The collected trade paperback of Star Wars: Purge draws together the standalone and miniseries issues released by Dark Horse that follow skirmishes involving Darth Vader as he continues his obsessive purge of the Jedi, following the rise of the Empire across the universe. While Palpatine endures as Emperor, the focus of the Sith become in strengthening the New Order, but Vader soon learns that to purge the galaxy of the Jedi, he must purge his very being of all traces of what once was Anakin Skywalker.
The first chapter, the self-titled “Purge,” was the first comic to be distributed to depict Vader on his Jedi Purge mission. A group of surviving Jedi, having evaded Order 66, collectively meet in an abandoned mine on Kessel, to discuss their options having now faced the fall of their friends and the rise of the empowered Sith. But the gathering’s organizer has something more devious planned, having heard of Vader’s obsession for locating Obi-Wan Kenobi, she puts out word he is with them to meet… and Vader is coming to them.
Purge indicates Vader in his early days following the events of Revenge of the Sith. He is still dominated by the headstrong nature of Anakin Skywalker, and has developed an obsession for finding all remaining Jedi that have survived. Palpatine, sensing danger with this path, seeks to deter his apprentice from his obsession, to no avail.
Until opportunity arises in the second chapter, “Seconds To Die.” The Jedi niece of Plo Koon hides in the tunnels and lower levels below the damaged and purged Jedi Temple, planning a takedown of the Empire. Having access to the emptied temple, she obtains the encrypted communication channels for Palpatine, and pledges herself to the teachings of the Sith – with the promise that Vader will die at her hands and she will succeed him.
The promise does not meet the premise of the book, of course, and the battle amongst the two can only have one single conclusion. Despite this, Vader becomes confused at her peaceful demise as she experiences a vision he could not perceive. The confusion does nothing more than encourage his obsessions, as seen in the third chapter, “The Hidden Blade,” where Palpatine sends his apprentice to oversee the constructions of the new AT-AT walkers. This is a mission that sees Vader locate Jedi on the planet, rather than seeking the guidance of his master.
The lesson learned, Vader (presumably a few years after Episode III at this point) is sent to a faraway planet in “The Tyrant’s Fist,” the final chapter; during which he refocuses his obsession with killing Jedi, and instead finds a new Purge that will have lasting ramifications for the galaxy – and actually echoes numerous of the sentiments that were brought up in early Expanded Universe publications way before the prequels happened.
The script of Star Wars: Purge, overall, is good, though lackluster in parts. While the first chapter is a mindblowing action piece, that fits the premise; the only other chapter to provide something of a different competence is “The Hidden Blade,” which echoes and mirrors many aspects of Akira Kurosawa. “Seconds To Die” bears no weight on the direction of the entire trade paperback as a whole, and could well have been excluded with no loss or confusion on the part of the readers.
The concluding chapter, though, has mixed results. While its first part is essentially a regurgitation of “Purge” and “Seconds To Die,” its final portion sets up Vader’s new direction for the concept of washing away the Jedi, and connects numerous dots to other Star Wars Expanded Universe stories. Overall, the book portrays Vader as a desperate evil assassin, and makes it hard to follow him directly as a character – this lesson now having been learned, Vader’s atmosphere is better fleshed out in some of the more recent Darth Vader publications such as The Ghost Prison.
Despite this, the trade paperback (for Star Wars geeks at least) offers a glimpse at how the creative teams got to the current point they are at with the contemporary Vader publications. It was inevitable that some aspects of the Jedi Purge would be represented in comic book form, and to get to the better Vader material, they needed to work their enthusiasm for the Purge out of the way – very much in the manner that Vader has to work through his purge mania. Perhaps this collection is a metatextual reference to the journey the creative teams had to work through to get to better works like Ghost Prison and Ninth Assassin?
Like the scriptwriting, the artwork for Purge is also admixed. The opening chapter is beautifully illustrated by Douglas Wheatley, with some of the best Darth Vader art I’ve ever seen, including a radical frame of helmet-damaged Vader showing off his evil Skywalker red eye.
The second chapter is a disappointment compared to the first, where the likenesses and portrayals are sacrificed in favor of toon-ish qualities and approximations.
“The Hidden Blade” stands up with some of the most magnificent and delicate artwork I’ve ever come across in Star Wars comics. Chris Scalf takes the responsibility for this work, and the panels are thick and rich with meticulously painted artwork that simply looks exquisite. Along with some water colors, there seems to be a mix of acrylics and gouache in the paint work if I’m not mistaken, and I would absolutely love it if I could find a poster of some of his work in this part of the book. To be honest, the artwork in this chapter is worth the purchase.
The final chapter has a tough act to follow from Chris Scalf, but there’s a component of the work in “The Tyrant’s Fist” by Marco Castiello, Andrea Chella, and Michael Atiyeh that I simply cannot deny – there’s a nostalgia fix here. From place to place, and aspect to element, I found myself pondering of different Star Wars comics during this chapter. There are several shots that harken back to the Shadows Of The Empire comic days, some tips of the hat to Marvel; but also some important line work in the inks in places that really stand out to me like some of the fantastic work done in the old Tales of the Jedi series.
Overall, Star Wars: Purge is worth a look if you’re a fan, but most likely a must-read event if you’re an Expanded Universe geek like me. I believe that some other comic readers could get a kick out the book overall, but they will find some of the poorer elements to be disappointing. At the end of the day, this one is for the Star Wars fans; though if you asked me which books would be superior to check out for some Vader actions, I’d be pointing at stories like Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison instead of this one.
Take a look if you’re a Star Wars geek, but if you just want some Vader tales, you’d be better served looking at some of the more recent Darth Vader series.