Is there a reason why I always tend to enjoy one of Marvel’s many Darth Vader series? To create a book based around a character whose fate is known to the fans, set his adventures between various movies, and a villain on top of everything else, doesn’t sound like something that should work…and yet, it does.
Regardless, I finished the second volume of the most recent series, subtitled Into the Fire.
The first trade in this series showed Vader reacting to what looked like the unexpected return of his long dead wife Padme. It turned out to be one of Padme’s body doubles, and she was part of a resistance group that included a lot of people the young Anakin Skywalker met once upon a time. Family has always been one of Vader’s weaknesses, and his actions there left the Emperor unhappy.
Vader, of course, is unhappy with the Emperor as it is, but his rebellion is rather short-lived. The Emperor takes him down easily enough. As a punishment/lesson, Vader is taken back to Mustafar, the planet where he almost died battling Obi-Wan, and after Palpatine has removed Vader’s three artificial limbs, he tells his forever apprentice that he’ll need to somehow survive on his own on the planet and without the use of the Force. If Vader uses the Force for any reason, Palpatine will know.
Oh, and he has a special Sith assassin after Vader the whole time.
Now, Vader isn’t dumb. His skills do run towards the mechanical, and there are a lot of broken Clone War-era droids around. But what follows is a rather trippy series of events. Vader finds some clues to what Palpatine is up to, that assassin turns out to be rather wimpy all told, and Vader keeps running into weird things, like some sort of alien sitting astride what looks like a giant disembodied head half-submerged in lava. And even without the Force, Vader is no pushover. The Emperor sent Vader there as a punishment or lesson, and Vader sees no harm in returning the favor to his “master”.
There’s a lot to like here, and writer Greg Pak may have done the impossible: taken plot points from the Star Wars prequels in the first trade and from Rise of Skywalker here to craft a satisfying story. Vader isn’t going to die or kill the Emperor. Those are givens. But how he survives is an epic story in and of itself, with Vader using skills he acquired that have little to do with the Force to stay alive until he finally just decides to use the Force anyway, knowing he may be beyond some sort of punishment from Palpatine as it is.
Or perhaps he won’t be punished after all. There’s a lot going on here. And while the last couple pages did feel a bit thematically appropriate but rough all the same, seeing Vader kick ass without various magical abilities is something rather neat by itself. Once again, I am wondering how Marvel keeps putting together good series about Darth Vader. As cool as he is on the screen, he just doesn’t seem to be the sort of character to get a starring role. Those rarely go to villains as it is. And yet, these keep me entertained more often than not…
8.5 out of 10 giant space monsters.