The War of the Bounty Hunters continues!
The latest issue of Greg Pak’s Darth Vader comic series, Darth Vader #14, peels back the curtain on some things that have come before and shows us a more complete picture, all centering around the mysterious Umbaran who is a part of Palpatine’s court, Administrator Sly Moore.
Let’s dive into a review of the issue!
On Coruscant, Darth Vader is alive, having survived the trials and attempted killings orchestrated by Emperor Palpatine. The Emperor confronts Sly Moore about this, who confesses that she failed to kill Vader despite Palpatine sending her to do so. “Of course you failed,” he responds, and Mas Amedda then demotes Moore to sub-administrator. She is left to engage in conversations about various reports, and one comes in that catches her attention: Jabba the Hutt has put a contract out on a bounty hunter who was supposed to deliver a rebel to him – and this rebel is connected to a higher-value rebel named Skywalker. The name Skywalker catches Moore’s attention, and she interrupts the further report about an invitation sent by Crimson Dawn.
Moore infiltrates the Imperial Repair Sub Block to examine the specifications of Vader’s armor. Mas Amedda shows up and questions her about this, but she performs a mind trick on him to get him to leave and forget what he saw. She downloads the specs of Vader’s armor and passes it through a series of confidants, and finally the specs are sent to the bounty hunter IG-88.
We then pick up where the previous issue left off, with Moore having assembled her court – who are all surprised to be gathered together, as they can’t be seen together. Moore tells them that their strength is in their numbers. IG-88 shows up, saying that he failed to kill Vader, and Moore uses this to make her point about needing to stand together. Suddenly, Vader and Ochi show up, with Vader cutting down IG-88 with his lightsaber. The court retreats into a temple and Vader pursues them, and Moore makes her stand. She freezes his armor and the court turns on Vader, together, attacking him. He anticipated this, however, and fights back. Soon only Moore is left, and Vader strikes her but doesn’t kill her. She pleads for her life, saying that he could kill her but that wouldn’t save him from Skywalker. She says that only Skywalker can truly replace Vader, and offers to help the Sith Lord find him, telling him about the auction for Han Solo and that Skywalker will follow.
She offers to follow this lead for Vader so that the Emperor won’t know of his plans. So Moore, Ochi, and an Imperial contingent arrive at the Crimson Dawn auction. As the Hutts bid each other up, Moore questions Ochi, who reveals Bokku is bidding against Jabba at Vader’s behest, both to humiliate Moore and to show Jabba that Bokku has betrayed him. It is only then that Moore realizes that Vader has set her up, and at that moment Vader storms into the auction room himself.
This issue does a really good job of filling in details from both Darth Vader #13 and War of the Bounty Hunters #2, taking us back through the story with a focus on Sly Moore this time. So we see the immediate fallout of the previous arc in this comic series, as Vader has survived against all odds, and we learn officially that Moore was the one orchestrating things against him at Palpatine’s command. She is demoted, but sees an opportunity when she hears about Skywalker.
It’s unclear why she reacts this way to the name, as she presumably does know that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, but also may just know the name because this is the kid who blew up the Death Star and is such a high priority for Vader especially. Either way, though, she sees another opportunity to strike at Vader. So she downloads the schematics to Vader’s armor and makes sure that it gets to IG-88. All of this is by way of background, setting up this mysterious Umbaran who, until now, has never received any focused attention in canon. So this issue peels back the curtain, taking us through events that we’re already familiar with in this comic but showing us things with a focus on Moore, giving us a fuller picture.
We also learn that she can use the Force. Mas Amedda scoffs at this, saying that they are not Sith but merely serve them and cannot indulge in their same pleasures. But what the Grand Vizier doesn’t know is that Sly Moore actually does have that power, and she uses it to perform a mind trick on him, which allows her to download the specs of Vader’s armor. As we learned at the end of the previous issue, she has a court of those loyal to her, what we might call something like Acolytes, and it seems their purpose is to overthrow Palpatine and Vader and take their place. But Vader shows up and puts and end to that. Even though we don’t see him actually striking down everyone, it’s heavily implied by the fact that Moore is the only one remaining after the Sith Lord’s attack.
This was a little bit of a letdown to me, as I was really curious to see where things would go with this whole court, only for the very next issue to see them all apparently wiped out. It seems a little anticlimactic, as we didn’t really get any sort of explanation or anything about who these people are and what’s actually going on, other than a bit more information about Sly Moore. So that’s a bit of a bummer. But the focus of the issue, of course, is on Vader and Moore, so I guess Greg Pak had to get on with it quickly.
So that’s where things lead into the War of the Bounty Hunters #2. In that issue, Sly Moore shows up representing the Empire, and then Vader arrives at the end of the issue. I assumed, then, that Moore and Vader would be competing – but that’s not exactly the case. We learn here what’s actually happening, and it’s that they’re supposedly working together. Moore informs Vader of the auction and how it is a way to Skywalker, and he sends her to the auction instead of going himself, where the Emperor would know what he’s up to. But that’s when Ochi, while sipping a drink, lets Moore – and us as the readers – in on what’s actually happening: Vader has orchestrated things to humiliate his apparent allies. Bokku the Hutt’s actions in bidding against Jabba are meant to undermine Moore (by showing her powerlessness and humiliating her, highlighting her failure) AND Bokku (by revealing to Jabba that Bokku has betrayed him). So these two people who presume themselves allied with Vader are, as it turns out, actually being set up.
And that’s why Vader himself arrives at the end of the issue, at the auction to do his own work.
So in a sense, this issue didn’t actually further things along. This issue ends the same way War of the Bounty Hunters #2 does, with Vader showing up at the auction, so there’s nothing new in that regard. But what this issue does do is peel back the curtain on some of the events in that issue and in ones that have come before in this Darth Vader line, to show us what’s actually happening. And I don’t think it’s good news for Sly Moore.