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Darth Vader: Issue 35: Target Aphra

What is it ? : We start on Coruscant, with Palpatine contacting Admiral Piett on the Executor and being informed as to what happened to Vader, he orders Piett to find Vader, threatening that if he doesn't he might vanish as well.
Palpatine then speaks to Mas Amedda and Sly Moore telling them that this disruption to the force is because of the Fermata Cage being cracked open, a legendary prison. Sly Moore is slightly affected because she has weak powers, and Palpatine himself considers that he is too strong to be affected, but Vaders powers are out of control. He finally orders Amedda to take command of the search for Vader, making it clear that no rescue is to be attempted.
Meanwhile on the planet Sesid, Doctor Aphra is gambling with Ochi of Bestoon, but an alarm goes off on her wristband and she runs from the room. Outside as she tries to flee she encounters Vader, and Ochi knocks her to the ground. As she lies there panicking, where Ochi tells her to take deep breaths and that rather than panic, she should be begging for her life. She kneels before Vader, telling him that she has always been useful. Listing what she has done for him, providing Triple-Zero and BeeTee One the best killer droids he never knew he needed. She built him an army of Droid Commandos, pulled off a heist for him behind the Emperors back, and although she informed the Emperor on him, he seemed to like that in a very Sith way.
As she rambles on, Ochi comments that people say he talks too much. Aphra realises that she is still alive, so Vader wants something, so asks what she can do for him.
She asks why Vader is carrying a staff, and they come under attack by Bounty Hunters, which Vader blasts with a wave of force, and Aphra realises his powers are out of control. Ochi tells her that they seem to come out at full power all the time, and Aphra realises that he is being attacked because people think he is vulnerable. Ochi confirms this, and finding an Imperial Warrant on the Bounty Hunters, says that the Emperor thinks so too.
Aphra questions why Ochi is still with Vader, and he responds that he doesn't see her running away either. She says that he is too close to escape from at the moment, and Ochi tells her that he always seems to be too close.
Vader tells Aphra that once she trapped him in a Kyberite Confessional which she thought would eclipse his powers, she responds that it didn't. So Vader asks her what would?
Later aboard a starship, Ochi complains that she is taking them to nowhere, and she points out that secret places aren't on maps or they wouldn't be secret. She asks where Vader is, and Ochi tells her he is meditating, but warns her to not get too close. She asks why as she approaches Vader, and is drawn into his visions.
She sees Luke, who she recognises, and Sabe, who she isn't sure of and hears their conversation about there still being good in Vader, before she snaps out of the vision realising that it is just all in Vaders mind.
They arrive and land, with Aphra telling them that they are at the lost headquarters of a separatist scientist and expert in Kyber, Istan Zaly, and she warns that it is a trap so Ochi should go first. As Ochi protests, Vader pushes him into the entrance.
Inside he gets shocked, fired at by blasters, and shot with a poisoned dart, before they declare it clear.
Aphra shows Vader the Zaly Shield, made from Kyberite, saying that it cannot dissipate the energy of the force, but can channel it, perhaps allowing Vader to regain his control. She tells him that it won't work on her, but again asks how she can help. Ochi comments that she should probably be running as she has now outlived her purpose, but she comments that Vader seems more reasonable these days, and remember a previous encounter when she left him and told him that she hoped one day he would know what it was like to do something good, and she remembers the vision where she saw Luke and Sabe saying there is still good in him.
But before anything else can happen they realise they are surrounded by a group of combat droids, led by Gee-Ninety. . .

High Points : The glimpses into Vaders mind has always been my favourite part of this series, and although we don't get anything new in this issue, it's very nice that they continue to use the vision from last issue, making something more of "There is good in him" and building a backstory around that line.
And for my introduction into Doctor Aphra, it's well done, she seems an interesting character. There are obvious glimpses at her being just too wonderful for her own good (getting the better of Vader and living to tell the tale in a way the heroes of the movies never got too, which does weaken him as a threat). But she does beg for her life, and realises that she'll continue to live as long as she is useful, which makes her an interesting character with flexible morality.

Low Points : Vader has never been a particularly sneaky character, but is he live blogging his location or something. Last issue he was attacked on a beach by some random people in a starship seeking out as they thought he was vulnerable, and within just this issue we get Bounty Hunters apparently working for Palpatine who find him, and then Droids led by Gee-Ninety finding him within just a few minutes of him arriving at the secret headquarters of Istan Zaly. But we also get Admiral Piett and Mas Amedda both being ordered to find Vader as if it will be difficult. Perhaps they've just never sent him a friends request and can't see his latest posts like everyone else seems to.

So what do you really think ? : As an introduction to Aphra, I kind of liked this issue, and the idea of giving Vader a massive shield to help control his powers is a very cool look. But I'm drawn back once again to the fact that all of this is happening in less than the single year between the beginnings of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Final Words : I'm really not sure where this storyline is going at the moment, is Vader to get to the cause of the Force Wave which has made him lose his control? Because from what Palpatine has said in this issue and the last, we've been given the impression that it will just pass anyway! Have we abandoned the storyline with him corrupting Sabe? It's not clear, and that lack of a clear storyline means that the events of this issue just seem to be a bunch of stuff which is just happening. And while it's generally entertaining, it's difficult to care about a story which seems to have no current direction or plot.

Score : 7.5/10

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