie) Darth Vader is not a happy camper. His TIE fighter is damaged, communications are out, and only by focusing his anger through the Force can he pull out of the spin. Vader sets a course to the only outpost he can get to, a desertous planet named Vaal.

If Tatooine was, as Luke whined, the planet farthest from the bright center of the universe, then Vaal...is also a crappy, boring planet. Of the three Imperials stationed there, only one still attempts to do any reports or work; the other two have already resigned themselves to slacking off, reasoning no one would ever bother to come there and check up on them. Oh, man, I have been there. It sounds so reasonable, and then your district manager shows up the day you come to work in your bathrobe. Bastard!

Upon arriving in the Vaal system, Vader's already damaged ship can't detect the asteriods until he hits one, which sets up a two page sequence for the crash landing. Pretty.

Vader is left to walk across the African-like grasslands, which inevitably attracts predators. Predators who must be pretty darn hungry, if they're willing to attack someone with a lightsaber, Force-throwing powers, and frankly not even that much meat on him. Seriously, it's a charred torso wrapped in metal; hardly seems worth the hassle.

Killing the pack leader, the rest of the predators back off; but Vader has a sudden strange feeling: joy. Although he could push on to the outpost, Vader camps out overnight, savoring the moment. That night, the pack offers him the remains of their former leader, a gesture of submission.
It's not beef, but it's what's for dinner.
In the morning, Vader soon finds his pack in battle with a hippo-Ankylosaurus looking thing. They may be smelly, flea-ridden varmints; but they're Vader's varmints, damnit! Vader gets so pissed, he doesn't even use his lightsaber, instead dispatching the creature with a knife-hand strike. Victorious, the pack shares a happy howl with their new leader.
Chug it!  Finish it!  All the way!  Whoo!
Back at the base, where the officers are now so bored they're drinking out of a lava lamp, the third officer has come around and embraced his inner slackass...just in time.

Well, let's face it, Vader probably would've snuffed those guys, even if they had been model employees. Back on Coruscant, Vader tells an officer to have his TIE picked up, and have a replacement squad sent for the station, as it's "currently unmanned."

I particularly like this issue, not just because the art is really nice or because it's Star Wars vs. the Lion King, but since I always imagined Darth Vader as a hands-on kind of guy. Sure, he can strangle you from across the room, but sometimes you just want that tactile sensation. In the scene in A New Hope when he chokes a Rebel soldier while questioning him, I always figured Vader would immediately throw the body over his shoulder like an empty beer can, and turn to the next prisoner: "YOU! Where is the hidden Rebel base!" And that prisoner would panic, freeze, and Vader would snap his neck like a chicken's and keep going until he ran out of prisoners...

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