When The Phantom Menace was first released many people complained how much emphasis was put on politics and economics. A lot of the action-adventure space opera was missing and instead we were given senate debates and tax disputes. Indeed, the main villain of the story was a monopolising trade conglomerate. Hardly riveting.
As bad as that is, however; issue 48, The Third Law, is far worse. The story is literally Darth Vader trying to prevent Princess Leia from getting a bank loan. It’s chock full of phrases like “presentation of collateral”, “assessors and appraisers”, and even “credit rating.”
Princess Leia and a high status Rebellion official named Viscount Tardi are sent to a planet called Aargau which is an intergalactic banking world where they hope to procure a loan to purchase more X-wing fighters for their Rebellion.
The Aargauun culture is highly ceremonial in nature and so a lot of formalities and functions must be observed before the loan is approved. While going through customs Lord Vader and his retinue show up under the pretense of a diplomatic mission for the Empire. Leia sees right through this as an obvious attempt to somehow thwart her loan attempt. Vader’s retinue consists of three men: his porter, his secretary, and his valet. Now while it is bad enough that we have to deal with the fact that a Dark Lord of the Sith has a porter, secretary, and valet; their identifying characteristics are even stranger. The porter is a huge, hulking, green amphibian from Rigel VII (which I swear to god sounds like a planet from Star Trek) who has high-gravity abilities, whatever the hell that means.
The secretary is a shapeshifter whose favourite guise apparently is Count Chocula. Zam Wesell was much cooler I think. And the valet is a telekinetic whose head looks like a cross between a raisin and Mickey Rourke.
All three of them are members of The Assassin’s Guild trained in the art of unarmed killing. This is fortunate for Vader’s scheming since weapons are a forbidden item to visitors on Aargau.
The following morning while driving a hovercar Leia, Viscount Tardi, and Threepio are going over their daily schedule (another thing we shouldn’t be seeing in a Star Wars story) they find Vader and his c informs the authorities that the so-called weapon was, in fact, a gravitational fiompanions standing on an overpass. The high-gravity Rigellian leaps down toward the car intending to crush them when Leia pulls out a device that causes the monstrosity to suddenly vanish. The Sith Lord interprets this as use of a weapon, but Leia quicklyeld disruptor that increased the relative density of the Rigellian causing him to plummet through the ground to the planet’s core. You know, because science.
The foiled Darth Vader is left on the overpass shaking his fists like a petulant child while Leia goes on to the rest of her day.
Later that morning Princess Leia and the Viscount are attending a diplomatic function at a place called The Garden of Butterflies, so named because of the many rare species of butterfly flitting about the guests. Threepio who is apparently programmed in entomology is enjoying himself pointing out and naming each and every species of butterfly they see. He suddenly notices that one of the butterflies fluttering behind the Viscount’s neck is from the Antares system (which I swear is another Star Trek thing) that is known for its deadly nerve toxin. Detecting the obvious assassination attempt Leia orders Artoo to spray a fire retardant at the butterfly which Leia then stomps with her foot. This lowers Vader’s retinue down to one since that butterfly was none other than the vampiric shapeshifter we met earlier.
Later that evening everyone is attending a show where the Aargauan’s show off their military might with a spectacle of tactical fighters and missiles. The telekinetic valet focuses his mind on one of the missiles and redirects it toward the Viscount. Unfortunately for him the Viscount he was targeting was only a hologram projected by Artoo in front of the valet. The missile goes right through the image and kills the valet ending the existence of Darth Vader’s retinue.
That night Vader confronts Leia and the Viscount out of frustration. During the discussion the Dark Lord draws his lightsaber and kills the Viscount. Leia draws her blaster and thus it is revealed that the law against weapons was broken by both parties. Vader, however, is satisfied with the current state of things since the apparent death of the Viscount precluded the possibility of Leia getting the loan she desperately needs to finance the war effort against the Empire. But, then the plot thickens.
It turns out that the Viscount Vader had “killed” was nothing more than a droid that posed as the real Viscount who had been dead for over a month. Meanwhile Leia had Artoo record the “murder” of the Viscount as further leverage against the Dark Lord should he try to make more trouble. The loan was still able to go through despite his “death” since Leia presented the Crown Jewels of Alderaan as collateral which allowed the loan to be approved on the spot. Leia new that once they tried to leave the planet customs would not be as lax as they were when they first landed which would mean their loan would be cancelled once it was revealed that the Viscount was in fact a phony droid. Leia needed the fake Viscount to be killed in what seemed like a murder so she intentionally provoked Vader into “killing” him.
Knowing she has the upper hand Leia tells Vader that if he wishes to avoid trouble with the authorities for murdering a Viscount he will have to smuggle her blaster out with his diplomatic pouch (which is unscannable by Aargau law). The blackmail seems to be effective until Vader not only agrees to her demand but also tells her that he will smuggle it alongside his lightsaber and the Crown Jewels of Alderaan! Her conspiracy was already well known to Vader and the assassination attempts were merely a distraction while he bribed an Aargauun banker for the Jewels. The doctor who knew of the real Viscount Tardi’s death was in the Sith Lord’s payroll and made him privy to all of Leia’s plan. Everything Vader had done was a ploy to get the Jewels. Why he wanted to do this is beyond me except that perhaps it was to taunt the Princess. For Darth Vader to have Jewels would be a sore blow to her naturally. Whatever the reason he knew if Leia was to inform the Aargauun authorities her own transgressions would be revealed destroying her credit rating and leave the Rebellion in further financial turmoil. The Dark Lord and the Princess had reached an impasse and neither could stop the other. Leia had her loan and Vader had her collateral. And the Dark Lord was satisfied with that.
This issue has a ton of serious problems and the most notable one is that economics is not that entertaining in the Star Wars universe. It’s the same mistake that was made in the Prequels. Star Wars is just not the sort of cerebral science fiction where that sort of topic is interesting or appropriate. It’s not Dune or Foundation or even Star Trek. It may work for them, but not for Star Wars. Star Wars should always be the Heroic Quest in space. Not politics and economics.
And another thing that really bothers me is the level of intrigue we are seeing the Rebellion stoop to. The amount of subterfuge is disturbingly uncharacteristic of Princess Leia and the Rebel heroes. In a more a realistic story perhaps this would be acceptable, but once again I must remind the reader that this is Star Wars. Seeing Princess Leia lie and cheat for financial gain is an unwelcome sight even if her ultimate intentions were noble. Moral philosophers may debate this as much as they wish, but Star Wars is more at home with itself when things are black and white. It was originally for children after all.
Thank you for reading and check next week for my review of Star Wars classic Marvel #49: The Last Jedi and may the Force be with you.