“I did it! The power is mine! I control the star-systems again! Now I’ll have revenge on all who opposed me! Blood will flow like a river! And it’s all thanks to you, Dreadstar! All thanks to you!”
After a long, drawn-out effort to rid the galaxy of the Monarchy and Instrumentality, Vanth Dreadstar’s efforts to put Lord Palafox back in power is comparatively short. It takes about two months in-story and, what, four issues? Five if you count the issue where he and his crew sign up to help Palafox. Three of those issues were spent gathering allies. The entire war happens in Dreadstar #50. Peter David’s run has been so immersed in taking what Jim Starlin did and twisting it that he pulls the biggest inversion possible: taking the sort of long, drawn-out conflict that Starlin would have spent at least a dozen issues on (maybe more) and pack it all into one larger-than-normal issue. And, at the end of the day, Dreadstar is nothing more than a pawn in someone else’s game.
The necessity of Vanth Dreadstar is what the David run is about. He was a key player in defeating tyrants before, even in cases where the method was galactic genocide. He was an absolute necessity, eventually staring down the biggest tyrant of all in one-on-one battle that ended with him killing said tyrant. Here, the fight is between Palafox and Rok with no outside help or interference. Dreadstar is back where he began: just a soldier fighting someone else’s war under false pretenses. For all he’s done and all he’s learned, he hasn’t really done anything or learned anything. At least, when he helped Aknaton he was young and naive of what could possibly be coming. Here, he was warned by his friends and has seen enough hints to know that Palafox is not the benevolent leader he portrays himself as.
Instead, he’s the sort of guy who reveals he killed his son’s wife because it’s possible that he loved her more than his father. And then pushes his son off a balcony. And then screams about blood flowing like a river as he gets his revenge against every single one of his enemies.
Ironically, David sets up this moment where Dreadstar isn’t even present to witness the moment where we learn he’s gone from galactic saviour to galactic menace with Dreadstar completely living up to his reputation as a military tactician. He leads Palafox’s forces in a series of victories including using Rok’s own spy against him and completely routing Rok’s forces. He takes down an entire galactic empire in two months and seals the deal with a definitive victory.
And reinstates a tyrant into power.
David understands that the true driving engine of Dreadstar is a cycle of failure through success. Victory is actually defeat. Power is meaningless because not everything is solved through power. The Zygoteans are defeated... by destroying the Milky Way galaxy leading to the deaths of trillions. The Monarchy/Instrumentality war is ended... with the victory of the Instrumentality leading to the deaths of millions. The Instrumentality is overthrown... leading to a new government that also allows millions to die in the name of profit. Lord Palafox is given his throne back... and, as we’ll see, leading to more death. Because all Dreadstar is good at is war, all of his victories can only result in more death. Violence breeds violence. The most powerful are just the best at killing and what other uses do they have?
Maybe he should have killed himself after all.
Tomorrow: blood flows like a river.