I've written on this point before in discussing Brian Wood's take on the STAR WARS Universe, especially given the timeframe (which is everything, so far as I'm concerned), but, with Issue #13, I think it bears repeating: in this galaxy far, far away, evil one time had a face; and that face belonged to Darth Vader. It's what made the first trilogy – the Original Trilogy – such a compelling story. In Episode 4 (aka "A New Hope"), we first came to know Vader. In Episode 5 (aka "The Empire Strikes Back"), we learned more about him, saw for the very first time that even he had a master, and came to understand he wasn't unwilling to even take steps against the Emperor. In Episode 6 ("Return of the Jedi"), we come to fully understand how far Anakin Skywalker had fallen but also how high he had to climb back up in order to achieve redemption.
Still, all the time, we had the constant reminder of evil. That black visage. The tall form. Those struggled breaths drawn through a mechanical respirator. Little remained of a man underneath it all, but elements of the Force – both Dark and Light – kept him alive for the length of a single lifetime … but, as do all legends, Vader lives on in our collective memory … a constant reminder that the things that go bump in the night are never truly all that far away.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you're the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I'd encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you're accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,' then read on …)
Despite the odds, the Rebels have won again. No, they didn't perhaps the subtle military might that brought about the destruction of the famed Death Star. But using the same sleight of hand they managed to outsmart the Empire, leaving the Dark Lord of the Sith to lick his wounds in a kind of forced exile inflicted by Palpatine himself. However, a force like Darth Vader won't sit idly by for long, especially not now that his name and reputation were inadvertently linked to a traitor who disgraced them all. And – in secret and defying the commands of the Emperor – Vader is about to set things right so far as he sees them.
With STAR WARS #13, Brian Wood once again proves why Dark Horse invested so much in the writer being allowed to crack this era – that belonging to the Original Trilogy – to re-ignite the power, the passion, and the purpose within Lucas's genius creation. The first twelve issues? Yes, they're genius, too, but #13 (finally) puts Vader back in the spotlight. He was understandably sidelined due to the events that transpired in "A New Hope," but, if there's one thing all of us knew, he wouldn't be out for long … and now he's come back with a vengeance.
This is STAR WARS again. No, it isn't the Prequel Trilogy where evil was relegated to hide in the shadows and lurk somewhere in the dastardly deeds of politicians. STAR WARS thankfully loses its ‘shades of grey' in favor of the black and white of Vader against a secret squad of elite Stormtroopers, each of them hell bent on seeing their version of justice achieved for what's happened since the destruction of their space station. Wood has gone back to the source; he's tapped a vein; and he's putting life back in to a franchise that needed a shot of adrenalin.
Sadly, the grim truth of this tale is that – for now, given Dark Horse's loss of the Star Wars license to Marvel Comics – the ride may not last for long. Still, I for one am thankful for the wild ride. It's the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. It's the volume dial turned up to 11. It's exactly the world of my youth, when that galaxy far, far away was fresh and real and exciting.
May the Force forever be with this title for as long as it lasts!
STAR WARS #13 (Ongoing) is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Brian Wood; the pencils are by Facundo Percio; the inks are by Dan Parsons; the colors are by Gabe Eltaeb; and the lettering is by Michael Heisler. It all comes with the cover price of $2.99 an issue, the best price in all the galaxy available today.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Wood is at the top of his game still, delivering STAR WARS the way it should be, the way it was originally intended, and the way most of us remember it best: Vader is evil, the Rebels are good, and the cards are forever stacked against Luke, Han, and Leia. Still, they'll persevere … and that only means the Emperor will squeeze harder in his quest to crush them for their disobedience. This is the STAR WARS we've been waiting for.
In the interests of fairness, I'm pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with an advance digital reading copy of STAR WARS #13 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.