Being the first Darth Vader-focused story after GHOST PRISON has got to be quite intimidating. If you haven't read GHOST PRISON, go buy the hardcover right now and thank me later. Needless to say, my expectations were quite high going into this one and, I must say, my opinion is right down the middle here.
The plot in this issue is basically as deep as the title. A man wants revenge after Vader killed his son (which included a rather cool flip sequence). Thus far, eight assassins have failed, so he seeks the help of a highly praised assassin to complete the job. The most interesting part with this one is the conclusion, though. Credits aren't an issue for the man, but this new assassin wants a different kind of payment -- one that I would never agree to until the task was done, especially if I was under the belief previous assassins ripped me off. How will you even know the task is done if you can't see or hear? He could literally just plop a duplicate of Vader's helmet on your lap, silly.
I'm a hopeless sucker for badass villains -- sorry, I can't help it -- and this issue did an adequate job grabbing my attention with this new character. We're treated to a feat that immediately proves he lives up to his reputation, but how that'll fare against a Sith Lord has yet to be seen. While the assassin's plan seems a little too simplistic, I suppose it's fair to assume it wouldn't be too difficult to discover where Vader's going if he has scheduled "meetings" on different worlds (like we saw in the opening scene).
When it comes to the art by Stephen Thompson and Michael Atiyeh, I have no major complaints. There's a pleasantly diabolical close up smile and a set of panels (featuring the former assassins) that prove they have what it takes to properly bring any species or droid from the Star Wars universe to life. The action sequences are particularly well done as well, so here's hoping we're treated to more of that down the road.
While there's nothing wrong with having a simple introductory story, it seems as though they spend much more time than needed getting to where we already knew it would go all along. It's not that the ride was boring or unnecessary, it just seems a little too dragged out and doesn't truly impress until towards the end. There's a neat splash page thrown into the mix but it's totally random and was clearly just tossed in there to provide a small gap between the conclusion and the meeting with the assassin.
While I was enjoying the art a good deal, the part with the flying creature confused me a bit. The perspective makes it seem fairly close when it's being shot at, and if that's correct, it's a rather big animal. Then when it's on the ground and the guards walk past it, the dead creature has apparently suffered a pretty bad case of shrinkage.
If you're picking this up solely to dive deeper into Darth Vader's story, you'll be hugely disappointed. He doesn't say a single word and instead oozes intimidation as he poses and occasionally wields a lightsaber. This issue merely sets up the very simple basics of the story and presents us with the key players. Seeing as this takes place before Episode IV, we know this seemingly awesome assassin won't succeed in his order to kill Vader. The only real question here is if his failure will result in death, some kind of escape from Vader's tight force grip, or if he'll simply just trick the man who hired him. Certainly not a bad debut, but not particularly compelling, either.