On Wednesday, the 25th and final issue of the popular Star Wars comic series, Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, was released. Written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli, the series has explored Vader’s transformation into the feared and iconic Sith Lord we know him to be.
It began with Vader’s “no!” cry at the end of Revenge of the Sith, and it immediately began exploring Vader’s transformation into Sith Lord. He had turned to the Dark Side, but he had not yet fully become Vader. So in this series, we saw Vader construct his red lightsaber, we saw Vader hunt down Jedi (including Jocasta Nu and Eeth Koth), oversee the Inquisitors, build his castle on Mustafar, and confront an ancient Sith. In the final issue, Darth Vader #25, we see Vader confront his destiny.
The issue is truly stunning and leaves a lot to process. It’s one that you’ll probably read a couple of times to soak everything in, and Soule and Camuncoli make expert use of limited dialogue, letting the images and quotes from Star Wars do the narration.
If you haven’t read the issue yet, I’d recommend doing so first in order to get the full experience, because this is so much better when seen in illustrated format rather than written summary here. But anyway, let’s dive into the review.
Having defeated Momin in the previous issue, Darth Vader begins to enter this mysterious portal that he has accessed through his castle on Mustafar. But as he does so, his spirit leaves his body and ventures into this realm alone. The first person he encounters is his mother, Shmi Skywalker. We hear quotes from The Phantom Menace (and see hints at Anakin’s conception), and then we see Anakin as a child on Tatooine. He is haunted by his shadow – the image of Darth Vader (reminiscent of that iconic TPM poster) – and suddenly awakens, haunted by the nightmare and calmed by his mother. As Vader ventures on, he sees flashbacks of events from The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and then he sees Ahsoka Tano. We see Anakin and Ahsoka fighting back-to-back together, and then we see Vader facing Ahsoka on Malachor, with some of the dialogue from that moment from Rebels. Vader ventures further and sees his castle and a Jedi Temple, while the “point of view” line is mentioned, and he sees a number of Jedi (including Yoda, Mace Windu, and many other notable and favorite Jedi from the prequels) standing to face him. Vader cuts them all down, ending with Yoda, while we see Kylo Ren’s quote of “let the past die, kill it if you have to.”
Vader ventures further and sees Sheev Palpatine and Obi-Wan Kenobi standing atop a stairway, both staring at him (while we read the “I am your father” line), and they begin to duel. It seems that Palpatine wins, but Vader then uses Force lightning to kill him. Vader moves on further and finds what he came for: Padme. Suddenly appearing as Anakin Skywalker again, he offers his hand to Padme and tells her that he can save them both, but Padme says that she doesn’t know him and that Anakin Skywalker is dead. Anakin realizes that he’s watching her die again, and as she falls from the castle (intentionally) she is struck by lightning, which breaks Anakin. He shouts “no” as his appearance turns back into the spirit of Vader. As Vader stands alone on this ledge, a bright blue light appears in the distance, and a figure emerges from it and ignites a blue lightsaber. It proves too much, and Vader is caught in this blinding light.
That’s how Vader’s vision ends, and his spirit returns to his body. He calls his lightsaber to himself and destroys the entry to the portal in his castle. Speaking via hologram with Palpatine afterward, Palpatine tells Vader that he hopes the Sith has learned some valuable truths. Palpatine asks Vader whether he found what he needed, and Vader doesn’t say anything as he turns off the transmission before uttering a single word: “Yes.”
There are a whole lot of things to talk about from this issue, and I’ll want to go more in-depth on some of the details in other posts. But on a general level, I love this issue because there are so many layers to it and because it truly dives into the inner mind of Darth Vader. It does so through this vision that the Force is apparently showing him, and it takes us on a journey through Star Wars. We first see Shmi Skywalker and her conception of Anakin Skywalker (and this comic seriously implies that it was Palpatine’s doing), and then we see Anakin as a young boy on Tatooine (I loved the callback to that TPM poster!). The young Skywalker is clearly haunted by what he has seen, however, and is calmed by Shmi, who tells him that it was only a dream. We know, of course, that it wasn’t just a dream: that this is what happened. Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, and this would have absolutely terrified the young boy we meet in TPM. In his past he was haunted by Vader, and now he has become him.
A bit later he sees Ahsoka, and because of the vague nature of the timeline, it’s a bit unclear whether he’s seeing the past or the future here. He of course sees an image of the two of them as master and apprentice, but then he sees them confronting each other on Malachor. We know that this comic series spans a decent length of time (which is implied even in the building of multiple iterations of the castle), but I don’t think that much time has passed. In other words, I definitely view this as Vader seeing the future a bit, and I think that’s why he says at their encounter the words that show up here too: “It was foretold that you would be here.” Shortly after that, he sees the Jedi, all with lightsabers raised facing him, and he kills them all. I find it interesting that, in all of these flashbacks, the Jedi are really the only ones who are portrayed as actively opposing him when we first see them. Shmi comforts him, Ahsoka stands back-to-back with him, Palpatine and Obi-Wan both stare at him, and Padme talks with him. I think that’s probably intentional, since we know from the prequel trilogy that the Jedi prevented him from becoming a master and did more harm than good to the young Skywalker. Vader, in turn, kills them all in this vision, as we read the words his grandson would utter years later about letting the past die (which was a tremendous reference to The Last Jedi that fits so perfectly and naturally here).
The part with Obi-Wan and Palpatine is quite moving, and I think it speaks very deeply on a number of levels. (1) When we see them first, they are standing atop the stairs facing Vader, and the words “I am your father” are read. Anakin Skywalker never had a father, and he regarded both of these men as father figures. Anakin tells Obi-Wan that he’s the closest thing he’s ever had to a father, and we know that Anakin had a high regard for Palpatine too. So here, standing to face him, are the two closest things he has to a father – and they begin fighting. (2) Obi-Wan draws his lightsaber and Palpatine uses Force lightning and they duel, and it seems that Palpatine gets the upper hand and kills Kenobi. I think this is supposed to symbolize the fact that in the most basic sense, these two men were pulling Anakin in different directions; Obi-Wan continually urged his apprentice toward the light, while Palpatine continually manipulated his pupil toward the dark – and we all know whose guidance Anakin finally took in Revenge of the Sith. Palpatine won out. (3) But when Palpatine turns toward Vader and tries to prevent him from moving forward, Vader kills him with Force lightning. I believe this is showing that ultimately, Vader’s allegiance is not to Palpatine. Sure, he regards Palpatine as a master, but he knows that Palpatine has manipulated him and is still using him. For Vader, all that matters currently is Padme.
So he moves on to face Padme, though in this vision Padme seems to be a dark side-like version. In this instance, Vader transforms from this strange spirit in the Force to Ankin Skywalker, and he offers to save both of them. I find that incredibly poignant, as in ROTS he is so obsessed with saving Padme, but here realizes that both of them need saving. Padme, however, makes it clear that she doesn’t know him, that Anakin Skywalker is dead, and throws herself off the building as Anakin watches her die – again. This is, of course, all just a vision, but it’s still moving. In many ways, I view this as being the ultimate proof that Anakin Skywalker truly is dead. His mother couldn’t save him, the Jedi Order couldn’t save him, Ahsoka Tano couldn’t save him, Obi-Wan Kenobi couldn’t save him, and Padme couldn’t save him. The man who was Anakin Skywalker ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. He was, fully and finally, Vader. There was no doubt nor confusion; there was no living for the past, longing to see Padme again. Vader realizes that it’s past, and that he has been consumed and become Vader.
But all of that is what makes the final aspect of his vision so stunning. As he stands alone atop this castle, fully and finally Vader beyond any doubt, a bright blue light appears on the horizon and a figure walks out from it and ignites a blue blade. Though we don’t see this figure’s face, his appearance looks just like Luke Skywalker. And as he ignites his blade, Vader is consumed by this blinding light. In other words, here is Vader getting a hint of his future – and we know what it’s hinting at. No one else was able to save Anakin Skywalker; he had become Darth Vader. The only one who could was Luke Skywalker, Anakin’s son, who believed there was still good in his father. In the face of such blinding light, in the presence of his son, Skywalker eventually returned from the dark side of the Force. The only one who could save him was Luke. And one day, Luke would do just that.
The issue is a stunning one, beautifully illustrated. It allows these quotes from iconic Star Wars moments to provide the narration, since Vader says very little during this vision. This format works incredibly well, especially because the images create so much intrigue and tell the story wonderfully. I don’t necessarily think Vader was in the world between worlds (because it doesn’t seem like he had the power to change events, but rather just saw these visions), but he was clearly experiencing some strange vision through the Force. In this, the past, present, and future all collide (both for Vader and for us, reading these quotes), and they work together to cement the reality that this man who, at the beginning of the series, was just becoming Darth Vader, has now fully and finally fallen. He is gone – until the galaxy’s new hope arrives and is able to save him.