One of the pivotal chapters of the Star Wars Saga is coming to an end. Marvel Comics‘ monthly Darth Vader series, from writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca, has focused on the titular Sith Lord. After the disastrous Battle of Yavin, Vader must regain his reputation and standing with both the Empire and the Emperor. The series, which leads into Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, is ending after twenty-five issues.
Darth Vader has had an interesting — and, at times, unexpected — impact on the overall Star Wars Saga. Elements of the prequel trilogy crept into the story, while Vader also gained a unique supporting cast for his series. With only two issues remaining before the series wraps up, let’s take a look back at its most memorable moments.
The series’ first story arc, simply entitled Vader, revolves around Cylo-IV, an agent of the Emperor. Vader’s mission to regain his reputation leads him to procure a support team: Doctor Aphra and the droids Triple-Zero and BT-1. (Triple-Zero and BT-1 are, of course, an inversion of another famous droid duo.) Through Triple-Zero and BT-1, Vader learns that Cylo has been training agents to replace him as Palpatine’s apprentice.
Fans wondered whether these replacements were rogue Jedi, perhaps a character or two from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series. Yet, when Issue 5 was released, the truth took some fans by surprise. Instead of recruiting Force-users, Cylo — who had installed himself into a new body, Cylo-V — developed a team of cybernetic warriors who were blind to the Force. His agents were diverse: the genius Tulon Voidgazer, Commander Karbin, and the twins Aiolin and Morit Astarte.
Despite the odd nature of Cylo’s agents, their existence made Vader realize that Palpatine viewed him as a disappointment. Palpatine had expected a fully-able apprentice when he seduced Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. Yet, Vader had to be rebuilt with a suit of armor after Obi-Wan Kenobi defeated him on Mustafar. Never has Vader faced the threat of being replaced, and it leaves him no room for failure.
One of the most anticipated moments of Darth Vader was when Vader learned he had a son. Throughout the Vader story arc, the Sith Lord sends bounty hunter Boba Fett to uncover the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star over Yavin 4. In the arc’s final chapter, Fett informs Vader of the pilot’s surname: Skywalker.
The fact that Vader says so little increases the gravity of the moment. The scene is interspersed with beats from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin learned that his wife, Padmé Amidala, was pregnant. Vader realizes that Palpatine lied to him when Palpatine said that Vader had killed her. Moreover, this is the beginning of the growing rift between master and apprentice, which is inevitable for the Rule of Two. Knowing he has a son, Vader starts plotting to depose the Emperor. It’s a critical step in Vader’s journey with the Sith, with severe repercussions for Luke and the entire galaxy.
“You Had A Good Life, Commodex.”
One of Vader’s first acts of fatherhood is, naturally, to confirm he actually has a son. Thus, in Issue 10, Doctor Aphra track downs Commodex Tahn, the mortician who prepared Padmé Amidala’s body for her funeral. When Tahn refuses to divulge any information about Amidala’s burial, Aphra lets Triple-Zero torture him for the truth.
Aphra isn’t evil by trade, but she had a difficult childhood growing up during the Clone Wars. She has an inner grit that others don’t see. As Triple-Zero tortures Tahn off-panel, Aphra remarks, “You had a good life, Commodex. But now it’s over.” It’s too twisted to be called empathy, but in that moment, Aphra betrays a hint of her complex inner emotions. And after confirming that Amidala gave birth to a boy, Aphra has Triple-Zero murder Tahn. It’s a chilling moment, but a poignant one nonetheless.
“It’s Been A Pleasure Working With You, Anakin.”
In the series’ second arc, an Imperial adjutant named Inspector Thanoth begins to discover Vader’s plot against the Emperor. However, it isn’t until Issue 20 that Thanoth finally confronts Vader with everything he’s uncovered. By this time, Aphra is on the run after escaping from the Rebel Alliance‘s Sunspot Prison. Thanoth informs Vader of her location, but his reason for doing so might surprise you.
After the Empire lost its long-term investment in the Death Star, Thanoth came to see the Emperor as weak. Thanoth recognizes that Vader must replace his master if the Empire is to survive. Furthermore, Thanoth believes in an eternal Empire, and like his contemporaries such as Cassio Tagge and the late Wilhuff Tarkin, Thanoth is truly devoted to the Empire without being a fanatic.
What’s more, Thanoth knows that both he and Aphra must die to prevent Palpatine from discovering Vader’s plot. Before Thanoth sacrifices himself to Vader, he reveals that he knows Vader’s true identity, saying, “It’s been a pleasure working with you, Anakin.” No one can say that Thanoth wasn’t good at his job.
The Kill Switch
The question of whether Vader is more man or machine takes center stage in this moment from Issue 23. During Darth Vader‘s final story arc, Vader is on the hunt for Cylo and his “toys,” who have turned against the Empire. On the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer Executor, Vader confronts Cylo. Yet, Cylo — who was part of the team of scientists who built Vader’s armor — reveals his trump card: He has Vader’s kill switch.
With the press of a button, Cylo disables Vader’s cybernetics, leaving him motionless. The issue ends with Vader kneeling before Cylo, unable to even move. Still, you can’t keep a bad Sith down. And a kill switch is hardly enough to stop an unstoppable force like Vader. We’ll just have to wait for the final two issues of Darth Vader to find out how Vader engineers his inevitable triumph over Cylo.