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Darth Vader: Issue 32: Handmaiden No More?

What is it ? : The other Handmaidens are disgusted by Sabe's decision to serve with Vader, and grab here while firing at Vader. They escape into the sky using their Jet Boots, and Vader watches while remembering Padme and Luke both rejecting him, both refusing to be with him because of the direction he took in his life to the Dark Side.
However Sabe escapes from the Handmaidens plummeting down towards Vader who slows her fall with the force.
The Handmaidens return to their ship where Ochi awaits them, and Vader and Sabe return to the Executor where Admiral Piett informs them they have tracked Tambors ships, asking for orders from Vader. But Vader informs him that it is Commander Sabe's mission, so Piett asks for orders from her.
Sabe asks for life form reading on the shuttles, something which confuses the Imperial officers as they aren't sure why they should care, and she then leaves.
Later Tambor receives a message from Sabe, she tells him Vader has Skakoan hostages in a village, asking him to wait until Vader leaves the village to attack him to save the lives of the hostages. But instead he unleashes a bombardment of the village, destroying it and the Imperial forces stationed there.
Sabe asks him why he did it, and he tells her that with Vader destroyed he will rule Skako, and when she presses him he admits that he lied about wanting to free his people, he just wants to regain the power and influence his father had.
Sabe turns to the Villagers who have been listening, and all Tambor's influence on them is now gone, he lust for power revealed to them.
Later Vader questions her about what she did, and she justifies it, that for the loss of a few droids and ships she has destroyed Tambor's influence on his people, that he is now discredited and powerless, if she had killed him he might have become a martyr, but even that is denied him now.
He tells her that only she remained to claim the power he offers her, that the other handmaidens were weak. And she tells him they only left because she kept his secret, that he is Anakin, as they would have remained if they had known that fact. That while now they dispise her they will return to their lives and families, and live normally, while she now is the only one who had to lose her soul.
As she leaves, Vader thinks that she is wrong, she is not the only one to have lost their soul, and the force explodes out of him crushing and wrecking the corridors and decks of the Star Destroyer around him, as Sabe and the others outside leap for cover. . . .

High Points : Some nice use of the flashbacks, which were once a signature of this series to give us a look inside the mind of Vader, but have been missing for many issues. We see how important convincing Sabe is to Vader, that after Padme's rejection of him on Mustafar, and Luke's rejection of him on Bespin, how important it has become that someone, even just this look alike of his love accepts that he made the right decision.
And then at the end of the issue, the rage exploding out of him as she reveals that she is working with him, but only to protect others, which is the same origin he justified for his own fall. And that she hasn't even considered what he knows he gave up for the power he wields.
It's solid stuff and what this series was once all about.

I'm also pretty impressed by her trap for Tambor, getting him to strike at Vader, revealing that he is willing to sacrifice those he claims to be trying to help to get at his enemy. That the villagers see his image destroyed and the truth behind his actions, destroying everything he has been building. It's an excellent idea, even if he does monologue a bit in a fairly unrealistic way ("I will now speak aloud my evil plan, even though I have no reason to.").

Low Points : Tambor is dismissed as a villain too easily, although the way this series is working, he'll be back sooner or later. And the way the other handmaidens totally give up on all their plans, and just return to their normal lives seems odd, these super well trained secret agents who have been part of a conspiracy to destroy Vader for almost 20 years, just drop all of that when Sabe joins Vader.
Now admittedly this is just what Sabe is imagining they will do, so perhaps they are continuing their mission to kill the man they think is Padme's murderer.

So what do you really think ? : It's somewhat of a return to form for the Vader comic, the glimpses into Vader's psyche, and seeing that he is still Anakin despite the image he projects. He still wants his wife and son to understand him and to be with them, needing someone to accept that he hasn't been totally wrong all along.
It's nice stuff, but this issue is mainly Sabe's story, and while interesting enough, it's not what we're looking for in a "Vader" comic.

Final Words : Next issue promises us "Corruption of the Handmaiden", which could be interesting as she is managing to justify all her actions so far, and it'd be kind of nice to see her totally corrupted and then Anakin/Vader's distress at seeing this in someone else, to hammer home that his actions have truly led him to abandon everything he once cared about.
But it's also entering a new story arc, "Unbound Force", a Doctor Aphra crossover storyline, which might be interesting as I've been considering dipping into that comic series as well, we'll see what I make of her in these stories.

Score : 7/10

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