At the rate Lucasfilm is creating content, it seems like a day will come when there isn’t a single story gap in the epic Star Wars saga. While most of these stories will be told at a theater near you, others will find the light of day by other means. From video games to TV shows, there are few mediums Disney won’t take advantage of to pump out Star Wars stories. So far, the one they’ve utilized the most is comic books.
Marvel Comics (which, in case you didn’t know, also falls under Disney’s ownership) released a series of comic books following Darth Vader’s adventures between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. With their spin on the classic villain, writer Kieron Gillen, artist Salvador Larroca, and colorist Edgar Delgado proved that film wasn’t the only medium that could support great Star Wars stories. The creative team introduced compelling new characters, actually convinced us to root for Darth Vader (at least temporarily), and dropped some shocking revelations along the way. All of it lent readers a better understanding of the fallen Jedi, briefly making him appear more man than machine.
This list covers the events that transpire in Gillen’s twenty-five issue run on Darth Vader, including several crossover issues with Jason Aaron’s Star Wars comics. Hopefully these 15 Secrets Revealed In Marvel’s Darth Vader Comic Book sheds a little light on the dark lord of the Sith.
15. Darth Sidious had been training replacements for Vader since his failure on Mustafar
Factored in with his more recent failure during the Battle of Yavin, Vader’s defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi had less than desirable consequences. Though Sidious rescued his apprentice from the lava planet of Mustafar, the Emperor had begun to doubt Vader’s abilities going forward. Behind closed doors, Sidious, by way of controversial science, began cultivating a new batch of prospective Vader replacements, each of them with unique capabilities.
In secret, humanoid scientist Dr. Cylo took living subjects and bred them into perverse imitations of Force wielders. After the destruction of the Death Star, Cylo’s five potential Vader replacements waded even further into the Emperor’s favor. They went head to head with the Sith lord they were meant to succeed. Some managed to put up a decent fight, even for someone as powerful as Vader.
Cylo’s experiments proved that the Force was not only malleable but also subject to imitation. Upon discovering them, Vader, already prone to fits of rage, threw a particularly large fit. He was as disgusted by Cylo’s bastardization of the Force as he was angered by the Emperor’s lack of faith in him.
14. The person who built Vader’s potential replacements was also the person who built Vader himself
Ironically enough, Vader’s salvation was almost his downfall. Sidious didn’t pick Cylo at random to build his Vader replacements- he recruited the doctor because of his work on Vader himself. Cylo was integral to Anakin Skywalker’s ultimate transformation into Darth Vader.
After his momentous duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar, Vader was returned to Coruscant and operated on by Cylo. The doctor had come under the Emperor’s favor during the Clone Wars, back when the latter went by Chancellor Palpatine. Cylo provided Vader with breathing apparatus, robotic limbs to replace the ones Obi-Wan had severed, and a powerful black suit of armor that would become the Sith’s signature attribute. This suit made Vader powerful, but had secret features implanted by Cylo, features that would serve the doctor in the future.
Cylo had included failsafes in Vader’s armor that he could deactivate with a remote control. The scientist used this to power down Vader’s cybernetics when confronted by the dark lord. Unfortunately for Cylo, Vader was able to overcome his technological shortcomings with the help of the Force, and destroyed Cylo soon after.
13. Vader and Sidious had a more complicated relationship than we realized
Given Sidious’ many deceptions, Vader’s relationship with his master was not always simpatico. Perhaps this began when Sidious, despite his lofty promises, could not save Vader’s lover, Padmé Amidala. But this was only one of many lies Sidious would tell his apprentice, as Vader would realize only after he had submitted fully to the Dark Side.
Though in the films Vader seemed almost completely subservient to the Emperor, Gillen’s comics uncovered Vader’s more complicated feelings regarding his maker. After the Battle of Yavin, Sidious was increasingly harsh on Vader, and demeaned him relentlessly at every turn. Without his master to rely on, and possibly with the end goal of usurping him, Vader took it upon himself to work outside of the Emperor’s purview to pursue his own agenda. It was here Vader’s distrust of Sidious began in earnest.
In his attempt to return to Sidious’ good graces, Vader would rob the Empire (more on that later), and carry out personal missions unbeknownst to his master. A few of these missions had to do with Vader’s curiosity surrounding the Rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star.
12. Tagge moved up in rank after A New Hope
Looks like Tagge’s incessant caution won out in the end. Following the Death Star’s obliteration, General Tagge’s concerns about the weapon’s arrogance proved correct and propelled him to a higher status within the Empire. From that point onward, the Emperor made Tagge’s methods tantamount to the Empire’s survival. Nobody liked this less than Vader.
Grand Moff Tarkin perished along with everybody else on the Death Star when it was destroyed by Rebel forces. His position, now vacant, was Tagge’s for the taking. Reliant on statistics, Tagge scorned Tarkin’s delusions of grandeur, showing no respect for the fallen officer’s memory. Vader, a close associate of Tarkin when he was alive, did not appreciate Tagge’s attitude towards him.
Vader made his feelings clear to Tagge, putting him down for depending on graphs for his command. unlike Tarkin, who, in Vader’s eyes, had true vision. Through interactions with Tagge, Vader’s admiration for Tarkin came to light. This is hardly surprising, since Vader had shared views with Tarkin many times during the Clone Wars, when he was known as the Jedi Anakin Skywalker.
11. But was eventually killed and replaced by Vader
Looks like Tagge’s incessant caution didn’t win out in the end. By the end of the Darth Vader comic series, Vader had proven himself to the Emperor once more. As a reward, Vader was granted Tagge’s position, explaining how Vader remained prominent in the Empire leading up to Empire Strikes Back. Good for Vader, not so good for Tagge.
Feeling the need to make a case for himself before Vader, Tagge tried to argue that, in spite of some larger failings, there had been a myriad of minor improvements thanks to Tagge’s leadership. Unfortunately, Vader, as he had established in issues past, held very little regard for Tagge’s statistics.
Using a form of punishment that Vader would soon turn into a habit, Vader force choked Tagge for his incompetence, killing him instantly. Admiral Ozzel would then become Vader’s second in command going forward, though he would face a similar fate as Tagge above the ice planet of Hoth.
10. Vader was still pissed at Tusken raiders
No vengeance is too excessive for Darth Vader. Vader brought even more destruction and death to Tusken Raiders than he had previously as Anakin Skywalker. You’d think after so many years, Anakin would at least move on from his mother’s death at the hands of the Sand People. But his pain ran deep, and crossed over into his second life as Darth Vader.
On a return trip to Tatooine, Vader first made a stop at Jabba the Hutt’s palace, looking for bounty hunter references. Jabba put Vader in contact with Boba Fett for the first time, and Vader tasked him with finding the mysterious pilot who blew up the Death Star. Fett and his associate, a black furred Wookie named Krssantan, seemed unphased when, upon meeting Vader, they stood before a pile of Tusken corpses.
Vader’s second Tusken massacre left a powerful effect on Tattooine’s savage alien species. In awe of the Sith Lord, the Tusken Raiders worked for days on burning Vader in effigy. One would think the Raiders were trying to exact payback on Vader, but the image of dozens of Tuskens bowing before Vader’s smoldering effigy suggested that maybe they had begun idolizing him.
9. Boba Fett was the one who revealed Luke’s true identity to Vader
While Fett failed to return the Rebel pilot to Vader, the Sith’s investment investment in the bounty hunter didn’t have entirely diminishing returns. Fett was able to offer Vader a name: Skywalker. It was here when Darth Vader discovered that Padmé did in fact have their son, and he now went by the name Luke Skywalker.
This is interesting because, up until now, Star Wars fans have never known exactly how Darth Vader was aware of Luke’s true identity (at least in regards to the new canon established by Disney). Had he come to this realization through a Force-related premonition? Or was Vader unaware of his son’s existence up until the very moment in Empire Strikes Back when the Emperor ousts him as a Skywalker?
As it turns out, the truth about Luke came from a much unlikelier source. When he found out Luke was his son, Vader steadily became enraged and almost went off on the Emperor. But instead, Vader restrained himself, and resolved to find Luke and take over the galaxy with him.
8. Vader paid a visit to the Lars homestead when he discovered who Luke was
After hearing the shocking news that Luke was his son, Vader made a visit to the boy’s former home on Tattooine. Vader hadn’t been to Lars homestead since back before the Clone Wars, when he went by Anakin Skywalker. Years later, Vader returned hoping to find traces of Luke’s presence and clues to his current whereabouts.
Upon closer investigation, Vader was able to discover signs of Luke’s recent interaction with Boba Fett at Lars’ homestead. By observing lightsaber and blaster marks along the walls, Vader determined that Luke was very strong in the force, but also painfully undertrained. Vader chalked this up to Obi-Wan’s failure to give Luke proper guidance. Though he still couldn’t help but compliment the Jedi for hiding his son in the last place he’d expect to look.
Seeing Vader in Luke’s childhood home, readers might experience a certain level of pathos or sadness. Vader realizes in this moment that he’s, in some small part, responsible for his family’s death. Owen was his half-brother and Beru his half-sister in law. And the Empire had killed them both. To a certain degree, it seems Vader begins to notice that he robbed Luke of a normal life.
7. Vader stole funds from the Empire
As mentioned before, Vader’s relationship with the Emperor had been on shaky ground in the wake of the Battle of Yavin. Vader had failed Sidious on two major occasions: his defeat on Mustafar and his failure to protect the Death Star. Vader had also just discovered he had a son the Emperor had never told him about. At this point, Vader recognized that if he wanted to get anything done, he’d have to take matters into his own hands.
Recruiting the help of Doctor Aphra, who in turn assembled a rag tag team of bounty hunters, Darth Vader stole a fortune’s worth of credits from the Empire. Aphra and her team pulled a heist on a Star Destroyer hauling contraband garnered from a Rodian crime lord on Son-tuul. Aphra imparted some of the riches onto her team, but kept the majority hidden for Vader’s use.
Vader used his newfound riches to finance his own personal missions the Emperor had no knowledge about. Of course, Sidious did eventually learn of Vader’s crime, but instead of getting angry, he was pleased with Vader’s dealings. He was glad his apprentice had allowed darkness and anger to guide him.
6. Padme’s mortician confirmed Luke was Vader’s son (but kept Leia’s identity secret)
After a successful heist job, Vader used Aphra once again to divulge information for him. For her mission, Aphra would have to travel to the planet Naboo and speak to a Commodex Tahn. Tahn once worked as a mortician for the planet, and prepared the body of one Padmé Amidala for burial.
After breaking into his house with a small battalion of battle droids, Aphra captured and tortured Commodex Tahn. When Tahn couldn’t take it any more, he finally broke down and answered Aphra’s question: “Did Padmé have a son?” Tahn told Aphra the truth, or at least most of it.
Tahn confirmed that yes, Padmé had given birth to a baby boy before her death. Aphra took this information and brought it to Vader, confirming Boba Fett’s assertion that Luke was in fact a Skywalker. But Tahn took one secret to the grave with him. He held onto the information that Padmé had actually given birth to twins, keeping Leia Organa’s identity secret from Vader, her biological father.
5. Leia had a clean shot at Vader and didn’t take it
On his search for Luke, Vader hunted the Rebel all the way to Vrogras Vas. Upon his arrival over the planet, Vader ran into a fleet of X-Wings on a routine drill. He shot most of them down, but got into a head on collision with Luke. He crashed on Vrogras Vas, and Princess Leia, upon hearing this news, made for the planet as quickly as possible.
Still suffering from the loss of her peaceful home planet, Alderaan, Leia was hell bent on taking down Vader by any means necessary. To Han Solo’s dismay, this meant ignoring the rescue of Luke, who’s whereabouts after his dogfight with Vader were unknown. Han went to search for Luke, Leia went in pursuit of Vader. She found him, and even had a chance to end him.
While Vader was distracted by a duel with Commander Karbin, one of his potential replacements, Leia got her hands on a blaster and turned it on Vader. But before she could fire, she heard word from C3PO that her friends were in desperate need of help. Leia made the hard call and left Vader to help her friends.
4. General Grievous’ legacy lived on in Commander Karbin
Disney has been tentative to make allusions to the infamous Star Wars prequels, especially in the newer films. While battle droids might turn up in Rebels (and maybe even a familiar, horrifying face), you’ll see no such thing in a Force Awakens or Rogue One. However, the Star Wars comics, like the TV shows, feel more comfortable in recalling certain aspects of Lucas’ prequel trilogy.
In the Darth Vader comics, Cylo mentions to the Emperor that he was a fan of the late General Grievous. Pulling inspiration from the cybernetic general from the Clone Wars, Cylo made similar cybernetic additions to Karbin. Before being upgraded by Cylo, Karbin, a Mon Calamari, was on the brink of death. Cylo saved his life, and then enhanced it.
Like Grievous, Karbin had four robotic arms which he used to wield several lightsabers at the same time. Though in the end, Karbin’s upgrades were no match for Darth Vader, who killed his competition on the planet Vrogras Vas. Cylo considered Karbin a step up from Grievous, but apparently that wasn’t enough to keep the Mon Calamari alive.
3. Vader kept a (tiny) chunk of Alderaan and used it as a tool for intimidation
Though not known for being a comedian, Darth Vader had one or two twisted jokes up his sleeve. Whether intentional or not, Vader was capable of some truly sickening comments and gestures that implied a sadistic sense of humor. One of his darkest moments came in the prologue to the Shu-Torun War.
Shu-Torun was a planet rich in a mineral known as ore. The Empire relied on ore to build its arsenal of heavy machinery. The ore-dukes of Shu-Torun eventually became hesitant to constantly provide their natural resources to the Empire, and began resisting. Vader rectified this swiftly.
Vader traveled to Shu-Torun, and to punish its king for betraying the Empire, Vader executed him and put his daughter Trios on his throne. To ensure Trios would not make the same mistakes as her father, Vader left her a small chunk of some sort of rock. Vader told her that this was what remained of Alderaan, and warned her about what would happen to a planet that was disloyal to the Empire.
2. Vader employed the help of battle droids
Again, the Darth Vader comics felt comfortable referencing material from the prequel trilogy. Devout fans of classic Star Wars might gasp at the image, but Gillen’s take on Vader did include the Sith aligning himself with battle droids. Not quite the “Rodger, rodger” ones that fans hate so intensely, but Sepratist battle droids still.
Sidious’ apprentice ventured back to the planet of Geonosis, an experience almost as painful as his return trip to Tatooine. With the help of Doctor Aphra, Vader stole the materials he would need to create a private droid army. Once again, Vader needed his own resources to carry out missions that did not concern the Empire’s larger goals.
Vader used his battalion of droids to infiltrate Cylo’s research facilities. His operation was successful, but only landed him the middle of a cage match with Cylo’s experiments, those who were vying for his position by the Emperor’s side. Once again, Sidious was more impressed with Vader for the assembly of droid soldiers, rather than being angered by it.
1. Vader fought a cybernetic Rancor
After battling one Cylo creation after another, Vader finally met with a truly monstrous experiment of Cylo. Cylo unleashed this threat onto Vader with the help Tulon Voidgazer, a scientist and contender for Vader’s seat beside the Emperor. After trapping Vader in an enclosed space, Voidgazer activated a cybernetic Rancor.
The cybernetic Rancor was designed with certain featured build specifically to resist Force attacks. Voidgazer provided it with neural dampeners to lessen the pain from lightsaber attacks. She also gave the creature a plate-reinforced thorax to protect it from Force choke. The Rancor certainly put up a fight, but Vader managed to destroy it in the end.
Ultimately, Vader was able to kill the Rancor by tossing his lightsaber through it’s brain like a javelin. After defeating it, Vader made short work of Voidgazer and her horde of blaster droids. Vader wasn’t done though, as he still had Cylo to deal with.
Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader series can be bought wherever comic books are sold!