It’s no secret that Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin is a villain. In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he undermined Director Orson Krennic to take command of the Death Star, and in A New Hope, he used it to destroy Leia Organa’s home planet of Alderaan, even after she seemingly gave up the location of the Rebel base (to say nothing of his actions in Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: Tarkin).
It’s highly unlikely any additional Star Wars media can ever redeem Tarkin in the eyes of fans. However, it is possible to expand upon his calm and calculated brand of sadism, which is exactly what Marvel Comics does in Star Wars: Age of Rebellion – Grand Moff Tarkin #1.
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After a flashback to Tarkin’s youth, the issue transports us to the Death Star, establishing that the events of this one-shot take place after Tarkin has been appointed Grand Moff, and prior to the Rebel victory in A New Hope. Standing aboard the massive battle station, Tarkin looks on at a world called Rango Tan – home to a species that has remained neutral in the Galactic Civil War – and orders his crew to fire upon it with the planet-killer. Before the Death Star can fire, however, an alarm is triggered and the crew is forced to abort what we discover was merely a simulation.
Still, simulation or not, Tarkin is none too pleased with how his gunners performed when they thought they were about to destroy a planet. “Your one and only job is to fire when commanded,” he reminds them, adding that this is their only warning.
From there, the issue jumps to a familiar scene from Episode IV, with a captured Princess Leia standing by Darth Vader’s side as Tarkin threatens to destroy her home world if she doesn’t reveal the location of the Rebel base. The events unfold much as they did in the film, but this time, we see it from the perspective of the visibly apprehensive Death Star Gunners. Unfortunately, so does Tarkin.
“Each of you hesitated at key points during the firing of the Death Star,” Tarkin tells the gunners after revealing he had bio-trackers installed in their helmets. Realizing his men will never share his same level of ruthless obedience to the Empire, he shuts them in an airlock and shoots them into the cold vacuum of space, watching with interest from the window as their lifeless bodies float among the asteroids.
While A New Hope proved Tarkin was willing to wipe out an entire planet without hesitation, killing a crew he’d worked closely with is a whole new level of evil. Then again, it takes a unique breed of malevolence to earn the favor of Emperor Palpatine.