Warning: SPOILERS for Vader: Dark Visions #4
The Star Wars universe would have been completely different without Anakin Skywalker or Darth Vader, but a new canon comic book has shown just how close the Rebels came to victory... and that Vader was an inch away from death long before his final appearances.
The Jedi always maintained that fear was a path to the Dark Side, but Vader: Dark Visions #4 perfectly illustrates just how effective fear can be for a Sith Lord. Specifically, how potently one's reputation can precede them if it's based on murder, torture, and dark sorcery. Fans of the Star Wars movies know that Darth Vader's arrival was guaranteed to cause all Imperial spines to stand a bit straighter. But thanks to this new comic, fans now know that reputation also saved Darth Vader's life... when he was brought closer to death than anyone ever realized.
The series from Dennis "Hopeless" Hallum has hopped around the Star Wars universe thus far, showing how a different perspective on Vader isn't just possible, but rich grounds for storytelling. This time around, it's Darth Vader behind the controls of his custom fighter that takes the spotlight. The thrilling 'what if?' scenario is offered in Vader: Dark Visions #4, chronicling the Rebel pilot referred to only as "Kid," the son of a smuggler who froze up when he should have shot, and saw his father killed because of it. In pursuit of a greater purpose, "Kid" joins the Rebels and soon becomes one of their greatest pilots, before Luke, Han, or Poe Dameron were household names for their work behind the controls of an X-wing.
As in previous issues, Vader is relegated to a supporting role, with "Kid" the protagonist working his way towards an X-wing cockpit for a fight, or a target good enough to make up for his past failure. And when Darth Vader enters their attempted ambush himself, this "Kid" gets exactly that. The chance to kill the Emperor's apprentice is worth the life of countless Rebels, including the pilots' commanding officer. She sacrifices herself to give her recruit the perfect shot to obliterate Vader. But as the weapons lock is confirmed, and the best pilot for the job has his finger hovering over the trigger... the terrible specter of Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, and servant of Emperor Palpatine causes the pilot to once again freeze, crumple, and flee back to safety. With Vader tracking him close behind, of course.
Soon after "Kid" exits his fighter and is swallowed up more and more by the growing image of Vader in his mind, coupled with his own cowardice that allowed Vader to escape a weapons lock and follow him to this base, the true power of fear becomes evident. As the Empire's forces arrive, led by Vader, to lay waste to all of the Rebels they find at their Jamiri Outpost, the "Kid" is destroyed along with them... as Vader takes his body, having claimed his mind and spirit already.
The Star Wars comic books that have expanded on Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader's story have done a lot to make him a richer, deeper, more authentic character--while also changing much of what we officially know about the Sith Lord. Whether it's the fact that Anakin was sort of the Emperor's son, or that he managed to cross into the afterlife, where he had a Force vision of Luke someday destroying him. But this new issue keeps the reputation and fearsome, ruthless, and let's be honest, lucky nature of Anakin/Vader perfectly intact. It's just the events of the larger galaxy that could have all turned out differently if he wasn't such a walking nightmare.
Now the only questions fan have to ask is how much the course of galactic history would have changed, if this "Kid" was able to do what he needed to, and blow Vader to bits. Or, perhaps just as complicated a question to ponder: if the Rebel hero had gone through with his chance... would the Emperor ever have been brought down at all? Perhaps this story should instead be seen as a sign of how close the Rebels actually came to dooming the galaxy for good?
Vader: Dark Visions #4 is available now from your local comic book shop, or direct from Marvel Comics.