Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #5
Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #5 (of 5)
Writer: Tim Siedell
Penciller: Ivan Fernandez
Inker: Denis Freitas
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Cover Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Fair Warning: This review does contain spoilers.
Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin finally comes to an end in issue #5. However, I’m not sure what to think of it. It’s certainly been one crazy, wild ride. We’ve seen a character buy an assassin by sacrificing his own eyes and ears. We’ve seen a moon cut a Venator-class Star Destroyer in half. We’ve seen the Emperor’s throne thrown out a window shortly before it explodes. We’ve seen the massacre of a dozen Royal Guards. And we’ve seen the destruction of a chaos worshipping cult that foresaw the existence of Darth Vader. In some ways, this last issue almost felt too ordinary.
With the moon self-destructing after Vader’s interference, we’re met by a lot of explosions as volcanic activity destroys the surface of the planet. Amid this chaos, the assassin tries to stalk Vader and fails miserably. There’s rampaging beasts, fiery explosions, and a brief fight between Vader and the assassin. While the assassin is certainly skilled for a non-Force user, and he’s no dummy, he still didn’t have a chance against the Dark Lord of the Sith.
As predictable as the assassin’s fate is, there’s still quite a bit of mystery in this final issue. We actually don’t see the assassin die. After the assassin’s implied death, however, Vader moves on to that dragon alien from issue #1. Once again, there’s an implied moment of doom for the character, yet the climatic fate is left unseen. Vader then returns to the Emperor and delivers the focusing crystal for Tarkin to use in the Death Star before moving on to his last stop. Here he finds the old man from issue #1 who hired the assassin. This time we do see the fate of the character, though there is still a bit of mystery. In this case, it’s implied that the old man had the honor of killing himself.
With all those loose ends tied up, the comic ends with a parting shot to rev up the intellectual curiosity of the readers. The Emperor provides a narrative that implies the entire setup was all his idea. That the entire thing was a plot to test Vader’s loyalty. In the end, he passed. Let’s rewind a bit. Back in issue #2, right after the moon uses a laser to cut that capital ship in half, the survivors send a message to the Emperor to inform him of what happened. This is followed by the bomb under the throne scene which we are now led to believe was faked by the Emperor to test Vader’s loyalty. In the aftermath of that explosion, the Emperor pretended to be weak. He let Vader believe that he did not sense the threat of the bomb and that something was clouding his vision.
So while the last issue played it a little safe, it also kept the story mysterious and seriously thought provoking. It didn’t blow my mind, but it definitely made me stop and think about what happened. For that, I have to give in some well earned points. For this being Tim Siedell’s first Star Wars comic, let alone comic, he did an outstanding job.
Before wrapping up, the artwork in this issue deserves some praise and a little criticism. While some of the panels are a little plain and dull despite lots of lava and explosions, a lot of the panels still look great. There’s some really good shots of Vader, the Emperor, and the old guy in this issue. The visual imagery does a superb job of conveying emotion. From a panel of snow collecting on Vader’s helmet to the resolute acceptance of the old man’s fate when confronted by Vader, the panels tell a thousand unwritten words. Yet there’s a few missed moments that could have used a bit more detail. For instance, the first panel depicting the dragon alien with his wings unfurled. It looks a little plain in comparison to the panels in issue #1 depicting the same character. Another moment is the first two snow panels which are very plain and heavily reliant on simple lines to imply the motion of snow and wind. Those few moments are certainly outweighed by some great ones, so it balances out in the end, but it’s still worth noting.
As an issue in itself, Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #5 is pretty good. However, as the capstone on the series, it reaches a higher level of goodness. I loved that it retained some mystery without giving away all the answers. What information we are given is thought provoking and reaches deeper into the story and the characters. There are little touches in the dialog and the imagery that add a delicious layer of complexity to the story. We find Vader teasing and tempting the assassin rather than just simply destroying him. We see the assassin willing to abort the mission when his cover is blown, but fully committed to the fight when he’s trapped. Then there’s the old man who, without saying a single word, tells a story of his own in just two pages. The depth of the storytelling, both visually and through the dialog and narration, is just perfect. I can’t help but give Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin #5 a five out of five metal bikinis. It was a great end to a great mini-series.