Darth Vader is one of the most popular Star Wars characters – and one of the Galaxy’s fiercest warriors. But starting with July 3’s Target Vader #1 from writer Robbie Thompson and artist Marc Laming (who passes the reins to Stefano Landini starting with #2), he’ll be square in the sights of a team of bounty hunters – and a mysterious criminal syndicate.
Newsarama spoke with Thompson about pitting Darth Vader against not just a physical threat, but an unraveling mystery as he works to dismantle the Hidden Hand, a criminal organization who’ve hired a crew of ruthless bounty hunters to take down the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Read on to see what’s in store as Vader delves into the criminal underworld of the Star Wars Galaxy in Star Wars: Target Vader #1.
Newsarama: Robbie, Darth Vader is one of the most formidable foes in the Star Wars Galaxy, but in Target Vader he's facing a daunting challenge. What's Vader gotten himself into here?
Robbie Thompson: Vader has been tasked by the Emperor to root out the Hidden Hand, a new syndicate that's been operating in the shadows. He's trying to track down something that seemingly doesn't exist while being hunted himself by the deadliest bounty hunters in the galaxy. He's Vader, of course, and soon enough the hunted becomes the hunter.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the bounty hunters coming after Vader in this tale?
Thompson: It's a motley crew of scum and villainy! Each one has a skillset unique to the task at hand. Each one is deadly and lethal on their own. The most familiar face would be Dengar, who we all know and love from The Empire Strikes Back, as well as from comic books. He's a blunt instrument and not the most trustworthy.
Chio is an Ardenian, one of the best slicers in the galaxy, who is also a bit of a maniac/loose cannon. Urrrk' is a mysterious, masked bounty hunter known for being the deadliest sniper around. Honnah is a Gamorrean who is a renowned tracker. R9-19 is a droid bounty hunter who claims to be a former Jedi Hunter.
And last but not least is Beilert Valance, a character from the original Marvel Star Wars comics who was brought back into the current continuity in Solo and Imperial Cadet. Marvel Editors Mark Paniccia and Thomas Groneman have worked with Lucasfilm to carefully seed Valance back into the Star Wars Galaxy and it's been a ton of fun to be a part of that process and bring that character to life in this new incarnation.
Valance is a man of few words. He's all action. And he does not play with others. He has a particular, personal hatred of the Empire which we will reveal over the course of the mini-series. He's convinced by one of the Hidden Hand's operatives to work with this crew to get a shot at an enormous score, but more importantly to take down Darth Vader.
Nrama: You’ve mentioned the criminal syndicate threatening Vader a couple times now. What can you tell us about the Hidden Hand?
Thompson: Nothing! They're a mystery! An enigma! When we start our story, Vader is on the hunt for this syndicate, but they operate behind several fronts and decoys, nobody ever really knowing who they're working for. They purchase silence and loyalty. They're like a Russian nesting doll. Every step Vader takes to finding the truth leaves him further in the dark. But he discovers he must be getting close when the Hidden Hand hires Valance and company to take him out. Vader quickly turns the tables, realizing these assassins may be a lead to his own target.
Nrama: When and where does Target Vader take place in the Star Wars mythos?
Thompson: The story takes place in some of the darker, unexplored corners of the Star Wars universe. Readers will see new planets and cities and characters.
Nrama: You've got six issues of straight up Darth Vader action. What parts of Star Wars are you excited to fit into this lengthy story?
Thompson: I've really enjoyed writing and exploring new places in the Star Wars universe and seeing them through the eyes of Vader and these bounty hunters. We're also going to shine some light on the Rebellion. I really loved how Cassian in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and DJ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi showed the Rebellion and later the Resistance aren't as pure as we've been led to believe. It's a war after all and people are forced to make tough decisions.
It's also been fun to see Vader on the hunt, investigating, questioning. He's a bit of a detective in the opening and I love seeing hints of his old Jedi days/training filtered through the lens of the Sith.
Nrama: Stefano Landini is drawing the bulk of Target Vader following an opening issue from Marc Laming. What makes them the perfect artists for this series?
Thompson: We kick off Target Vader #1 with Marc Laming who does a wonderful job and then Stefano is taking the reins, and he's been absolutely perfect. I love seeing the energy he brings to classic Star Wars iconography, but we also delve into some of Beilert Valance's backstory and Stefano brings a lot of wonderful character work to those scenes as well. Star Wars brings the high-octane action but is anchored by smaller moments and Stefano really nails both.
Nrama: What's your favorite thing he's drawn for Target Vader so far?
Thompson: I love all of it! But I really loved the flashbacks at the beginning of issues 2 and 3. They're personal moments set against a large Star Wars canvasthat really shed a lot of light on Valance.
Nrama: Star Wars is a big playground - will you be sticking around the Galaxy following Target Vader?
Thompson: Seeing Star Wars in the theater is literally one of my earliest memories, so to get to play in this universe has been nothing short of incredible. Like, I still can't believe it! I love working with Mark and Tom, who have such passion for these characters and this universe. And the entire team at Lucasfilm is absolutely brilliant, deeply invested, and wonderful to work for. I'd happily play in this playground forever!
Nrama:What's it like to be telling this kind of story with one of Star Wars' most compelling characters?
Thompson: Honestly, it's intimidating! Vader is one of the most iconic characters ever. His cinematic story is incredible and the recent comics in the Marvel line have been amazing in building out what we know about him and fleshing out his time post-prequels. Oftentimes I'll find myself re-writing Vader's lines the most, or even cutting them completely.
He's a tough character to write because he's so iconic, but Mark, Tom, and the team at Lucasfilm so clearly get his voice and his history, which makes the job so much easier. When in doubt I just grab one of the hand full of Vader action figures I have on my desk and act the scene out. I've been doing that since I was three years old, so to do it professionally is literally a dream come true.