WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Darth Vader #14
The Star Wars comics continue to reveal that Anakin Skywalker wasn't as "replaced" by Darth Vader as previous stories have suggested. The death of his wife and twin children may have been what completed Anakin's fall to the Dark Side, but the villain's own comic series is poking more and more holes in the theory that he ceased to love Padme as Anakin did once Vader truly emerged.
This time, it comes in the form of a callback to the animated Clone Wars TV series. It was Star Wars: Rebels that provided one of the first clear links between the Anakin of the TV series and the Vader made famous on film. But now that the Darth Vader comic has brought him back to the water planet of Mon Cala, old memories are stirring.
Memories of the mission that brought Anakin there the first time around... and of the loved ones who stood by his side.
For those who haven't kept up to date on Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli's comic series, the story has shed extra light on Vader's first days on the job as Palpatine's Apprentice. Aside from slaying Jedi gladiators for their lightsabers, the most recent issues have brought Vader to the planet Mon Cala. His arrival is ordered before he's technically needed, but... the Emperor has a special task only Vader can tackle.
Before Vader arrives, Imperial diplomats (under the command of Grand Moff Tarkin) are attempting to negotiate a better trade deal with the Mon Calamari king. A king that fans of Clone Wars will instantly remember from the fourth season of the series. When introduced, he was only Prince Lee-Char, heir to the throne after his father was assassinated.
The story was told over three episodes, eventually leading to The Battle of Mon Cala, with Anakin, Ahsoka, Padme, Jar Jar Binks, and Republic forces on the Prince's side, and Dooku's Separatists allied against him (and led by his father's assassin). While Gail Ackbar showed his future heroism, the Prince also proved his mettle. A devoted protector of his people, his coronation was a true victory... one that Anakin never forgot.
When Vader is finally sent into combat and ordered to force the Mon Calamari's obedience (triggered by a staged assassination) his Inquisitors suggest that King Lee-Char may have fled. But Vader knows better, recalling - secretly - his time at Lee-Char's side. Except it isn't Lee-Char he ends up remembering...
Vader's unprompted reverie is a treat for Clone Wars lovers, with Camuncoli recreating the exact scene of Lee-Char's coronation. But when Vader states that Lee-Char gave the impression of being "Determined. Strong. A Unique Individual," it's clear he's describing Padme, with his gaze towards her subtle enough to miss. The significance of the hesitation is clear - and one of the most elegant flourishes Soule and Camuncoli have included in the series so far.
The lack of internal monologue to give context is no accident. In the Darth Vader story thus far readers have learned to not rely on Vader's words, as few and far between as they ever are (he's lying to himself as much as anyone else). Instead, it is moments like these where Anakin's actions (or the storytellers' disembodied influence) provides insight.
Like the Light Side calling to Vader in his Dark Side meditations, the memory of his love, his mission, and the man he was when fighting for Mon Calamari independence, not against it, show the darkest waters run deepest.
The issue ends with Vader returning to the deep once again, but something tells us he won't feel a similar pull to Padme when he discovers the reason he was sent in the first place. Namely, the secret group of Jedi who survived Order 66 and are now hiding out on the planet. Here's hoping one reminds him of his wife...?
Darth Vader #14 is available now from DC Comics.