Warning: SPOILERS for Star Wars Adventures #13
Star Wars fans may think they know when Darth Vader's helmet first appeared, but a new comic book reveals Anakin Skywalker donned a prototype of the mask long before he fell to the Dark Side - he just didn't know it at the time.
It's a fun addition to the Star Wars canon, unlike other recent comic books which have made Darth Vader's story more tragic, or shown that on some level, he never stopped loving Padmé Amidala. Instead, this reveal comes during the days of the Clone Wars animated series, when Anakin was still serving as bodyguard (and secret husband) to Senator Padmé.
And a truly strange mission saw him in need of a supremely familiar looking, gas mask-equipped helmet...
The story by Elsa Charretier & Pierrick Colinetcan be found in Star Wars Adventures #13, a younger reader friendly (but still set in the existing canon) comic series from IDW. The mission? For Padmé to attend a few special performances led by the eccentric, egotistical, and galactically praised actress Risha Synata. Even Anakin is a fan of Synata's films... until she sends droids to kill both Padmé and her Jedi bodyguard, revealing herself as an operative of the Separatists.
The story reaches its crescendo when Padmé and Anakin discover a holo message from Count Dooku himself, instructing Risha to don a gas mask along with her leading man. The plan, as Dooku explains, is that the show will hopefully distract the audience of Republic-loyal politicians from noticing the deadly gas flooding the theater. The pair spring into action, with Padmé evacuating the attendees before the gas can flow - as Anakin heads on stage to square off against Risha directly.
What we forgot to mention is that Risha is as much a fan and historian of Jedi and Sith history as she is a celebrity, with the museum dedicated to her biggest roles recreating some of the most iconic sets and marketing of the actual Star Wars films and TV shows. The play being performed on this night is just as Jedi-inspired, meaning Anakin has no choice but to don the costume selected for the evil, lightsaber-wielding villain of the piece.
Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. To play the hero, Anakin Skywalker must don the very wardrobe he will wear as the villain of the Star Wars saga years later.
The only difference is the blue of Anakin's light saner, but the cape, rebreather mask, and iconic helmet silhouette are all recreated perfectly, in a moment dripping with dramatic irony (and not a single wink to the audience about how well the costume fits the hero). Leaving fans with some important questions to ask about Vader's helmet and mask.
Is this story twist a hint that the so-called "Vader mask" was actually a somewhat common one, in use wherever a portable air supply was needed? Or was it provided for Risha Synata along with the toxic gas, establishing them as equipment specifically in use by Dooku's forces? Or... is this merely a tongue-in-cheek moment of fan service, with Anakin and Risha well aware that ll fantasy epics, including that of the Star Wars trilogy, stick to the same theatrical structure?
That is most definitely for fans to decide. But either way, it's a clever story that every Vader or Clone Wars fan will want to enjoy.
Star Wars Adventures #13 is available from IDW Comics.