In this week’s Darth Vader comic, the Sith Lord must overcome numerous obstacles in order to reach his destination: Padmé Amidala’s tomb.
It’s a scene Star Wars fans will never forget. After enduring so much tragedy in a two-hour period, we also had to sit through Padmé Amidala’s funeral procession at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
Though it was short, and there was no dialogue, it remains one of the most heartbreaking moments of the prequels.
Such a short scene holds so much power. Padmé, no longer alive. The realization that the galaxy now believes her unborn child is dead. And then there’s the item she’s holding — the small gift young Anakin Skywalker made for her all those innocent years ago.
Until very recently, that was the last we saw of Padmé or any monument that may have honored her — chronologically, anyway. But in the past month, two separate stories have brought her death back into the spotlight: The Doctor Aphra audio drama, and now, the 2020 Darth Vader comic.
So far, we’ve learned that Sabé isn’t on Vader’s side after all. She lured him to Naboo fully intending to trap him and prove he was responsible for the deaths of Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker.
He escapes the trap, of course; he almost always does. But not long after that, he comes face to face with a group of Amidalans. Like Sabé, they’ve sworn to eliminate the one responsible for the former queen’s death.
And then there are Sabé’s companions — the handmaidens that secretly protected Padmé while she served in government.
This is the first time the handmaidens have been individually named outside of E.K. Johnston’s young adult novels, and for Padmé fans in general, it’s a heartbreaking moment. The women who swore to protect her while she was alive still insist on protecting her legacy now that she’s gone.
They can’t stand well against Vader — he’s a Sith Lord; they’re pretty hard to beat. They bravely risk their lives to avenge their queen.
He spares them. But only because he has something else on his mind — someone, rather.
In the tomb, he finds the very gift Anakin gave to Padmé so long ago — the gift she kept even as she breathed her last.
In the comic’s final panel, we learn Vader’s dangerously personal mission isn’t quite over yet …
This series continues to upstage itself with every new issue. Admittedly, I’m one of many who initially groaned at the idea of yet another Vader comic.
But while there’s plenty of room for comics focused on other characters who haven’t gotten as much of a spotlight, it turns out this series is about Sabé’s grief and the legacy Padmé left behind just as much as it is about Vader being forced to confront the most painful parts of his past life.
Anakin Skywalker’s memories haunt the Sith Lord even still. And that’s what makes this particular Darth Vader run different than all the rest. It really focuses in on his struggle to break free from his past self.
We already know he eventually redeems himself and dies as Anakin Skywalker. But we’re learning more and more about how much he struggled throughout his time as Vader to suppress the good Padmé still believed was inside him.
Now we’re seeing through his eyes how much Luke Skywalker’s presence derailed him, sending him on a quest of destruction to shield himself from the pain of losing the woman he loved — even more so if Palpatine’s statement that Anakin was responsible for her death was a lie.
This might be the best Vader-centric comic we’ve ever gotten. And we’re only four issues in.
Bring. It. On.
The cover for the next issue of Darth Vader (2020) is a split image — Vader on one jagged half and Anakin on the other. The conflict between these two personalities (even if you consider them the same character, the distinction is still clear) is only going to escalate.
And what happens when it becomes too much for Vader to handle?
Murder, probably. Heartbreak. And that new droid probably isn’t going to survive the series, let’s be honest.
We’ll have to wait a while to find out what happens next. But it will be worth it.
The next issue of Darth Vader (2020) drops September 16.