Prior to 2015, the idea of giving the iconic Star Wars villain Darth Vader his own eponymous comic book title seemed outlandish. This was a story about good overcoming evil, after all. But two successful runs of Star Wars: Darth Vader from Marvel Comics later, the concept seems like a no-brainer. Vader is, after all, the ultimate conflicted bad guy– he’s got a tortured past and he does ultimately get redeemed (spoiler alert for 1983) at the hands of his estranged Jedi Knight son Luke Skywalker.
Now Marvel has launched its third iteration of Star Wars: Darth Vader, and like the other Star Wars titles in its current output, this run is set after the calamitous events of The Empire Strikes Back, with Luke having fled Cloud City after his climactic father/son lightsaber duel with daddy Vader and disappeared into the ether with with the Rebel Alliance. Naturally, Darth is at a bit of a loss as to how to proceed in the aftermath of that Bespin-shaking confrontation, but with the help of the newly introduced forensics droid Zed Six Seven– who also serves as a bit of comic relief in the pages of the first new issue– he’s got a plan.
Vader and Zed decide to take a tour of Luke’s past in an effort to predict his future, bringing along some Death Troopers for good measure. Their first stop is the Lars homestead on Tatooine, where the Force-wielding boy spent most of his youth– and where Vader himself once visited during the time when he was previously known as Anakin Skywalker. The interesting thing here is that the Dark Lord of the Sith has gone somewhat AWOL from the command of Emperor Palpatine, taking off in an Imperial shuttle before he can report to his menacing boss about the disappearance of the Millennium Falcon and its rebel passengers along with it.
Along the way, Vader is also experiencing a series of torment-inducing flashbacks to his own youth on Tatooine, not to mention his final conflict and falling out with his wife Padmé Amidala. These images intermingle with the recent psychic scar of seeing Luke fall to his apparent (though not actual) demise after the devastating reveal of his parentage, coalescing into a seething ire in Vader’s mind, further fueling the need to piece together his son’s history. And Vader puts that rage to good use when he and his party are attacked by a gang of opportunistic space pirates in the Tatooine desert.
It’s very interesting to see this book’s title character revisiting some significant locations from his past, as he follows up the trip to the Jundland Wastes with a sojourn to another spot elsewhere in the galaxy that once held meaning to him. There, Zed Six Seven makes a discovery that leads directly to this issue’s big twist ending– one that I won’t reveal here, though I’m thus far convinced there’s much more going on in that final panel than what’s depicted on its surface. To find out what exactly is happening, we’ll have to wait for the next issue (due out in March) but for now I’m extremely happy to report that writer Greg Pak (Star Wars: Age of Rebellion, Planet Hulk) and artist Raffaele Ienco (Batman, Fantastic Four) have done a tremendous job ushering Star Wars: Darth Vader into this new era of storytelling thus far unexplored in the current canon.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 is now available wherever comic books are sold.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.