Today saw the release of issue #40 of Volume III of Marvel Comics’ ongoing title Star Wars: Darth Vader, and below are my brief recap and thoughts on this installment.
Darth Vader #40 begins on a Coruscant landing platform, where all incoming droids are being inspected before being allowed entry to the city-planet, for fear of them carrying with them the evil A.I. virus called the Scourge. But when the titular Sith Lord’s TIE Advanced starfighter approaches, Emperor Palpatine makes it clear that he doesn’t have time for inspections– ordering Grand Vizier Mas Amedda to shoot Vader down. You see, the relationship between Palpatine and his apprentice has been a little fraught lately, and there’s still some character work to be done to get them to the relatively simpatico place they are in their relationship by the beginning of Return of the Jedi. There’s also the matter of those pesky Force waves (caused by the opening of the Fermata Cage in Star Wars: Hidden Empire), which are still affecting low-level Force users like Sub-Administrator Sly Moore, though Vader has recently learned to control his powers in their wake.
So Vader’s TIE crashes and the Emperor welcomes him with not-so-open arms, while Moore nearly collapses from the effects of the wave. Vader explains that he has regained control over his powers via the harnessing of his hatred, which surprises ol’ Palpy, because hate has had a side effect of recklessness in Vader before. Palpatine sicks Vader’s own stormtroopers and Death Troopers on the Dark Lord, who easily bats them away with his lightsaber, but another wild card is introduced when an inspection turns up a stowaway on the TIE– disc droids carrying the Scourge virus. Soon the infection starts to spread through other droids around Coruscant and even into the Death Troopers (I’m not sure what the implication here is– are the Death Troopers cyborgs, or has the Scourge successfully figured out a way to possess wholly organic lifeforms?), so Palpatine orders mass executions and obliteration of the affected areas.
With part of Coruscant in flaming ruins, Vader leaves on an Imperial shuttle, and the Scourge offers an uneasy alliance to combat the other Dark Lord of the Sith. This makes more sense to me than the Death Troopers, as we know Anakin Skywalker has become a cyborg in the days since he was a Jedi Knight fighting for the Republic. It also gives us a pretty sweet cliffhanger for Darth Vader going into the final month of Marvel’s current Star Wars: Dark Droids crossover event. Vader’s powers combined with the reach and near-omniscience of the Scourge should make for a formidable enemy indeed. And with this issue writer Greg Pak has delivered one of my favorite Darth Vader stories in a long time. I’m kind of fascinated by the evolving give-and-take between Vader and Emperor Palpatine, and this chapter, entitled “The Master’s Trial,” does a lot to deepen that mystery. Plus, artist Raffaele Ienco’s art is just awesome here, delivering non-stop action and evocatively rendered character likenesses throughout. Just great stuff, with a killer final panel. Bring on #41!
Star Wars: Darth Vader #40 is available now wherever comic books are sold.