Following the destruction of the Death Star and the Battle of Cymoon 1, the Emperor begins to lose patience with Vader's repeated failures to contain the rebel threat. Vader, of course, sets out to prove his worth and quell the insurrection, while at the same time carrying out his own secret agenda.
Notably, one of the series' main draws is that it gives Vader a secret inner circle of personal minions who do his bidding outside official Imperial channels, acting as a kind of dark counterpoint to Luke Skywalker's famous band of companions. One of those minions, the space thief Chelli Lona Aphra, became something of a Breakout Character, going on to appear in her own comic book and audio drama. Another, the Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrsantan, went on to appear in the Disney+ series The Book of Boba Fett, making him the rare example of a Star Wars character to make the transition from comic books to live-action.
After the series concluded in late 2016, it was succeeded by Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith in 2017, exploring Darth Vader after the events of Order 66 and the rise of the Empire in Revenge of the Sith, and by Doctor Aphra, continuing the adventures of Doctor Aphra. A third series, Darth Vader (2020), continued to follow Darth Vader in the aftermath of The Empire Strikes Back.
Tropes featured in this comic include:
- Admiring the Abomination: If issue #25 is any indication there are a tribe of Tusken Raiders that worships Darth Vader.
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Doctor Aphra, who specializes in weapons and combat droids.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Dr. Aphra's constant fangirling around Vader can give one the impression that she harbours romantic feelings for him.
- All There in the Manual: The reference book Galactic Altas identifies the unnamed Geonosian queen to be Queen Karina the Great, implying that she is the same queen from Star Wars: The Clone Wars despite last seen being buried under a pile of rubble. Word of God later clarifies that Karina the Great is actually a title rather than a name.
- Arson, Murder, and Admiration: In the final issue Aphra spills the beans on most of Vader's machinations to Palpatine, hoping that the Emperor's wrath towards Vader, would protect her from Vader. Palpatine instead has a So Proud of You reaction, admiring Vader's initiative and creativity in operating behind his back, leaving him to deal with Aphra, and even puts him in charge of the fleet and the Executor, demoting Tagge.
- Author Appeal: Kieron Gillen really has a thing for terribly intelligent, terribly sadistic robots.
- Before his meeting with Boba Fett on Tatooine, Vader took the time to slaughter an entire village of sand people. Given their part in his backstory, it's pretty understandable.
- BT and Triple Zero would Kill All Humans if given the chance, and don't need much of an excuse to engage in enthusiastic slaughter.
- Bad Boss: It would be easier to list characters in this comic who are not bad bosses, since almost every major character is a villain.
- Vader has Overseer Aggadeen tortured to death after the rebels escape Cymoon 1.
- Vader later threatens his ship's captain about the chance of their ship not getting to its destinations on time due to a last minute additional stop Vader wanted to make that would take them out of their way.
- Then come the second issue Vader frames the officer Tagge assigned to monitor him with treason simply to knock Tagge down a peg or two.
- It seems to run in the family, so to speak. Every time Vader makes a mistake, Palpatine chews him out. In the first issue, Palpatine is already laying the smackdown on him for letting the Death Star blow up.
- After she spills his secrets to the Emperor to attempt to win his favour and avoid Vader's wrath, Vader mercilessly kills Aphra by throwing her out of the airlock - something she specifically requested he not do in the event that he ever wanted to kill her. Due to her incredibly savvy nature, she anticipates this and barely survives.
- Bait-and-Switch: Vader's battle with Dr. Cylo's Trandoshan is ended when Morit comes up behind the Trandoshan and kills it. Vader tells him, "I will not forget what you did here today." Morit replies that gratitude is not necessary, as he only did it out of self-interest. Vader then clarifies that he's not grateful, he's angry that Morit butted in and deprived Vader of the chance to kill the Trandoshan himself.
- Batman Gambit: Doctor Aphra pulls one on Darth Vader. She knows that Vader would kill her once she is no longer needed and thus requests him to not throw her into outer space, saying it terrifies her more than death by lightsaber. Vader being Vader of course decides to mercilessly throw her out of the airlock, which she anticipated and thus had Black Krrasantan and the killer droids stationed outside to pick her up once the Executor is out of sight.
- Berserk Button:
- Don't call Vader a Jedi.
- Just being a Tusken Raider is enough to make Vader want to kill you.
- Black Comedy: Everything Triple-Zero says and/or does.
- Blood Knight: Black Krrsantan. Issue 7 sees Bossk talk of a fighting pit where various Wookies are forced to fight for sport. Black Krrsantan fights voluntarily.
- Body Backup Drive: Cylo created a personality map and memory banks, that are automatically uploaded to a new, cloned body should the previous cease to function.
- In issue #2, Vader commands an unnamed droid that just did covert action for him to eject itself out an airlock and self-destruct, because it was a potential loose end. In the title's concluding issue #25, Vader ejects Dr. Aphra out an airlock to remove her as another loose end. Fortunately, Aphra was cleverly prepared for this eventuality.
- A secondary bookend originates from the closing of issue #1, which shows Vader had slaughtered a village of Tusken Raiders to pass the time. At the closing of issue #25, the lone surviving Tusken's eyewitness account of what happened has grown into a sacrificial cult that worships Vader.
- A third bookend starts at issue #1, where Vader force chokes Jabba into compliance rather than use the Jedi Mind Trick like Jabba thought he would, stating that the Sith prefer force to tricks. In issue #25, Vader finishes off Cylo-VI (and presumably all his back ups) by using the Jedi Mind trick to force the space whale they're on to fly into a sun.
- Boomerang Bigot: Vader views Dr. Cylo's cyborg creations as abominations and frequently refers to them as such. Cylo counters by claiming his projects are akin to Vader's "children"; iterations based off of the success with Vader's cybernetics. Palpatine points out that without his "open mind", Mustafar would've been the end of Vader. As it turns out, Cylo himself was behind Vader's cybernetics and life support. Issue #24 shows Vader hates what he's become, and would've found death on Mustafar better than what he is now.
- Boring, but Practical: General Tagge embraces this trope like no one else. He makes clear that he thinks the Death Star was a stupid idea from the very beginning, and they should have used those resources to simply build more Star Destroyers, insulting Tarkin in the process. When Vader replied that Tarkin was a man with vision, Tagge said that Tarkin was pretty much responsible of the Empire's biggest defeat so far.Tagge: My plans might not be as glamorous or grand as yours or the departed Tarkin's, but they work.
- Boxed Crook: Dr. Aphra is recruited by Vader to provide him with a personal army of battle droids. Although she is rather nervous around Vader, she is actually quite happy with the situation, being a big fan of his and being excited about getting to work on the projects he assigns her.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Triple-Zero introduces himself by stating he is skilled at "etiquette, customs, translation and torture".
- Breakout Character: Dr. Aphra and Triple-Zero have become quite popular with the fandom. StarWars.Com even had an article detailing why Aphra was becoming so popular. She became so popular that the same day this comics last issue released, it was announced that she would be getting her own solo series.
- Briar Patching: Retroactive example. When Doctor Aphra thinks she is about to be killed, she begs Vader to slice her neck, preferably without warning, rather than for example throw her out an airlock as she has nightmares about that one. At the time, she is probably serious about it. At the end of the series, she is thrown out the airlock, but by now she has made plans for it and is rescued by her allies just in time. Considering she's the only one Darth Vader subjects to that fate rather than killing them via lightsaber or Psychic Strangle, he certainly took her words to heart.
- The Brute: Tagge sees Vader as a blunt instrument better suited to being wielded like a weapon (by Tagge, naturally) than being placed in command. Considering shortly after he tells Vader this, Vader frames his aide for treason and executes him, freeing Vader from Tagge's oversight while embarrassing him in the process, this is just Underestimating Badassery on Tagge's part.
- Bullying a Dragon:
- Jabba isn't scared of Vader at all and attempted to capture him for his bounty. It isn't until Vader slaughters all his bounty hunters and force-chokes him that Jabba becomes intimidated, and even then he's pretty amused by the whole situation.
- Tagge isn't afraid to belittle or pull rank on Vader, though in his case it is more understandable since he is currently the Emperor's favorite right now and therefore is protected from reprisals. Note that Tagge is also a rather downplayed example, since he still acknowledges that Vader is the Empire's greatest warrior — he just believes that Vader is a better front-line fighter than leader.
- Queen Trios makes it clear that while she might be Vader's Puppet Queen, she's still the absolute ruler of her world and she's entirely willing to follow Vader's methods of asserting her authority.
- The Chosen One: Palpatine calls Vader these very words. He means it mockingly, though.Palpatine: You, an isolated survivor of the greatest military disaster in all my empire's history? Oh, you are truly the chosen one, Vader. Chosen to be the one responsible.
- Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Despite Dr. Aphra literally begging Vader to kill her when she thought she had become a loose end in his plans, when she legitimately became a loose end and Vader prepared to kill her she used her knowledge of Luke's location to keep him from killing her.
- Their first meeting even provides the page image
- Cloak and Dagger: Standard operating procedure for A Day in the Life of Darth Vader. Triple-Zero also mentions that he himself is all about cloak and dagger.Triple-Zero: Well, mostly dagger.
- Co-Dragons: Darth Vader and Grand General Tagge serve as this to Palpatine, with Vader being his chief enforcer while Tagge commands the military. However, Tagge views Vader as more of a brute who he can control. Vader is later none too happy to learn that Palpatine has more Co-Dragons from Dr. Cylo's program who share his role as enforcer of the Emperor's will.
- Cold-Blooded Torture:
- Overseer Aggadeen in #1 by Vader and Palpatine.
- Doctor Cylo-IV in #4 by Triple-Zero.
- The Comically Serious: Darth Vader, oddly enough, in Annual #1. He sees the dancing on Shu-torun as completely unnecessary (even though he's attending a royal ball), and when told that he has to dance, he complies by Force throwing his "partner" around.
- Continuity Nod:
- The poetry in Vader returning to Tatooine is not lost on Palpatine.
- When he enters Jabba's Palace he is blocked by two Gamorean guards just like Luke in Return of the Jedi, only he dispatches them with his lightsaber.
- Boba Fett is familiar with the Millennium Falcon from Jabba placing a bounty on Solo's head in A New Hope.
- #4 has Vader return to Geonosis, and there is a brief flashback to Anakin and Padmé's kiss there.
- #4 also has a Geonosian Queen and a commando droid, both concepts introduced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
- In #6, after Boba Fett identifies Luke as "Skywalker", Vader connects the dots and the comic flashes back to Padmé telling Anakin her pregnancy, Padmé pleading on Mustafar, Padmé's funeral on Naboo, Palpatine telling Vader that he killed Padmé (and by extension, her children), Luke flying his X-Wing, and Luke facing off against Vader (in the main Star Wars comic). Naturally, Vader is pissed.
- Continuity Overlap:
- Crossover: Vader Down is one with the main comic.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The typical result of anybody unlucky enough to end up as Darth Vader's enemy.
- Day in the Life: The book focuses on the cloak-and-dagger politics Vader must deal with as a high-ranking official in the Empire and as a Sith apprentice.
- A Day in the Limelight: Issue #10 mostly focuses on Dr. Aphra, BT and Triple-Zero, and their interrogation of a man who was present at Padmé's funeral.
- Den of Iniquity: Vader pays a visit to Jabba's palace which, like its film counterpart contains all manner of family friendly debauchery.
- Determinator: Vader's response to Cylo-V deactivating his life support is to cling to life via the Force and sheer willpower.
- Didn't See That Coming: Aphra sells Vader out to the Emperor, thinking she can escape Vader's wrath through the Emperor's protection. Unfortunately for her, Palpatine is a Sith. He's more proud of Vader's initiative and cunning than anything else.
- Didn't Think This Through: Vader turns to Doctor Aphra because he wants droid minions who are loyal and can't betray him. This means he's still depending on one living person though, Aphra herself, who does end up betraying his secrets.
- Disney Death: In issue 25 a crying and pleading Aphra is jettisoned out an air-lock by Darth Vader, but it turns out that Aphra had planned for this and manages not only to live but trick Vader into thinking he killed her.
- Do Wrong, Right: Palpatine tells his lackeys not to kill one another...or if they do, to make sure he remains unaware of it. Played with in that he fully expects them to kill each other in order to prove which of them is the strongest. Vader decides not to bother with this, and simply dumps Karbin's corpse at Palpatine's feet. When Palpatine pointedly asks about the lightsaber wounds, Vader asks for a fight worth his time. This ultimately gets Vader off the hook after Doctor Aphra sells out his secrets to the Emperor, only for him to tell how impressed he is for embracing the dark side. What probably matters to him is how effective Vader was in planning behind his back before finally getting caught.
- The Dog Bites Back:
- Vader is already furious with Palpatine for treating him like a lackey and for secretly grooming his replacements for twenty years, practically since they first teamed up. Discovering from Boba Fett's information that he has a son, and realising that Palpatine lied at least partly about the circumstances surrounding Padmé's death, is the straw that breaks the camel's back, leading Vader to decide to overthrow his master and claim the empire for himself.
- A downplayed case is after Palpatine tells the competing rivals to not kill each other or rather to do so in the shadows. Vader dumps the corpse of the first one he killed at the Emperor's feet, sending the not so subtle message that he will not be replaced.
- The Dragon: Dr. Aphra to Darth Vader, becoming his personal agent after being recruited.
- Dramatic Irony: Vader sends his team to confirm that Queen Amidala had a son who survived her, which they do, narrowly failing to discover that there was a daughter as well. The irony gets particularly pointed when Aphra remarks that Vader will be pleased that now he knows the whole story.
- Dream Sequence: Vader has one near the end of the series, after his cybernetics have been deactivated, leaving him to die. It provides a lot of insight into his state of mind, and how he views himself. It goes through the end of Revenge of the Sith, after Obi-Wan had beaten him during their duel on Mustafar, but makes a few changes.Obi-Wan: You were the chosen one! I loved you, Anakin.
Anakin: You're a liar and a coward!
Anakin: If you loved me Obi-Wan, you would have killed me.
Obi-Wan: [As he picks up Anakin and throws him into the lava.] You wanted this, Anakin? Would this have been better?
[Anakin sinks down into the lava. Darth Vader rises from it.]
Darth Vader: Yes, it would have. [ignites lightsaber] For you.
Obi-Wan: If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can imagine.
[Vader does so.]
Darth Vader: I need not imagine being more powerful. I am more powerful with every step I take away from you.
[Anakin appears and confronts Vader.]
Anakin: No! You killed him!
[They fight, and Vader wins, dismembering Anakin.]
Anakin: [weakly] How could you do this?
Darth Vader: You were a child. I am well accustomed to killing children.
[Vader leaves Anakin to burn to death.]
Anakin: I hate you! I hate you!
[Vader hears Padme behind him.]
Padme: Turn back Ani. Stay with me.
Darth Vader: No.
[Vader is now chained to his operating table.]
Padme: You don't need to go on. It can be over. You know you don't want to leave. [whispers closely to Vader] Stay.
[Vader begins to choke Padme.]
Padme: Ani! *kk* Anakin! *chk* *hgh*
Darth Vader: No. Anakin is dead. I killed him.
- Evil Counterpart:
- Triple Zero and BT-1 are a pair of assassin droids built under the Tarkin Initiative program that are disguised as an ordinary protocol droid and astromech droid. They look and act like an evil version of C-3P0 and R2-D2, complete with the good-natured bickering.
- The Wookiee bounty hunter Black Krrsantan is an evil version of Chewbacca, complete with a black pelt and fearsome scar over his eye to make his moral alignment clear. Instead of scratching out a semi-honorable living as a smuggler, he's a cutthroat bounty hunter who will kill anyone for the right price. Appropriately, he's first seen in company with Boba Fett—Han Solo's nemesis.
- Doctor Aphra, oddly enough, works out to be one for Han Solo. As mentioned below, she's clearly based on Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford's second most famous character), and her dynamic with Vader clearly parallels Luke and Han's relationship. Here, though, Vader is the older, cynical, laconic badass, and Aphra is the plucky young adventurer who serves as his foil. Just like Han, she becomes one of Vader's most trusted companions after initially being hired as a freelancer.
- Eviler Than Thou: Darth Vader proves to this Cylo by the end of the series.
- Exact Words:
- The mortician who Aphra and Triple Zero torture for the truth about Padmé's condition before burial eventually confirms her information; that Padmé did give birth before she died - to a son. No mention of any other children, but hey, Aphra didn't ask about that.
- Vader gives the droids a priority order to bring Aphra to the Executor which she can't countermand despite otherwise being able to give them orders. The second she's on the ship, she points out the order was accomplished and gives them a new one, to get her off the ship right away.
- Queen Trios asks Vader if he made a good choice for queen of Shu-Torun, which he answers by saying there was no other choice. Triple Zero is happy to point out that answer could be interpreted in multiple ways.
- When IG-90, Beebox, Bossk, and Black Krrasantan imply they think Aphra is cheating them, she asks them if they really think she's dumb enough to cross four of the galaxy's deadliest bounty hunters. The next page reveals that she was only cheating three; Krrasantan was in on her plan the whole time and helped her conceal the full haul of credits from the others.
- Vader point-blank refuses to give Triple Zero permission to modify his robot army so they can take blood from enemy wounded to draw on the power of the Force. After he leaves Triple Zero broadcasts a Rousing Speech to his robots in which he mentions that he has definitely not carried out this order. The terrified enemy promptly surrenders.
- When Vader is about to have Aphra Thrown Out the Airlock, she says he promised to kill her quickly when the time comes. Vader replies that he didn't promise her anything. (Which is certainly true—she asked him not to do it and Vader just kept his usual stoic silence.)
- Doctor Aphra is a female Indiana Jones, only IN SPACE! Personalitywise, she is very similar to Ahsoka Tano, which is probably why Vader acts so much like his old self around her.
- IG-90 is basically IG-88 with red plating. His coloration and speech pattern (for example "Statement: You can't hide from the bounty hunters.") are also similar to HK-47.
- Triple Zero and BT-1 are a pair of Robotic Psychopaths fond of Black Comedy, making them very similar to HK-47. They are also dark versions of C-3PO and R2-D2. Killing their creators reminisces the background of IG-88 in the Legends continuity as well.
- Inspector Thanoth is a skilled detective who wears a monocle, reminiscent of Arsène Lupin.
- The entire Shu-Torun culture and their visual design feels like something out of the Metabarons Universe.
- Dr. Cylo himself bears at least a little similarity to Silas Tagge of Star Wars (Marvel 1977). Both are scientists who pride themselves on their emotionless nature and are part of a ploy to usurp Vader's place in the Imperial court; both also served under a Tagge before operating independently (Silas has his older brother Orman, Cylo has Grand General Cassio Tagge).
- Evil Versus Evil: The story shifts the focus from war with the Rebel Alliance to Vader's personal projects,note most of which consist of him pursuing agendas which Palpatine and the Empire at large do not approve of (at least when they find out about them).
- Face Death with Dignity: If there is anyone who knows how to greet death with class, it's Inspector Thanoth, who personally presents himself to Vader in private,note says everything he wants to say before telling Vader what he wants to know, knowing that Vader would kill him immediately after. He does not beg or bargain for his life, he simply says It Has Been an Honor and braces for the end.
- False Reassurance: Triple-Zero persuades a passer-by to answer some questions by informing him that it's the only way for him to remain alive; once the answers have been given, Triple-Zero has Beetee kill him, reasoning that he did remain alive longer than if he hadn't answered. Just not by very much.
- Flashback: To Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope and the main Star Wars series.
- Fate Worse than Death: During Vader's dream sequence in Issue #24, when he has an (altered) vision of his fateful duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar, he has a line that demonstrates how Vader sees his existence as this.Obi-Wan: You were the chosen one! I loved you, Anakin.
Anakin: You're a liar and a coward! If you loved me Obi-Wan, you would have killed me.
- Faux Affably Evil: Triple-Zero has C-3P0's rather polite way of speaking, but the droid is still incredibly ruthless and sadistic. This does not stop him from being genuinely hilarious."Hello. I'm Triple-Zero, and I'm looking forward immensely to torturing you today."
- Foil: Tagge is one to Vader. He is an emotionally detached, pragmatic and competent strategist who is able to see the big picture which in contrast tends to highlight Vader's Blood Knight and Not So Stoic tendencies. He is also of average height and slightly pudgy which contrasts nicely with Vader's seven-foot tall armored frame.
- Foregone Conclusion: Since we know that Vader (and many other characters) are going to survive until Return of the Jedi, it isn't hard to figure out that Vader will make it through each arc.
- Foreshadowing: Cylo claims the Cyberanimate AI can be installed in anything, up to a rancor. Guess what Vader runs into while storming Cylo's base.
- Frame-Up: Vader frames Oon Ai, the officer Tagge had assigned to be his minder, with having ties to the pirates to both embarrass Tagge and to get rid of his watch dog.
- Full-Conversion Cyborg: One of the transhumans — transalien, in his case — created by Doctor Cylo is Commander Karbin, a mon calamari who, at the end of the Clone Wars, suffered devastating injuries when his ship was destroyed that left him on life support for eighteen years. Cylo dealt with this issue by replacing all of his unsalvageable organic components, leaving Karbin as essentially just his original organic head on a four-armed mechanical body.
- Good News, Bad News: Triple-Zero informs Darth Vader that he has both good news and bad news after torturing Dr. Cylo-IV. The good news is that he got his name, the location of his base, and what he was doing there. Darth Vader then orders him disposed of, causing Triple-Zero's bad news to suddenly become good news: 0-0-0 had already killed him.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Black Krrsantan has a very ugly scar over his left eye and extended over his head.
- GPS Evidence: Inspector Thanoth establishes his credentials as a skilled detective by deducing where Vader has been recently. "I believe the slight ionization of surface dust on your armor is characteristic of that particular moon."
- HeelFace Door-Slam: Vader slams his own door. When Cylo deactivates his suit, he slips into a dream state where Padme and his Anakin personality encourage him to die and end his evil. He chokes the Padme vision and kills his old self in a saber duel.Vader: You were a child. I am well accustomed to killing children.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Inspector Thanoth meets Vader in person despite being able to provide the information Vader needs via an anonymous tip and knowing He Knows Too Much because he believes the Empire would best benefit from Vader's leadership and knows Vader would find and kill him eventually. The chase would just be miserable for him, constantly looking over his shoulder, and waste Vader's precious time that would be better spent running the Empire, so he'd rather just end it now.
- He's Back!: The entire series is the story of how Darth Vader rose from his monumental failure to stop the destruction of the first Death Star in A New Hope to cement his status as The Dragon to Emperor Palpatine and being the very serious threat he still is in The Empire Strikes Back.
- High-Class Glass: Inspector Thanoth wears a monocle.
- Hired to Hunt Yourself: After the treasury of the Son-tuul Pride is confiscated by the Empire, Vader arranges a heist to steal it so he can fund his private agenda. Then Grand General Tagge assigns Vader to track down the people responsible.
- Humiliation Conga: Vader goes from Palpatine's number one to being put under the command of Grand General Tagge and forced to compete with a bunch of cyborgs for the Emperor's favor.
- Hurl It into the Sun: Vader kills Cylo for good by Jedi Mind Tricking Cylo's Space Whale and sending it flying into the nearest star.
- Hypocrite: In #6 Vader calls the experimental cyborg soldiers developed and trained by Cylo "abominations". Palpatine is quick to point out how hypocritical this is for someone who, himself is "more machine than man". Though it's indirectly averted since Vader didn't ask to be turned into a cyborg, and views his current status as a Fate Worse than Death.
- Ironic Echo: When Vader has a vision of killing his past self on Mustafar, "Anakin" yells "I hate you!" at Vader, just as he did to Obi-Wan in Revenge Of The Sith. The change in who the line is directed at reflects who Vader blames for his life.
- Internal Homage:
- Vader's visit to Jabba that opens the series is presented in a way reminiscent of Luke's visit to Jabba in Return of the Jedi, although it quickly diverges as Vader is more ruthless and unlike Luke doesn't fall for the trap door trick.
- In a later issue, the proprietor of a seedy bar informs a droid that his kind aren't welcome in here. This droid, however, doesn't take no for an answer.
- Internal Reveal: Issue 6 ends with Boba Fett reporting to Vader that he tried tracking the rebel, but lost him. All he got was his name: "Skywalker." It doesn't take long for Vader to connect the dots.
- Interquel: The comic takes place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
- It Belongs in a Museum: Cementing Doctor Aphra as an Evil Counterpart for Indiana Jones, her first issue (issue 3) has her insist that the Triple-Zero matrix doesn't belong in a museum, but rather in an armory.
- It Has Been an Honor: Inspector Thanoth states this to Vader shortly before the latter kills him, though with an important detail...Inspector Thanoth: It has been a pleasure working with you, Anakin.
- It's Personal: Everyone thinks this is why Darth Vader is so keen to track down the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, and Vader has no problem playing along. Unfortunately Tagge refuses to allow Vader to do so, thinking he's lacking objectivity for this reason.
- Kick the Dog: Vader's tendency for this gets used against him in the final issue. Aphra knows full well he's going to kill her eventually, so she asks him to kill her quickly with a lightsaber, and that her worst fear is being thrown out the airlock. Naturally, when the time comes, he throws her out the airlock....and she gets picked up by the droids, having planned for it. When Triple-Zero notes that he might have used the lightsaber, Aphra simply responds that he's Darth Vader, he was always going to pick the cruelest option.
- Kill It with Fire: BT-1 has a flame thrower and he likes using it.
- Knowledge Broker: The Ante.
- Laser Hallway: Aphra navigates one during her introductory action sequence, the subtype requiring Applied Phlebotinum to make the beams visible.
- Living Lie Detector: Inspector Thanoth and Vader are interrogating a criminal for the location of his boss, and Vader is able to tell that the first answer is a lie. Vader later kills that crime boss before he can be interrogated and falsely claims he was threatening to activate a Self-Destruct Mechanism. This naturally makes Thanoth suspicious given that he can find no detonator and so the man would have been bluffing if he had made such a threat.
- Loophole Abuse: Not unexpected, given the strict law-and-order based structure of the Empire and the subversive nature of its followers.
- Vader asks Palpatine about a visitor he is having a meeting with and he chastises him about asking a Sith Lord for a straight answer. The Emperor then asks him if he has anything else to report. Vader says no and leaves, neglecting to tell him of his confrontations with Obi-Wan and Luke.
- When Aphra is to be captured by her droids, she tries to order them to stand down, only to be told that they received a priority order to deliver her to the Executor. When she is brought there, the order is considered to be fulfilled and she immediately commands them to bust her out again.
- Triple Zero and BT go to a droid technician to get repaired and rearmed. To ensure he won't be killed after he's done the job, the technician programs Triple Zero and BT to explode if they kill him. So BT removes the Three Laws-Compliant programming on the technician's droids and lets them kill their master.
- Luke Nounverber: Tulon Voidgazer.
- Luke, You Are My Father: The canonical moment of Vader discovering that the Rebel pilot he's been searching for is his own son is revealed in issue 6: Boba Fett reports to Vader that the only thing he could find about the pilot is that his name is Skywalker. Vader doesn't say anything or react for a long time, but the flashbacks to his own past and using the Force to crack the window of the Star Destroyer in the same manner as his destructive rampage upon hearing his wife's death shows he doesn't take it well.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Vader becomes adept at this, usually by using the Force to arrange a "stray blaster shot" that happens to silence a witness. The Emperor encourages this to the various competitors for his apprentice, telling them not to kill each other and if they do not to get caught. Vader then averts the trope by dumping the corpse of one such rival, complete with lightsaber wounds, at the Emperor's feet.
- Mecha-Mooks: By #5 Vader has a small army of commando droids assembled for the assault on the Cylo-IV base.
- Mercy Kill: Vader retrieves one of Cylo's servants (also one of his competitors) from a lava pit and kills her quickly after getting information from her. He probably did it in no small part because he can relate, though Pragmatic Villainy was also involved as she spilled the beans on Cylo's plans in exchange.
- Metaphorically True:
- The classic, trope-naming, "From A Certain Point Of View" example is referenced and used by Vader himself, ""Anakin is dead - I killed him.""
- Aphra and Triple Zero torture the mortician who prepared Padmé's body for burial, to find out if she had given birth to her son before she died and thus confirm Vader's suspicions. The man knows he's going to be killed anyway, so he eventually gives in and confirms that there was indeed "a healthy boy," - while naturally making no mention of said boy's twin sister.
- Morality Pet: Not in action, but through interacting with Doctor Aphra, Anakin's old personality shines through. He also seems to have taken a liking to Queen Trios, praising her courage and defending her authority from critics. However it's left deliberately ambiguous whether he feels actual empathy for these people, or just showing Pragmatic Villainy.
- Morton's Fork
- Vader forces an associate of Cylo to reveal his location or be executed for protecting a traitor. When the information turns out to be accurate, he orders the man executed for fraternising with a traitor.
- Dr Aphra finds herself in this position—Vader won't kill her as long as she's useful to him, but that only means she knows all his secrets and is therefore a threat to him.
- Mythology Gag: Triple-Zero inverts the "nobody worries about upsetting a droid" scene from the original movie — he enjoys playing holochess though he's not very good at it and is a lethally sore loser. He also discovers in Vader Down that when you annoy a Wookie, they really do rip your arms off.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
- Aphra has Padme's mortician tortured to find out the truth about whether her offspring was buried with her. In the end, she asks him to just confirm what she already knows: that the boy lived. By spelling out what she wants to hear, she makes it rather easy for him to neglect to mention that There Is Another.
- After killing her father and making her queen, Vader further intimidates Queen Trios by giving her a lump of rock — one of the last remaining fragments of Alderaan. His threat of what happens to those who cross the Empire makes Trios determined to protect Shu-Toran from suffering the same fate...which leads her to secretly throw her lot in with the Rebels in the Star Wars comic series, promising them plenty of raw materials that she's been holding back from the Empire.
- Subverted when its revealed Darth Vader personally ordered Trios to do this, to ingratiate herself with the rebels and cause them to mass together in one place so the Empire could bring their full weight down on the Rebellion's head.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Since even the last surviving Geonosian queen has been sterilized, she attached herself to a droid "wombfactory" to create modified battledroids, resembling Geonosian soldiers even more, than the originals (which were modeled after them) did.
- No Name Given: Dr. Cylo's Trandoshan test subject isn't named, and not surprisingly is the first one of his creations to be killed.
- No-Sell: One of Cylo's creations
- Opening Scroll: The first one is a Perspective Flip on the one for A New Hope.
- Painting the Medium: At one point during the Son-tuul heist, Aphra's crew are standing with magnetic boots on the underside of the ship they're breaking into. In the establishing shot, Beebox's speech bubble is oriented to its speaker, meaning it appears upside down on the page.
- Pet the Dog: Triple-Zero of all people gives one to Queen Trios, giving a legit compliment saying she will "go far." This is the one time we see him say something nice to an organic in this series.
- Pragmatic Villainy: If you remain useful and don't fail or betray him, Darth Vader will protect you.
- Prolonged Prologue: A downplayed example. Issue #1 has 30 pages instead of the usual 20.
- Propaganda Machine: The text during the opening of the comic portrays the Empire in a positive light. Rooting for the Empire, indeed.
- The Psycho Rangers: Though they have not officially team-up together in the same room, the people that Darth Vader personally hired are in a sense Evil Counterparts to Luke Skywalker and his friends. Specifically:
- Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker
- Doctor Aphra to Han Solo (and another character played by Harrison Ford)
- Black Krrsantan to Chewbacca
- Triple-Zero and BT-1 to C-3PO and R2-D2.
- Psychic Strangle: As per Sith Lord tradition. In the very first issue, Vader force-chokes Jabba.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The cyborgs Cylo created for Palpatine as potential "replacements" for Vader.
- Morit and Aiolin Astarte, a brother-sister pair of cyborgs trained in lightsaber combat.
- A Trandoshan altered to not feel pain. It's implied his claws are also enhanced.
- Tulon Voidgazer, a scientist who has had her intelligence distributed through a number of laser-shooting droids
- Commander Karbin, a Mon Calamari ex-Separatist enhanced with tech similar to General Grievous.
- Raiders of the Lost Parody: Our introduction to Doctor Aphra is played entirely like this, establishing her role as an Evil Counterpart to Han Solo/Indiana Jones.
- Rank Up: The Emperor promotes Tagge to Grand General and places him in charge of the Imperial military in the first issue. It is implied he did this partially to piss Vader off.
- Recurring Element: In the same month that issue 25 released and Aphra survived being Thrown Out the Airlock, Rebels also had a character survive being shoved out an air-lock.
- Red Right Hand: Dr. Cylo is a human that has a Rodian eye and skin implanted into his face.
- Regime Change: When the King of Shu-Toran rebels against the Empire, Vader kills him and his equally rebellious sons, and places his more compliant daughter Trios on the throne.
- Reverse Psychology: Dr. Aphra audaciously pulls this on Vader from the very beginning of their association, all the way up to their parting of ways; as described above as the Batman Gambit of the title.
- Revisiting the Roots: This series actually takes many cues from Vader's original portrayal in A New Hope, which had long been considered a bit of a case of Early Installment Weirdness by fans. In the original film, Vader was a widely feared Imperial enforcer, but he was also clearly Tarkin's subordinate, there were a few high-level Imperials who openly defied him, and there was no indication that he was the Emperor's unchallenged second-in-command. note Here, Vader is as much of a badass as ever, but he's not at the top of the Imperial chain of command, and he actually has to work to build up enough resources to challenge the Moffs and Generals.
- Robotic Psychopath: Three of them. Triple-Zero and BT-1 serve Darth Vader, while IG-90 is a Bounty Hunter.
- Rule of Two: Palpatine explains that the master/apprentice arrangement was brought about because the last time the Sith fought the Jedi, they lost because they spent more time fighting each other, so this way the competition is kept to a manageable level. However he's lost confidence in Vader after the destruction of the Death Star, so a large part of the plot involves Vader competing with other rivals for the role. When Palpatine claims that Vader's victory over these rivals was All According to Plan, Vader sardonically replies that if any of the others had won, Palpatine would be telling them the same thing.
- The Scapegoat: Vader finds himself in this position after the destruction of the Death Star. While others share the responsibility for that fiasco, Palpatine points out that Vader's the only one left alive to face his wrath. In fairness Vader is responsible because his Trick-and-Follow Ploy let the rebels get the Death Star plans. Palpatine does give Vader the chance to prove himself again, mainly because his own authority has been weakened by the disaster too and so he still needs a strong enforcer.
- Scotty Time: At the end of the series, after being placed in charge of the fleet, Vader establishes his dominance by asking the new Admiral how long it will take to repair the damage done in the final showdown, and then ordering him to get it done in half the time.
- Sherlock Scan: Inspector Thanoth is able to deduce that Darth Vader was in the vicinity of the theft that they are investigating (which Vader had a hand in).
- The beginning scene of issue #3 is one big shout-out to the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Aphra, an archaeologist, sneaks into an abandoned warehouse, snags the Triple-Zero personality matrix, accidentally triggers a motion-sensor and dodges the subsequent Laser Hallway, runs from a Destroyer Droid using its ball-shaped forcefield to roll down a ramp after her and dives through the requisite SlowDoors. She's then captured by a rival archaeologist who takes the personality matrix, which she angrily declares should be in an armory.
- "You can't possibly do that! ... who would clean up the mess?", spoken by a psychopath to the sidekick whose words only he can understand, echoes a scene from the Red Dwarf episode "Quarantine".
- Cylo's physical appearance seems greatly modeled off either Hugo Drax or Count Zaroff, and both Cylo and Zaroff exclaim, "Impossible..." at their final moments before perishing.
- When Cylo is first mentioned, he is referred to as "Cylo-IV," and has the ability to back his memories up into a new body. Replace the "IV" with an "N"...
- A brother-sister pair of Cylo's creations have the last name "Astarte". If you play Warhammer 40,000 then that name probably sounds appropriate for an enhanced super soldier created to serve the ruler of a dark and menacing Galactic Empire.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: After the fall of Cylo's replacements, Palpatine tries to explain it all away as part of his plan. Vader is having none of it, though he claims he doesn't care one way or the other.Palpatine: My true apprentice would frustrate the copies. Eventually, driven by pride and desperation, Cylo would go too far... and then, when he was simply a traitor, we could purge him. Do you understand, Vader?
Vader: I do. If any of Cylo's toys had succeeded, you would be making this speech to them.
Palpatine: [Stunned Silence]
- Smug Snake: Jabba, naturally. He acts his usual self when surrounded by his bodyguards...then comes round when Vader defeats all of them single-handedly.
- So Proud of You: In the final issue, Palpatine actually expresses pride at how Vader built an Empire behind his back.
- Space Whale: Doctor Cylo's base is built on the backs of a pod of these creatures.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Not Vader, obviously, but the series makes clear that General Cassio Tagge managed to get off the Death Star before it blew.
- Spell My Name with a "The": The information broker called "The Ante", who corrects Aphra when she addresses him as "Ante".
- Spoiler Opening: The first issue takes place after the first half of the first storyline of Star Wars, "Skywalker Strikes". Interestingly, the third issue of Star Wars, which concluded that part of the storyline, had yet to be released in time for the debut of the Darth Vader series.
- The Starscream: The end of Issue #6 features the exact moment that Darth Vader decides to overthrow the Emperor, having just learned that Palpatine has been preparing potential replacements for him since the Empire's founding. With the added knowledge that he has a son who is strong in the Force who he can turn into his apprentice, Vader for the first time has motive to kill Palpatine and means to continue the Rule of Two, which makes his decision pretty easy.
- The Stinger: Issue 25 has two, one in which it is shown Aphra survives, and the second shows that the Sand-People on Tantooine now worship Vader as a god.
- Straight Man and Wise Guy: Aside from a few serious moments, Vader and Aphra's interactions boil down to her making wisecracks while Vader pretty much utterly ignores everything she says.Aphra: And now for our devilishly clever plan to steal a robot womb factory off a homicidally broody alien queen. Still think this is a good idea, Lord Vader?
- Surpassed the Teacher: Vader sees himself this way in regards to Obi-Wan.Vader: (to a vision of Obi-Wan): I am more powerful with every step I take away from you.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Invoked during the battle for Shu-Torun by Triple-Zero, who arranges for the enemy troops to be informed that the droid army he commands certainly haven't been fitted with devices to drain the blood from their opponents, resulting in their prompt surrender.
- Technician Versus Performer: Tagge is the Technician to Tarkin's (and to an equal extent Vader's) Performer. Specifically, Tagge mocks the idea of super-weapons like the Death Star and instead advocates the rapid expansion of the Imperial Navy and Army, developing on proven weapon systems and warship designs, and using the Empire's vast manpower pool and massive industrial base to relentlessly grind down the enemy in a war of attrition. Vader prefers Tarkin's style. Anyone who's seen Return of the Jedi knows very well that Tagge is ultimately proven right.
- Tempting Fate: Vader assures Dr Aphra that Inspector Thanoth suspects nothing about what they're up to. Cue Spy Cam watching their meeting. However it turns out Karbin is behind that, but once Vader deals with him he gets a call from Inspector Thanoth to reveal he's tracked down Aphra and it's time they had a chat.
- That Man Is Dead: Issue #24, when Vader experiences a vision whilst at death's door, makes it clear just how much he's disassociated from his former identity as Anakin Skywalker. In the vision, he literally duels and kills his old self on Mustafar, and then when Padmé calls him "Anakin", he retorts that "Anakin is dead - I killed him."
- This Cannot Be!: Cylo-V's horrified reaction when Vader, after having his life support deactivated, stands back up through sheer determination.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Discussed. Aphra says she's terrified of dying like that and asks if and when Vader wants her dead he kill her with his lightsaber instead. After she betrays him to the Emperor, he does space her, but she anticipated him doing so and made sure to have allies waiting to pick her up afterwards.
- Torture Technician: One of Triple-Zero's specialties is torture, as Dr. Cylo-IV finds out.
- Tranquil Fury: When Boba Fett reports to Vader that the Rebel pilot he's looking for is named Skywalker, Vader doesn't say anything but his silence is enough for Boba to leave his presence. As he flashes back to the events of Revenge of the Sith and puts the two to two together, his hand clenches into a fist and the window of his Star Destroyer begins to crack. When he reports to the Emperor, he withheld his newfound rage to himself, which has become so great that his master can sense it easily. After he has come to terms of the revelation, the Star Destroyer window is at near breaking point.
- Underestimating Badassery: Most of the Empire does this to Vader after the Rebels have dealt him several defeats, most notably General Tagge and Doctor Cylo and his creations. It's a refreshing change of pace when the Rebellion mobilizes an entire army to fight just Vader himself and have serious doubts about their chances.
- Undying Loyalty:
- Aphra is a subversion. Though she appears fully loyal to Vader, to the point of telling him to kill her once she's become a loose end, ultimately it's shown the reality is she's just afraid of him and has an entirely realistic view on her chances of defying him. She tells him to kill her because she assumes death at his hands is inevitable and is trying to at least make it quick and painless. At a later date, when Vader does intend to kill her for knowing too much, she's quick to withhold information he needs to force him to keep her alive. Eventually, she sells out his secrets to the Emperor, either to gain a patron who would protect her from Vader or to provoke him into killing her in a way she had a plan to survive, depending on your interpretation of her actions.
- Thanoth is loyal to the Empire. Key word being the Empire, not the Emperor. Although Thanoth eventually uncovers Vader's true schemes, he simply tells Vader where to find the missing Aphra, wishes Anakin luck, and accepts that Vader is going to kill him to leave no trail. He does this because he thinks Vader makes for a much more suitable ruler than the Emperor, as Thanoth blames the failure of the Death Star on his poor vision.
- Villain Cred: The series is essentially Darth Vader rebuilding his after the destruction of the Death Star; while he himself viewed it as insignificant next to the Force, as the only high-ranking Imperial survivor of its destruction except Tagge (its most outspoken critic), he is the one who is blamed. The Emperor derides him as a "blunt instrument", Tagge orders him around, and Cylo's projects are all vying for his place. The Emperor first notes some appreciation for Vader's actions in Issue #6, having thought he wasn't capable of such ambitions anymore. By #25, he's impressed at everything Vader accomplished while trying to undermine him, and grants him his command back.
- Villain Protagonist: The main character willingly serves an Evil Overlord and recently was involved in the destruction of a peaceful planet. Doctor Aphra has slightly less Kick the Dog moments, but she's still an arms dealer and has no problem with killing people or having them tortured.
- Wham Line:
- At the end of Issue #4, when Triple-Zero tells Darth Vader what he learned about who was at Dr. Cylo-IV's research base.Triple-Zero: I'm sure you're very interested in meeting your rivals.
Darth Vader: Explain.
Triple-Zero: The Emperor's replacements for you, sir.
- Another big one in issue #6 when Boba Fett revealed the name of the Rebel Pilot that took down the death star.Darth Vader: Did you bring me anything of value, bounty hunter?Boba Fett: Not much. Just his name. Skywalker.
- And then there's the end of Issue 24:Palpatine: Who dares intrude into my private chambers?
Aphra: We've got a mutual friend. I've got things you need to know.
- At the end of Issue #4, when Triple-Zero tells Darth Vader what he learned about who was at Dr. Cylo-IV's research base.
- Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness:
- The Emperor, as usual, indicating his Dark Side corruption.
- Dr. Cylo's human eye is also red and orange.
- You Have Failed Me:
- In the first issue, Vader brings Overseer Aggadeen, the imperial commander from the first arc of Star Wars, back to Coruscant where he is subsequently tortured and executed.
- Vader is somewhat on the back foot in this series, and thus can't afford to casually smother his own allies, but he stills hold the threat of this over his underlings. "You do not want to discover what happens to those who disappoint me."
- In the last issue, when Emperor Palpatine demotes Tagge and replaces him with Darth Vader, he leaves the former Grand General with his apprentice to let Vader "educate his subordinates about this brave new era". In a way, Tagge suffers two "You Have Failed Me" within minutes : first, from Palpatine who demotes him, leaving Tagge understandably in fear before his underling-turned-superior (psychological punishment as Palpatine likes to do), and second, from Vader and well we know how Vader deals with failures (physical and swift punishement as Vader usually does).
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Emperor at one point flat-out tells Vader that, although he takes great pride in Vader's power and considers him a cut above his former apprentices, Vader's handicapping on Mustafar has prevented him from achieving the heights that the Emperor envisioned for him and because of this he had been looking for replacements for some time.
- You Know Too Much:
- Tagge assigns Oon Ai to keep an eye on Vader, and he discovers a message that Vader has sent to Boba Fett, whom he secretly sent to capture Luke Skywalker. Vader frames the officer as The Mole for the Space Pirates they're chasing (though it's also done to take Tagge down a notch). He then has to kill a bunch of other people who either get too close to capturing/killing Luke or who know that Luke is actually his son.
- After Dr Aphra builds an off-the-books army of Killer Robots for Vader, she fully expects to be killed to keep this secret. Fortunately Vader is impressed with her talent and says she'll stay alive as long as she's useful to him. When she falls into rebel hands however, he makes it clear she's to be returned to him dead or alive and he doesn't care which.
- Dr Aphra robs an Imperial shipment of confiscated credits to fund Vader's activities, which means that Vader has to go round killing everyone who finds out about this too.
- When 0-0-0 is sent by Vader to capture Dr Aphra, he and his robot soldiers kill everyone in the town where she's staying just in case she happened to reveal Vader's secrets to them while drunk. Mind you 0-0-0 wouldn't have needed much excuse to do that anyway.