WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Wars: Target Vader #1 from Robbie Thompson, Marc Laming and Cris Bolson, on sale now.
Marvel's Star Wars comics have provided fans with a deeper insight into Darth Vader. We've seen the Sith Lord's trials and tribulations between each film of the original trilogy, including how he grew to hate Emperor Palpatine and his desire to turn his son, Luke Skywalker, to the Dark Side.
Star Wars: Target Vader offers another perspective through an assassination plot on Palpatine's apprentice, by what amounts to be Star Wars' own Suicide Squad.
The Suicide Squad is, of course, DC's Task Force X, comprised of supervillains and antiheroes who undertake virtually impossible missions for the U.S. government. Here, a similar ragtag crew is assembled from across the Outer Rim by the Hidden Hand, a criminal syndicate affiliated with the Rebel Alliance, and tasked with eliminating the threat of Vader.
The story revolves around Beilert Valance, whom fans may remember as a rival from Han Solo -- Imperial Cadet, which concluded earlier this year. Training as an Imperial pilot, he was saved by a young Han after crash-landing in enemy territory. They parted ways when Han left the military, but Valance, scarred from duty, transitioned into a career as bounty hunter. Now, with a cybernetically enhanced face, he drinks in seedy bars, shoots fellow bounty hunters, and cuts a figure similar to the Han we first saw in A New Hope. When Valance tries to leave Coruscant, however, an alien named Gwi recruits him for this mission.
The Hidden Hand want Vader dead, and it's only after hearing this that Valance decides to enlist. Of course, he's being paid handsomely, so that helps, as he's incurred a lot of debt. As he realizes he can mix business with pleasure, he becomes almost giddy. Gwi takes him to a mysterious base to meet the other members and, at first glance, Valance thinks the team is bloated: Honnah, the tracker; Urrr'k, the sniper; Chio Fain, a hacker; R19-19, a Jedi-hunting droid; and Dengar, another scummy bounty hunter.
Valance throws the team into disarray by destroying the droid. However, he's street-smart, and rips it open, displaying evidence that it was a spy for Jabba the Hutt. The dynamic is even more interesting, as they know the Hidden Hand wouldn't think twice about terminating them if they fail or risk exposing their employer. Clearly, there's more than payment fueling their interest in taking down Vader.
Valance's frisson of excitement suggests he could harbor a grudge after leaving the Imperial military. However, the motivation for the others remains mysterious. We do know Dengar's future, though, as he was one of the bounty hunters Vader hired to capture Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, and was among those in Jabba's Palace on Tatooine in Return of the Jedi.
From that, we might presume Vader was never aware that Dengar once pursued him or, worse, that the bounty hunter will be the one who rats everyone out, dooming the mission. Given that we don't hear about the rest of the team anywhere else, and that they obviously don't kill Vader, the latter seems a strong possibility. Ultimately, Valance wants to take down Vader, but with so little known about the Hidden Hand, you can't help but feel this Suicide Squad is merely an unwitting pawn to be sacrificed at the earliest convenience.