The War of the Bounty Hunters continues with Darth Vader #13, which sees the Sith Lord and Ochi of Bestoon enlisting the help of Bokku the Hutt to hunt down a lead on Boba Fett and Han Solo – but in so doing they encounter a familiar bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back, and it’s revealed that there’s a sinister threat lurking in the shadows for Vader.
Let’s dive in to our review of this issue!
Darth Vader revisits the final words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, about becoming more powerful than he could possibly imagine, and deduces that it was because Kenobi’s hope had shifted to Luke. But Vader is now determined to kill Luke, and thus kill Kenobi’s last hope. That’s what has led Vader to Bokku the Hutt, seeking information on the whereabouts of Han Solo. Vader strikes down Bokku’s Gamorrean Guards, which convinces Bokku to change his mind and help. Bokku fills in Vader and Ochi of Bestoon on what’s been going on, as Jabba put a bounty on Boba Fett, and most of those who have bit went after Fett’s last known location. But Bokku reveals that a group of droids went in a different direction, one deep in Hutt space, and says that Vader must take Bokku’s barge there or else will scare them off.
They travel together to the droids’ location, and Vader descends to the planet in an Imperial shuttle – but upon their descent the shuttle’s systems are sliced and the engines shut down, causing a crash landing. Vader and Ochi are pinned down by the Droid Crush, and the assassin droid IG-88 appears, launching a furious attack on the Imperials. Vader fights back and presses the attack on IG-88, slicing off one of it’s arms, but IG-88 then activates a device that slices Vader’s suit and freezes him, rendering him unable to move. Vader and the others are shocked at this, as Vader knows it means someone gave the droid the codes to slice his suit, given its extreme security protocols. IG-88, in control of Vader’s suit, moves to force Vader to cut his own head off, all the while Bokku watches from his barge. But Vader uses the Force to pull the remote out of IG-88’s hand, freeing himself from the droid’s control. Upon seeing this, IG-88 turns his blaster toward his head and shoots his own head off.
After this, Bokku orders his barge to fire on them, but Vader is able to fend it off. The Droid Crush escapes, but Vader takes IG-88’s hand and uses it to access the computer terminal, where he and Ochi discover that Crimson Dawn is behind things. Returning to the barge, Vader threatens Bokku for having planned to betray him all along, but the Hutt confesses that he has learned that Vader cannot be defeated. Meanwhile, a rebuilt IG-88 arrives on Coruscant, saying that Vader is too strong and that it wants out of the agreement. It is revealed that his client is Sly Moore and her court. She claims that, together, they can become more powerful than Vader and the Emperor could possibly imagine.
This issue continued the theme of the previous one by showing the inner dialogue and thought process of Vader, determined to kill Luke Skywalker. That’s why he wants Han Solo, as he thinks it’ll lead him to Skywalker (or vice versa), and supposedly Vader is now convinced of his master’s power and knows he needs to kill his son. As I’ve written before it feels like a bit of a stretch based on what we’ve seen so far, but it’s nonetheless his very obvious and clear motivation in this War of the Bounty Hunters story.
So this leads Vader to “team up” with Bokku the Hutt, who isn’t exactly the most trustworthy partner – but who comes to fear Vader and realize that he is unbeatable, just as Vader has learned that his own master is unbeatable. This issue continues to pair Ochi of Bestoon alongside Vader, but we continue to not really learn much about him. So far in this series he’s basically just been there, playing a huge role, but we’re not getting a whole lot of insight into who he is. I hope we get more of that before long. In this issue, Ochi is reunited with the Droid Crush, a pirate group from Bestoon that helped Ochi hunt down and fight Vader on Mustafar. It’s a bit strange to see them show up again here in a totally different setting, and I suppose it would work better if we actually knew much about Ochi to make this meaningful, but it’s still a cool little connection to the previous arc of this series.
The main thing about the Droid Crush is that they have a new droid working for them: IG-88! He was one of the bounty hunters called in by Vader in The Empire Strikes Back to hunt down Han Solo, along with Boba Fett, Bossk, Zuckuss, and 4-LOM, which means that we’ve now seen that entire crew show up in this War of the Bounty Hunters series, showing that they’re all still involved in this hunt for Solo to varying degrees. IG-88 was probably the biggest question mark of them all, since he was destroyed by Boba Fett on Cloud City after tracking Fett and Solo there. We already knew that IG-88 survived that encounter and was rebuilt, however, as he shows up in a comic set in the sequel trilogy timeline. Here he’s rebuilt and comes with all guns blazing against Vader, putting up quite the fight. And even though he’s destroyed here again (this time self-destructing, which is something we saw in The Mandalorian that IG droids do when they can’t complete the mission), he’s rebuilt again, showing up at the end of the issue.
That all leads us to the big mystery and reveal of this issue, which is seen when IG-88 has the codes to take over Vader’s suit and life support systems. It’s mentioned that Imperial codes are hard to slice (as the Imperial shuttle is taken over) and that Vader’s suit even more so, and Vader knows what’s going on: he realizes that someone actually gave the codes to his systems to IG-88. It’s a reminder that Vader is more machine than man, and that’s something very interesting to explore here as he goes against IG-88 and the Droid Crush. Vader too bears many similarities to droids, and he’s put in danger because of it. But Vader, of course, is no mere droid, and his connection to the Force remains even if his suit’s functionality doesn’t, and that’s how he manages to survive and regain control. But who gave the codes away?
That’s all revealed within this same issue, so it’s nice that we don’t have to wait. IG-88 was working for someone on Coruscant, and at first we’re led to believe that it’s Darth Sidious. IG-88 wants out of the job, however, concluding that Vader is unkillable. The mysterious hooded figure is then revealed to be Sly Moore, and she’s standing with her court of apparent Sith acolytes. It seems that she is plotting against not only Vader but Sidious as well, saying that if they stand together they’ll be more powerful than they can possibly imagine. That line pairs nicely with how the issue opened, with those same words from Obi-Wan Kenobi, and it shows that Vader’s enemies on all sides are growing more powerful than he could imagine.
But what’s so significant about all of this? Sly Moore is a background character in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, appearing in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as one of Palpatine’s closest advisors. She hasn’t really received any sort of characterization in Star Wars material, one of the rare background characters who remains unexplored, which is interesting given her mysterious nature and close relationship with Darth Sidious. She knows that he’s the Dark Lord of the Sith and accompanies him, along with others like Mas Amedda. But in the previous arc of this comic series she showed up and had a significant role, and it looks like we’re about to learn a whole lot more about the mysterious Umbaran. And it looks like she might be a Sith acolyte or something like that, along with her court of other beings. She’s obviously aware of Exegol (she was there just a few issues ago), and given the role of the Sith Eternal on the planet, I’m curious to see whether her allegiance here is associated with something like that. But I’m also interested in seeing what happens to her, as it sounds like she’s conspiring not just against Vader but against Palpatine as well – though Vader is clearly her main target. Is she actually loyal to Palpatine or not?
This issue is only very loosely connected to the War of the Bounty Hunters arc, as Vader and Ochi come to learn that Crimson Dawn is playing a role. So if you’re looking to just keep up with that storyline, based on what we know so far this issue isn’t necessary to read. But it nonetheless sets up some very interesting storytelling avenues moving forward as we wait and see what’s truly going on with Sly Moore. And maybe IG-88 will get more involved in the hunt for Solo, since he doesn’t want to hunt Vader any more.