The story arc of issues 35-37 contains significant milestones for the Marvel series. Not only does it bring to a close the saga of the Tagge family, but it also marks the point where Darth Vader first learns of Luke’s identity.
On a Rebel refueling station the Dark Lord learns from a dying Rebel that the pilot who destroyed the Death Star was none other than Luke Skywalker. We the readers understand that this makes Vader aware that the pilot was his son, however, this is not revealed in these issues although the stage is obviously being set for their encounter on Bespin.
Back aboard his Star Destroyer Darth Vader confers with Ulric Tagge, the younger brother of Baron Orman and Silas Tagge. They discuss a plan to eliminate the Rebel leadership when Vader reveals to the now Baron Ulric that his brothers Orman and Silas are still alive! In the wreckage of the ship that was destroyed by the Rebels the compartment they were in was found intact and the critically injured pair were put in life-support tubes indefinitely until the Dark Lord found some use for them. Vader’s plan is to corrupt Domina Tagge, the younger sister of the family, who was hitherto a priestess of a religious order known as The Sacred Circle whose base is on a planet called Monastery who worship “the Eternal, Ever-renewing Circle of Life.” While that is not as corny as Wookiee Life Day from the Holiday Special it’s still cringe-worthy and eye-roll inducing. Thankfully this ridiculous hippy cult doesn’t go into too much depth here.
Domina was always the innocent, non-duplicitous member of the Tagge clan and Orman had always protected her from any chance to get involved in the family business or to marry into an Imperial family. However, with two of her brothers presumed dead sweet, little Domina has grown bitter and vengeful. She knows her brother hated Vader, but she is willing to team up with him in his plan to get vengeance on Luke and the Rebels whom she blames for his death.
Her ship gets chased by a few TIE Fighters who feign an attack so Luke’s X-Wing patrol can “rescue” her. She deceptively ingratiates herself to Luke to the point of flirtation so that he could be encouraged to join her on a diplomatic mission to Monastery. Monastery is still currently a neutral world and the Sacred Circle’s elders are debating over which side to join. When Luke hears that Vader is the opposing representative he jumps at the chance to confront the Dark Lord who killed Ben Kenobi and his father. Leia argues that it should be she who goes on the mission since she has more political experience. However, General Dodonna disagrees and tells the princess that he is holding her back from the mission because she is motivated by jealousy of Luke and Domina. Which, when you think about it, is idiotic since Luke obviously is motivated by vengeance in his agreement to take on the mission which in the end could be more disastrous. But anyway, Luke is the one who is sent with Domina despite Princess Leia being the logical choice.
Immediately upon disembarking on the planet Luke and Domina are attacked by an indigenous bat-creature called a Nightshrike. Luke quickly disposes of it with his lightsaber, but this is “conveniently” observed by Darth Vader and the Elders of the Sacred Circle who object to Luke’s reckless and violent actions. We learn later of course that the Nightshrike was antagonised to attack them for this very outcome. Knowing Luke’s penchant for recklessness it becomes apparent why he was chosen over Leia.
Things continue to go poorly when the Millennium Falcon is captured by a Star Destroyer which is tractor-beamed into its hold, Han and Chewie are thrown in a cell, Leia is forced to hide in a secret compartment aboard the Falcon, and Luke is once again finding himself on the Sacred Order’s bad side when he kills an animal that was “attacking” the priestess. Luke is brought before their council where it is revealed that the Elders’ authority had been revoked and Domina declared All-High Priestess. She declares that Luke and his associates should be eliminated as threats to the natural cycle of Galactic Life which the Order holds sacred. Luke becomes angry and accuses both Vader and the Priestess of conniving against him. Darth Vader takes this as a challenge and suggests settling the matter over a lightsaber duel.
Meanwhile Princess Leia sneaks aboard the Star Destroyer and plants grenade charges that cause enough considerable damage to turn off the ship’s artificial gravity and to disrupt Orman Tagge’s life-support tube. The former Baron escapes while Leia rescues her friends from their holding cell using rocket packs. I think magnetic boots sort of like the ones we see in Star Trek VI would have been a more practical choice, but, hey, it’s Star Wars and rocket packs look cooler. On board the Falcon they discover Orman waiting for them who forces them to land on Monastery so he can face Vader for unfinished business.
Elsewhere Domina dictates where the duel is to take place which happens to be a deadly field where crystal spikes erupt from the surface due to a chemical reaction between the moisture and the mists. She chooses this battlefield hoping both combatants will meet their ends as she has not forgotten her brother’s feud with Vader and hopes to achieve his vengeance for him posthumously.
After the Millennium Falcon lands Orman flees to find Vader while Leia and Han look for Domina hoping to convince her that her brother is still alive before it is too late. Orman Tagge eventually encounters Vader on the crystal field where the Dark Lord reveals that his beloved sister had been corrupted and was no longer innocent. Tagge becomes devastated by this news and begs Vader to kill him. However, the Sith Lord refuses and tells him that he has one last task to perform first. Vader puts Tagge in a facsimile of the Dark Lord’s body suit and breathing apparatus and even gives him a red lightsaber to complete the effect. When the pseudo-Vader challenges Luke, the young Rebel easily kills him with his lightsaber only to discover Baron Tagge underneath the mask. Vader then evacuates the planet leaving the Rebels’ relations with Monastery even worse than before.
In a brief epilogue Jabba the Hut (who is still more walrus now than slug, twisted and evil) discovers the remains of Crimson Jack’s vessel running derelict over Drexel. He checks the logs and realises that Han Solo was the one responsible for Jack’s demise. Jabba considers this just cause to reset his former bounty on Han Solo’s head and soon after Han and Chewie run into a bounty hunter on Ord Mantell. The chase is on again!
This was a good ending to Baron Tagge’s story which despite its occasional cheesiness was a well-written and well-thought out arc. I do think the writers went a bit too Michael Corleone with Domina Tagge, but subtlety with homages is not a staple of the Star Wars series and I let it slide. In all relevant respects this is another example of the good story arcs of the classic Marvel line.
Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel Star Wars #38 Riders in the Void!