Warning: SPOILERS for Darth Vader Annual #2
Darth Vader might have been responsible for the destruction of the Death Star - and the rebellion of Jyn Erso’s father, Galen. At the very least, that’s what the last scene of Marvel’s Darth Vader Annual #2 seems to suggest.
The issue implies that reason the Erso family fled the Death Star project is all down to the Emperor’s right-hand man. And while the Annual #2 has the Dark Lord of the Sith hunting down a group of saboteurs targeting Death Star production, the biggest saboteur might be Vader himself.
Vader is tasked with protecting the Death Star in Darth Vader Annual #2 without ever really knowing what it is that he’s protecting (the story is set at a time when the Death Star was simply known as "Project Stardust"). During his investigation, Vader realizes that the project is actually a planet killer superweapon. And that the genius behind the weapon is pacifist scientist, Galen Erso.
Vader, like all Sith, believes pacifists are fools considering the truth that peace is a lie. However, Darth Vader Annual #2 also reveals that Vader was jealous of the Death Star, at least as Grand Moff Tarkin sees it, and views the weapon as a mistake for the Empire. Vader’s reasoning for his Death Star hatred is fairly flawed, but the issue still makes it clear that Vader would prefer to have the Death Star wiped from the face of the galaxy.
This is why the end of Darth Vader Annual #2 is so fascinating. After Vader’s hatred of the Death Star is revealed, the issue immediately switches to the perspective of Lyra Erso, Galen's wife, and mother to Rogue One heroine Jyn Erso. While working mining for crystals in the Outer Rim, Lyra is met by a mysterious droid.
The droid tells Lyra the truth about the project she and Galen are working on - a super weapon that will kill countless people across the galaxy. The droid doesn’t tell Lyra who sent it or why, and self-destructs before it can give any more information. But that message is enough to convince Lyra that she must flee with her family. This explains the Ersos' mindset at the start of Rogue One and why Galen eventually builds the Death Star’s secret weakness.
It’s certainly possible that another character or even group of characters is behind the warning that Lyra receives, and the issue doesn’t make it explicitly clear that Vader is behind the droid and its message. However... it’s the most obvious explanation. Vader’s hatred of the Death Star, affinity for droids and the violent way the droid meets it end, all line up with his character. In reality, all signs point to Vader.
It's worth remembering that Darth Vader isn’t warning Galen and his family out of the goodness of his heart, but because he wishes to cease the development of the Death Star by the most efficient means. It's still rather shocking that Vader was indirectly responsible for the Rebellion’s success years before his redemption in Return of the Jedi.
That being said, he’s always been someone who has looked out for himself more than the Empire as a whole. However, if Vader is behind the Erso family running away and the eventual destruction of the Death Star... it puts Vader's actions in Rogue One and A New Hope into a whole new light.
Things are still left vague enough that Marvel and/or Star Wars can still reveal that someone else was behind tipping the Erso family off. Yet the implication is that Darth Vader was the actual spark that ignited rebellion. Who knew?
Darth Vader Annual #2 is available now from Marvel.