There's a touch of glee in identifying with the villain of a story -- in vicariously reveling in a sense of power, control and un-tempered ambition. In Dark Horse Comics upcoming five issue miniseries, "Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin," written by Tim Siedell and featuring art by Stephen Thompson, readers are given the chance to succumb to the Dark Side. CBR News spoke with Siedell about the miniseries and his experience following Darth Vader into the darkness.
"Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin" goes on sale April 17, and takes place a few months following the events portrayed in the 2005 film "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith." Anakin Skywalker has pledged himself to the service of Sith Lord Darth Sidious, otherwise known as Emperor Palpatine, and adopted his new moniker, Darth Vader. As Vader, he's learning his actions have repercussions and someone in the galaxy is seeking vengeance.
Eight assassins have been hired to kill Vader and eight have been dispatched. Now, Vader is coming up against the ninth. It may prove something of a challenge -- a test of Vader's character -- and there may be those who's dark shadows overpower even his own.
"There are a lot of bad guys in the Star Wars universe," said Siedell. "Some wear masks, others wear the clothes of a rich businessman and some tempt you with appealing whispers. Surround Vader with enough bad guys and he starts to look downright good by comparison -- or not. By the end of the story, Vader has a pretty good idea of what he's capable and not capable of doing."
The difficulty with a story like this is that, in some ways, we know how it ultimately ends. Vader does not fall to the blade of the assassin; he must live in order to fulfill his later role in the story. We never expect our protagonist to fail, though -- this is a dark inversion of the hero's journey.
"It's that old saying: it's the journey, not the destination," said Siedell. "Vader is just starting to become the Vader we all know -- his relationship with the Emperor is still being formulated; he's angry and highly motivated. He's running around the galaxy beating down rebellions, chasing plots and trying to bring order to a chaotic universe. He's very busy and he's creating a few powerful enemies along the way, plus, maybe an admirer or two. What's at stake? An awful lot for everyone in his way.
"Vader's a bad dude -- we pull no punches there," continued Siedell. "We all know his lifelong character arc, obviously. I wanted to find a storyline that involved reactions: Vader's actions have created a strong reaction; the Emperor's actions have created a strong reaction. Now Vader is forced to deal with those repercussions, wherever they take him."
The Star Wars mythos is nearly as rife with allegorical stories and convoluted character relationships as the Greek pantheon, complete with its own Oedipal struggles. Throughout the stories runs a thematic thread concerned with the corrosive affects of power, as well as the continued possibility for redemption -- Siedell aligns "Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin" with these themes as well.
"Power is most certainly a major theme in this series," Siedell said. "I'll leave it up to the reader to decide who's being corrupted and who, if anyone, might find redemption. Power, control, greed, temptation, revenge: these themes run throughout the series, from the first page to the last."
The "Ninth Assassin" miniseries marks Siedell's first foray into the Star Wars canon, though his love and knowledge of the franchise is longstanding. He came to the role of "Star Wars" writer through an unlikely channel, and though he has written for a range of media including film, television and print, he is perhaps most widely read on his "Time Magazine" ranked Twitter handle.
"Most people are familiar with me from my @badbanana feed, but it's just one extension of what I do. I'm a writer -- Twitter gives me an audience for the occasional one-liner and humorous observation. One of the realities of life as a writer is you're constantly pitching ideas. So a while back, I pitched a graphic novel idea to Randy Stradley at Dark Horse. He really liked it and wondered if I'd be interested in working on any comics, too. My ears perked up when he mentioned Vader."
In bringing to life his vision of Vader's early days with the Empire, Siedell is working with artist Stephen Thompson. Siedell has found himself consistently awed by the work Thompson brings to the story, fully fleshing out the world he's writing.
"I think creative people like to be given well-defined parameters and then given complete freedom within those limits," said Siedell. "That's always been my experience, anyway, and that's how I approached these scripts. In a way, a comic book writer needs to toss the ball over the plate so the artist can hit it out of the park. Stephen's hitting it out of the park -- you're going to love the level of detail in these panels. We're seeing Vader as a merciless and efficient killing machine at the peak of his dark powers. There are pages in the first issue alone that made me say wow -- and I wrote the darned thing."
While forthcoming about the struggle Vader faces in "Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin," Siedell is playing the identity of the titular foe close to the chest. For the time being, the identity of the Ninth Assassin will remain a mystery.
"He's very good at what he does," said Siedell. "He's patient. He's smart. He takes his chosen profession very seriously."
"Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin" is available for purchase April 17