Set not long after Palpatine has declared himself Emperor, and the shadowy hand of the Empire begins to span across the Star Wars galaxy, Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin is another new tale from Dark Horse focusing in on the Sith Lord formerly known as Anakin Skywalker.
The first issue of Ninth Assassin begins with a sequence highlighting the authority of the new Empire on commerce across the cosmos. During a tense negotiation of terms between business representatives under the supervision of Lord Vader (most likely at the command of Palpatine), one of the members fires a blaster shot at a competitor. Vader is too quick for him, using the Force and lightsaber to defend the target, and kill the shooter.
Afterwards, the unnamed father of the unnamed son killed by Vader’s hand at the business negotiation forms a security team in search of the best assassin. Going through eight applicants who either ran off with his credits or were killed, the fat businessman uses his resources and a cheaply paid security team to locate his ninth choice. The journey to the Ninth Assassin is like a riddle or a mystery that the reader learns as the encounter unfolds.
The Ninth Assassin is, in essence, meant to be the equivalent of Boba Fett in the assassination business – he is impossible to find, has an unknown identity, and allegedly (though evidently) is the best of the trade. He is formidable, skilled, and particularly intelligent – and basically a new Star Wars character that has potential to end up in the pages of one of Ben Thompson’s Badass novels.
This character (as with the Fat Businessman), while archetypal, is impressive and an integral element of the writing of this first issue. The first chapter of any new comic adventure is always a daunting writing task, with the focus mainly being on setting the scene for the proceedings to come. Tim Seidell does wonders in this issue.
The only character names mentioned in this new series are that of Vader and some references to Palpatine – the main faces and appearances in this chapter remain without names, and add an immense weight of mystery to the tale. Once you get to the end of this issue, you will want issue two without further ado.
The artwork is also great. Stephen Thompson makes a great mark in this opening issue, with Mark Irwin’s inks almost providing an atmospheric frame evocative of some of the work in the Marvel Star Wars comics in the 1980’s. The colors also complement this well, done by Michael Atiyeh, but where the art succeeds more is in attention to detail. There are also “revelation” moments in this first chapter and these scenes are circumspectly planned, and will be very appreciated by the readers.
The first issue of Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin is an attention-grabber. With the creative team focusing less on Vader and more on the Ninth Assassin in this orientation piece, they demand your immediate interest, and by the end of it, you’ll be wishing you had the TPB in hand so you didn’t have to wait for the second issue. It’s too early to say whether this series will allure casual comic readers, but I can tell you, without a doubt in my mind, Star Wars fans will be highly impressed.