Some of Star Wars' heroes have faced down enormous odds, but what happens when the tables are turned and Darth Vader is on his own against the entire Rebellion Fleet?
That's what the Sith Lord is facing in the upcoming Vader Down crossover between the Darth Vader and the core Star Wars series. Those two books' writers, Kieron Gillen and Jason Aaron, masterminded this project, with Salvador Larroca continuing on from the Sith Lord's book and is joined by Mike Deodato fresh off his run on the Secret Wars Guardians of the Galaxy series
Newsarama talked to the two writers earlier in the week about this upcoming crossover, which kicks off in November with a Vader Down #1 one-shot before bouncing between the two ongoing series.
Newsarama: In Vader Down, Darth Vader takes on the full strength of the Rebel Army. Are we seeing Vader totally on his own, or does he have any allies he can call on?
Jason Aaron: A little of both. I think he’s very much, in the inciting incident of the story, he’s alone and grossly outnumbered. And for reasons that will be explained, he can’t call the fleet of Star Destroyers to come to his rescue. But as has been established in Kieron’s book, he does have his own supporting cast of brand new characters, this little secret group of operatives he’s been using.
So one of the biggest parts of this crossover, one of the parts that’s the most fun I think, is taking that cast and seeing them interact with the cast of my book for the first time, seeing them interact with Han, and Luke, and Leia, and the characters we all know.
Kieron Gillen: Vader being alone and possibly vulnerable puts him in a dangerous situation. So we’ve got the core image of Vader facing this enormous line of mobile guns, that’s kind of a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid kind of ending. That shot is one of the things that sort of stuck in our heads, that interesting image is what we wanted to see.
Nrama: Vader’s been hard at work crafting a new droid army in the Darth Vader series. Will they be coming to his rescue in Vader Down?
Gillen: Vader’s droids are very much a boutique army, is a good way of putting it. It’s an artisanal army he’s got for very special purposes. Kind of like a hipster droid army [laughs].
Joking aside, it’s very much a specialist kind of thing, designed for small missions and stuff he needs to do like a scalpel. That’s something Vader can call on, same as Aphra, same as 0-0-0 and BT-1. Especially as you see in the second arc there are more relationships with various mercenaries and crime syndicates. So the question of which ones can actually come into play is very much at the heart of the story.
Nrama: You mentioned earlier that Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie will all be involved in the crossover. Will we see them confront Vader directly?
Aaron: Well, that’s certainly their objective, right? Like Kieron has said, the original title of this story was “Let’s Get Vader.” So when word gets out as to what’s happened with our inciting incident, Leia leads the rebels rushing to the scene, and their objective is to get Vader, whether that means capture or kill or whatever. This is their big chance, where Vader is cut off and grossly outnumbered and so he is the main objective. So whether they succeed, or get face to face with him, you’ll have to read the story to find out.
Spoilers, they kill him [laughs]. They kill him by the end of the story.
Gillen: You only think that’s been Darth Vader in all the later movies. That’s actually Jar Jar beneath the mask [laughs].
Nrama: This new Star Wars canon is a strange new world.
Aaron: I know. I can’t believe they approved all this [laughs].
Gillen: It’s amazing.
Nrama: So you guys have both tackled Vader, Kieron obviously more than Jason, in your respective Star Wars books. Are there differences to writing him as an antagonist vs. as a protagonist, or is Vader the same no matter which side of the rebellion we’re seeing?
Gillen: For Jason it may be quite different, but for me, as an antagonist he’s a force of nature. And I’ve got to get a little bit closer because you need to know what’s happening inside his head. At the same time, you don’t want to lose the mystique. The thing that remains the same, whether he’s a protagonist or an antagonist is the mystique. If you lose that, you lose Vader. So my question is, how close can I be and not lose that quality.
Aaron: My job’s kind of easy. I just get to write Vader cutting loose, and Vader showing up and laying waste to everything and destroying everything that’s put in front of him. That said, there’s a core dynamic at the heart of both our books, and that’s, you know, I have Luke on this course to learn more about his destiny and what it means to be a Jedi and about history, not knowing that the thing he’s looking for and chasing after is the thing that’s chasing after him. So having Vader and Luke kind of chasing after each other without really realizing what all that means is what’s been driving my book, and that’s what brings about this crossover.
Nrama: You guys are kind of the prime architects of the new Star Wars canon, at least as far as comic books go. What’s it like crafting a new history for one of the greatest franchises of all time?
Aaron: It makes me nervous when you put it that way [laughs]. Maybe we shouldn’t do this crossover.
Gillen: The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I saw in the cinema, so I’m genuinely a bit freaked out at writing it. I’m surprised I’m not more freaked out. I just kind of write Vader and focus on my section of the universe, cause I think if I thought about the larger things too much I would just sort of sit there and collapse in a pile at the thought of everything. It’s certainly a responsibility.
Aaron: To me, I’ve kind of felt like that my whole career. I mean, I grew up reading Marvel Comics, so the fact that I get to write Thor and all these characters is kind of mind boggling and intimidating. I loved the Garth Ennis Punisher stories, and I got to follow him on Punisher. So to me it’s like, I’ve always felt that those are the kind of jobs you have to be excited about as a creator. I mean, yes, a certain amount of fear and intimidation I think is important, but you’ve gotta be excited to step up to the plate in that situation. To use a basketball analogy, you want the ball in your hands when the clock is ticking down. When you think about it like that it doesn’t seem quite as big.
Gillen: The Marvel stuff in some ways got me used to it. It helps the canon is so much smaller in Star Wars, in as much as many people have written a lot of Marvel characters. Relatively few people have written in-canon Darth Vader. It’s definitely something that plays in my mind.
Aaron: We’ve talked about writing Boba Fett, how we’ve written more lines for Boba Fett than are in the movies, which is strange, but at the same time, it’s exciting.
Nrama: This is Vader versus the entire rebel fleet, so is this peak, totally unleashed Vader that we’re gonna see? Are we going to see any crazy dark side of the Force stuff going on?
Aaron: I hope so, yeah. I mean, again, that’s one of the things I’ve had the most fun with is seeing Vader cut loose. We don’t have to worry about our special effects budget. We’ve got amazing artists on board who can draw anything we throw at them, so yeah, I’d expect you’re gonna see Vader unleashed in probably the biggest way we’ve done yet.
Gillen: Vader Down is definitely the biggest thing we’ve done in a Star Wars comic so far, so it will be enormous.