If there's any movie villain that deserves to have Marvel Comics tell their origin story, it's Darth Vader. Not only is he one of Hollywood's most recognizable and iconic antagonists, but he earned his place in Star Wars having only a handful of minutes of screen time in the original film. So the announcement of Darth Vader, a new comic series from Marvel shouldn't be a surprise... except for the fact that fans have already seen his origin story told. Haven't they?
The short answer is 'No,' and that's a problem that writer Charles Soule and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli will be solving, beginning with Darth Vader #1 in June. With the announcement comes details from the writer directly, teasing the missing chapter in Darth Vader's life that fans will finally see told, the creation of Vader's first red lightsaber, and how he grew into the devastating Force-wielding wrecking machine that audiences witnessed in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Mark your calendars now Star Wars fans, because this Marvel Comic sounds like a must-read.
The Story The Movies Never Told
It's a comic series that, unlike the new Darth Maul comic book seems like a story we already know. After all, the somewhat ignored Star Wars prequels' sole purpose was to show Anakin Skywalker's rise from obscurity to greatness, and his fall into corruption and darkness. So fans got exactly that: Episode III showed Anakin's physical transformation: dismembered, burned, and left for dead by Obi-wan before the Emperor finds him, rebuilds him, and calls him to his side. And then, you know... he eventually becomes the villain we know as Darth Vader. Off-screen.
That avoidance of the real meat of Anakin's journey seems to be a major missed opportunity (that closing scene seems like a beginning more than an ending). How did the half-broken, tortured, completely lost soul at Palpatine's side grow into the villain of the original trilogy years later? Charles Soule explains to IGN that the Darth Vader comic will waste no time in tackling that exact question:
The book begins one second after the end of Revenge of the Sith. Darth Vader is in the armored suit that we see throughout the rest of his life... He is just awakening to that moment and that realization. So he has shouted ‘No!’ in the way we see in the film, and then it picks up immediately after that point. So we see him adjusting to that. We see him learning to be more machine than man. We see him going through some really, really cool early moments of his early mythology and history.
As fans know, that's not a journey Anakin-- sorry, Vader will be taking on his own. He might think he is, just as he thought his betrayal of the Jedi was his own choosing, and not Emperor Palpatine's manipulations. His subservience to the Emperor isn't ending any time soon - even if it begins out of deceit, with Vader believing Padme and their children dead and gone, killed by his own hand. That lie was yet another moment showing Palpatine is pure evil, but in an interview with StarWars.com Soule says he's after a far more complicated take on their relationship, based on the established fiction of Anakin Skywalker:
Palpatine does have an attachment to this guy. He’s a tool, and if he screws up I think the Emperor would discard him, but that’s not what he wants. He wants Vader to succeed, not just to further the goals of the Empire, but for his own sake. Vader and Palpatine are connected by true emotion, even if it’s twisted and dark. Palpatine is the only father Anakin ever knew, and just because their relationship has…evolved, let’s say…it doesn’t mean the core is gone. Fascinating dynamic to write — and we get a bunch of it in the series.
It's a story that hasn't really been told; despite George Lucas's desire to explain how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, the fans never actually got to see the most interesting part (even if it's only more interesting in hindsight). The prequels showed Anakin's rise and fall, sure... but he next appears having already completed his second rise to power as the Empire's top enforcer. It only seems right that if Anakin gets an origin story, Darth Vader is entitled to one, too.
The Birth of Vader's Lightsaber
If we're taking Darth Vader as an origin story for the Sith Apprentice, then he has to follow the Star Wars rule like any other: your journey isn't over until you've crafted your own lightsaber. And as any Star Wars lore aficionado will tell you, Vader's story is missing that chapter. Revenge of the Sith's ending sees him returned to the Emperor's side, but without his signature weapon. By this point Darth Vader is synonymous with his red lightsaber, so Soule (a lifelong Star Wars fan) confirms to IGN that his story can't really begin anywhere else:
The first arc is going to revolve around Vader's construction of his red lightsaber, because at the end of Revenge of the Sith, he obviously loses his blue saber when he gets all chopped up and Obi-Wan takes it to eventually give to Luke down the road. So we end up with a character who is known as having this iconic sword, like his magical red sword, but he doesn't have it yet. So what better way to start a big huge series than with a quest for a magic sword?
Soule goes on to confirm that the Vader series will be "exploring the mythology" around lightsabers, so if you've always wished you could see Anakin's final initiation into the Sith - the forging of a new, red saber - then your dreams are about to come true.
A New Kind of Warrior
The question of Vader's new weapon and self-inflicted mental torture are rich ones for fans of the narrative, or Anakin's 'story' - but there's also a more practical journey that the canon skips completely past. To put it simply: how does the nimble Jedi warrior fans saw through Episode II and III come to use his half-robitic body effectively? Walking is one challenge we would have to assume would be difficult to master, but casting off his years of training and instantly becoming the stalking, bloodthirsty monster that tore apart the Rebel forces in the final moments of Rogue One? That's something else entirely.
The final act of Revenge of the Sith hinted at Anakin's shift towards his future self with the black cloak, slow, ruthless, and determined march, and emotionless expression. But Soule and Camuncoli are after a richer transition, with the writer shifting to one of Hollywood's most iconic faceless, remorseless killers for inspiration:
I'm trying to write Vader almost like Jason in Friday the 13th. Almost like he's stalking into a room. We saw some of this at the end of Rogue One. The way he approaches a fight, that was Vader. In Rogue One he's been doing this for many years. But our is Vader kind of in between. He's trying to figure out how to use the armor as opposed to the way he fought as a Jedi which was much more somersault-y and things like that.
...Almost like a masked truck moving through scenes in a very methodical, unstoppable way. Not that he's not fast. Not that he's not powerful, it's just a different way of movement, a different type of movement. And also, getting the deep emotion into the activities, because you really want to be able to see past that mask and feel what he's thinking and feeling. You want to feel that rage. When he looks at you, you want to understand that he's about to choke you to death.
Now that's the kind of talk that will grab the attention of every Vader fan. The prequels might have seemed like a completion of the Saga, but Soule's words alone point out some obvious gaps or shortcuts past what could be, in the right hands, a fascinating lens through which to view the rest of the Star Wars legacy and coming stories. That's even if Disney doesn't make that Darth Vader anthology movie, too.
Let us know your reactions to the new Darth Vader's premise, and whether it's a story you'll be interested in seeing told firsthand.
Darth Vader #1 arrives in June 2017.