WARNING: This article contains minor SPOILERS for the Darth Vader comic series
[Update: Reposted from March 5th for #StarWarsDay 2018. May the 4th be with you!]
The idea of a Darth Vader spinoff movie may divide fans, but a new comic proves Star Wars skipped over the best part of Vader's story. That distinction is worth pointing out again, since the Star Wars prequels focused on telling the story of Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight. the trilogy ended when he put on the armor and mask of Darth Vader... and left the rest to fans' imagination. Since then TV shows like Clone Wars have tried to connect Anakin's story to that of Vader's. But the latest Darth Vader comic is already showing that the real creation of Vader is a story fans deserve to see.
The Darth Vader comic has been a thrill for Star Wars fans as it expands the mythology prior to A New Hope. Like making a hero of the Jedi librarian Jocasta Nu, or picking up on a Rebels storyline and showing the creation of the Sith Inquisitors. But the best story - the one that Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli have wanted to tell from the start of the series - is how Vader became a legend. Not how Anakin Skywalker took the name and mask - we know that already.
The story of how Darth Vader, the strange new attack dog of the Emperor came to command Imperial forces without a formal rank. All the while fighting the flicker of goodness that would return him to the light in his final moments. In other words, the Darth Vader movie that could, and SHOULD be made.
Vader Can't Erase 'Anakin Skywalker' From Memory
There are guaranteed to be those against the idea on principle, and with good reason. Just a few 'anthology' movies down, and criticism of Lucasfilm using Darth Vader as a marketing tool is building. Others might simply say that the character is played out, and Vader is a worse villain than Kylo Ren - who at least has some complexity. But as the Darth Vader comic from Marvel is already proving, month in and month out, is that the problem isn't Vader... it's simply that George Lucas skipped over the most compelling chapters of his story.
Starting at the absolute start of 'Darth Vader' becoming a political player, or even an identity at all, things aren't as simple as the films imply. The great Jedi Purge initiated by Order 66 was meant to erase Emperor Palpatine's enemies, but also help Anakin Skywalker bury the past. Honestly, it wouldn't be difficult for anyone who lived before and after the Purge to guess that Vader - the Emperor's new apprentice - was likely Skywalker, the Jedi who was moving towards the same role beforehand. Unfortunately, the films' jump of decades allows such memories to be wiped away from all but a few.
Even more unfortunately, that grey area in between is arguably the most compelling part of Anakin's-- sorry, Vader's life. The conflict and reality of being a former Jedi, the 'villains' of the Empire, rears its head when Jocasta Nu reveals Vader was a Jedi Knight in front of a squad of Clone Troopers. Vader has no choice but to kill them all lest his secret get out, and pins the blame on the old Jedi. Anakin may be dead... but the truth of his transformation can't be erased as cleanly as the original films suggest.
Darth Vader Faces Threats From Within The Empire
The comic's creative team is also able to deliver some amusing moments as the Imperial Officers struggle to grasp Darth Vader's actual role. After all, his relationship as the Sith Apprentice to the Sith Master Darth Sidious is not public knowledge (and with the Jedi effectively wiped out, what would it matter anyway?). To the greater Star Wars canon, they are the last of the Sith Lords. To the officers who serve the Emperor... the tall, quiet guy in the long, black cape and helmet kind of showed up out of nowhere. Needless to say, requesting lifelong soldiers submit to the authority of a "Lord" in their midst begins to earn Vader some enemies. Enemies who have yet to realize that the Emperor's lumbering agent is one of the most fearsome people in the galaxy.
If the idea of the new age of Star Wars movies is to inject fresh, contemporary humor and characters while observing beloved characters through a new lens, this moment in Vader's career is pitch perfect. Seeing how the young, suave, daring smuggler Han Solo became an older, suave, daring smuggler was a hard sell to some fans. But watching Darth Vader take sass and backtalk from his fellow Imperial agents, and fall prey to attempted assassinations from within the military? Now THAT is the kind of origin story that would surprise people.
Surprise and thrill, just like the readers of the comic. Readers who watch as Imperial spies mock and boast about Vader's numbered days, while fully aware that Vader will visit unspeakable horrors upon them (like the ones that immediately follow Vader's 'introduction' to the Emperor's top officers, seen above).
Seeing the darkness and fear that will come to precede Vader is satisfying to fans of his story. But even more satisfying is seeing the earliest signs of the light and unrest that his son, Luke, eventually champions...
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