Last month’s issue of Star Wars: Darth Vader from Marvel Comics left off with the Dark Lord of the Sith getting dumped back on the lava planet Mustafar after his mentor and master Emperor Palpatine tore off his robotic limbs and instructed him to find his own way back to his position of power without using the Force– all in punishment for Vader having pursued his own interests in tracking down answers to the circumstances surrounding his late wife Padmé Amidala’s death decades earlier. As if that weren’t enough, Sith assassin Ochi of Bestoon is also on Vader’s tail, also at the behest of Palpatine.

Today’s issue #7 picks up at that point, with Vader clawing his way into the ruins of Mustafar’s mining complex, but not before we get a flashback of Anakin Skywalker reporting back to Palpatine about having murdered all of the Jedi in the temple on Coruscant. More red-tinted flashbacks haunt Vader’s memory as he finds the corpses of Neimoidians and Trade Federation battle droids he slaughtered during the events of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, and he then uses discarded droid parts to replace his missing legs and arm.

Ochi soon shows up, of course, and challenges Vader to a face-off now that the Sith Lord has the ability to stand and fight. Most of the rest of this issue is dedicated to a knock-down drag-out battle between these two baddies, as they repeatedly taunt each other verbally while relentlessly assaulting each other physically. Vader gains at least one very interesting piece of information from Ochi, though the assassin is unwilling to admit defeat at any point. Instead, the Dark Lord winds up distracted by a new voice he hears in his head, coming from nearby. That leads to the final cliffhanger reveal of an enigmatic character initially intended to debut in last year’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I won’t say anything more about who that being is in this review, though I imagine we’ll be talking about it quite a bit next month. If you’d like to know more before then, I’d recommend picking up The Rise of Skywalker – Expanded Edition novelization, which includes the above-referenced deleted scenes.

I’ve really been enjoying writer Greg Pak’s take on Darth Vader’s trials and tribulations during the post-The Empire Strikes Back time period, and this issue is absolutely no exception. The storytelling is crisp and to-the-point, despite there being very little dialogue, expository or otherwise. Raffaele Ienco’s art is also perfectly suited to the atmospheric mood intended by this tale’s ominous setting, and colorist Neeraj Menon’s abundant use of yellows and oranges conveys the imposing, treacherous nature of Mustafar’s lava rivers and abandoned facilities. Obviously we know Ochi of Bestoon survives to eventually wind up on Pasaana– not to mention Vader’s inevitable return to Palpatine’s side– but there’s still plenty of suspense as we watch these two deadly figures duke it out over the same landscape where Anakin and Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi once famously clashed so many years earlier.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #7 is available now wherever comic books are sold.