Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s series was the standout amongst Marvel’s initial round of “Star Wars” collections and this second volume shows that its quality wasn’t a fluke. Vader continues the rebuilding of his power base with an ambitious heist of a deceased crimelord’s fortune from the Empire. Though the act, masterminded by his associate Doctor Aphra and several capable bounty hunters, appears to go off without a hitch, trouble soon rears its head in the form of the new adjutant forced on him. While the previous adjutant was *ahem* found to be guilty of treason and general incompetence, Inspector Thanoth quickly reveals himself to be an intelligent and supremely capable individual. As he and Vader work together to find out what happened to the stolen fortune, Aphra works to find out if there actually was an heir to the Naboo throne and where the pilot who destroyed the Death Star can be found.
This is the kind of heist story where the crime has to go off without a hitch unless the criminal finds himself in a slowly tightening noose with no way to extricate themselves. The criminal here is Darth Vader and he doesn’t do the whole “tightening noose” bit. Gillen maintains the excellent setup from the previous volume of giving us a Sith Lord whose position may be in danger, but still maintains a fearsome presence. Even as Thanoth draws ever closer to the truth, Vader never once appears to crack under the pressure. I’ll admit that having a mask like that is great for masking any visual signs of uncertainty or tension, but Gillen’s dialogue also makes it clear that while Vader is taking Thanoth’s investigation seriously he doesn’t feel threatened by it. The inspector himself is also a great addition to the cast with his sharp investigative mind and ability to roll with disruptions to his plans as we see in the final issue here.
Larroca’s art is also an asset to the story here, mostly. It’s slick, professional work from the artist that captures the “Star Wars” look well enough to forgive the few times that characters show up with awkward facial expressions or certain scenes -- like Vader’s use of a lightsaber to take down a Y-wing -- don’t have the impact they should. The overall product is still thoroughly entertaining and continues to set a high bar for Marvel’s other “Star Wars” titles to reach.