Darth Vader #5 reveals Vader’s road to redemption began before Return of the Jedi.
Greg Pak’s Darth Vader comic has been full of surprises at every turn. It might have been tempting to think another Darth Vader comic, this one set between Empire and Return, was unnecessary after the two groundbreaking runs by Kieron Gillen and Charles Soule. But Pak has proven again and again that there is more to Vader’s story to explore, especially in the aftermath of his rejection by his son at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
In just four issues, we’ve been reintroduced to Sabé, Padmé Amidala’s loyal handmaiden and best friend from the prequel trilogy. She’s also an important part of E.K. Johnston’s young adult Star Wars novels, Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril. And we’ve learned that Sabé believes Vader to be responsible for the death of not only Padmé but Anakin Skywalker as well. This last part is ironic in an incredibly satisfying way when the Amidalans, the group Sabé leads, try to kill Vader to avenge Padmé and Anakin.
Vader has been on a hunt for anyone who was responsible for keeping the truth about Luke from him, and this search has led him to the tomb of Padmé. With every issue, we’ve seen Vader haunted by the memories of his past.
A softening Vader
In Darth Vader #5, we see the beginning of Vader’s journey back toward the Light. A journey that will culminate in his split-second decision to kill the Emperor to save Luke’s life. First, within just the first few pages, Vader does the unthinkable, at least in light of everything we know about Vader: he spares Sabé’s life. Taking place just a short time before the events of Return of the Jedi, with all of the Anakin Skywalker memories haunting Vader and his sudden relent on meting out punishment, Pak’s story is revealing some metaphorical cracks in Vader’s armor.
There’s still good in him
That’s not to say the rage-filled Vader we know so well isn’t present in this issue; he is. And he causes a lot of destruction, proving once again that he’s a force to be reckoned with all on his own. But Pak’s Vader is turning out to be a stark reminder that Anakin Skywalker is still in there somewhere. And though Vader’s decision to return to the light in Return of the Jedi might have seemed sudden, this issue of Darth Vader in particular is deepening the context of Vader’s redemption by reminding us that Luke wasn’t the first to believe that there is still good in Vader.
The battle between master and apprentice
And if this is the beginning of Vader’s journey toward redemption, it’s also the beginning of a journey toward a rejection of his master’s oppressive rule, as the last panel leans into. It would seem that Palpatine doesn’t fully realize what he’s up against in Vader, and a full redemption story for Anakin Skywalker will surely include some powerfully conflicting moments between master and apprentice in the story leading up to Palpatine’s execution by Vader.
We’ll have to see what comes next for Vader and Palpatine when the October issue of Darth Vader is released.