Darth Vader has had a tough year. He finally tried to catch up with his son only to have him choose a seemingly bottomless pit over some quality time. Then he met up with somebody who looked a little too much like his dead wife for him to see clearly that she was going to try and murder him. After deciding that he would do the right thing by letting Padme’s doubles live, his boss decided to crush his legs and arms and abandon him near a volcanic river. One could say you reap what you sow, but it’s hard not to feel a little bad for the guy.
We find Lord Vader in the same spot that Obi Wan left him at the end of Revenge of the Sith. One armed, no legged, and well done. After sensing that Vader was going soft again, old palpy decided to reteach him the hatred he learned on Mustafar long ago. This time he’s sent along one Ochi of Bestoon, who you might remember as the murderer of Rey’s parents, to ensure that Vader has a really bad time on his favorite lava planet.
Much like past issues from 2020’s Darth Vader, the titular Sith lord is on a trip down memory lane. This time he’s crawling his way through the very room he slaughtered the Separatist remnants in before facing off with his former master. Vader’s maimed visage crawling over the corpses of his victims broken up by his memories of the act are striking, but never hit quite as hard as the more emotional flashbacks from the first half of this run.
This specific time frame in Vader’s life is interesting. He is on his way to rediscovering the light within himself, but is still just too damn angry to get there. His emotional instability has made him vulnerable. The Emperor sees this and figures the best way to get his padawan back to being an unfeeling monster is to make him relive some trauma. Which begs the question: why is Vader still hanging out with this guy?
By moving the focus from Vader’s sadness to his anger, the story loses some of what has made these comics so good in the past. The most interesting thing about this run is that Vader is forced to face his humanity, but the most recent issues have lost that connection a bit and started to make the whole thing feel redundant. Is he just reliving his arc from Revenge of the Sith?
Nothing from the Into The Fire has been as affecting as seeing Vader dealing with the loss of his soulmate nor has the imagery been nearly as striking. It’s not all bad, you still get some face value badassery; Vader rebuilding himself with battle droid parts and some particularly well drawn action between Darth Vader and Ochi keep the issue exciting, but the whole thing feels a bit shallow. While the last issues seemed to be laying the groundwork for his redemption in Return of the Jedi, this issue felt like it was attempting to reset Vader to his evil norm. Considering how fresh the rest of this series has been, it’s a huge bummer.
But it makes a certain amount of sense. If you continue to make Vader better you undercut the end of his story. It also puts you in a corner if you intend to continue telling stories of Vader on the warpath from this specific section of the timeline. Star Wars is tough that way; any content tangentially related to the movies is often left in their shadow.
But the biggest highlight from this issue is from something that was almost in a movie. The final page of this comic reveals that in the next chapter we’ll finally get to see the greatest character to ever get cut from a Star Wars movie in action: The Eye of the Webbish Bog.