Review – An Ancient Sith Returns in Darth Vader #23
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Colors by David Curiel and Dono Sanchez-Almara
“FORTRESS VADER” – PART 5
Darkness rises above MUSTAFAR as the brutal designs of LORD MOMIN begin to take shape. But the planet’s inhabitants cannot take this desecration lightly, and shape plans of their own.
By the end of the previous issue of Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader had made an arrangement with Lord Momin to begin the construction of his fortress which will allow him to have an even deeper connection with the dark side. To provide Momin with the body to possess, Vader had slaughtered several Mustafar natives.
When this issue opens, the Imperial presence on Mustafar is significant and the construction of Vader’s fortress is well underway. It is time for Vader to test Momin’s design as the architect cannot do it himself, being just a possessed mask.
Vader’s attempt to open the door to the dark side causes the ground to start shaking and the reactions of both the Imperial crew and locals indicates that this isn’t the first time this has happened. Vader’s attempt ends with an explosion which destroys the fortress. The leader of the local inhabitants – Father Kkkt – managed to hold off what he calls the Endstorm. From the context we can deduce that Father Kkkt is Force sensitive and the Endstorm is the dark side, which is becoming stronger. The Lifefires – light side – barely still burn on Mustafar and something must be done. The Father plans to contact other clanholds to organize a resistance.
Back with the Empire, we see Vader killing Momin or, at least, his current vessel. We learn that this was fifth destroyed Fortress. Momin acquires another vessel, one of the stormtroopers, and he promises the sixth design would be a success. The Imperial forces are attacked by lava fleas, monsters that started attacking them after repeated lightning storms from the castle. They believe this must be their breeding ground, but we can conclude the natives have a hand in it.
We are then treated to a montage-like sequence of scenes – the repeated rebuilding of the fortress in different shapes, inevitable failure, and a new vessel for Momin after Vader destroys the previous one. Momin keeps promising the next time will be a success. Finally, the fortress gains a familiar shape, the one we all know. It is the ninth design and Vader warns Momin there will not be a tenth time.
Aside from Momin’s praises, Vader can feel the difference when he enters the cave and even those observing the fortress can see it. Momin warns Vader that the test is designed only to see if the doors could be opened and that he should harness his powers in preparation for the actual act. But, Vader’s patience is at an end.
Just as Vader is about to open it, he is contacted by the commander of the castle’s garrison. They are under attack, one that may represent a serious threat. Before he leaves, he warns Momin not to do anything until he returns. Vader is faced with enormous force of Mustafar locals and animals who are planning to completely destroy the fortress.
Momin has other plans. We see him opening the door exposing the truth that he can use the Force – despite his previous claims. What follows is easily one of the spookiest scenes in the entire comic. He faces his true self from beyond the veil, the vessel hands him the mask and Lord Momin is reborn. He declares: “I am my own masterpiece.”
Where do I start with this issue? From the pages you can feel how much Vader desires success, proven by his seemingly infinite patience with Momin. While he kills Momin’s vessel after every failure, he keeps the architect working every time. Otherwise, he could have simply chucked the mask in the surrounding lava and ended Momin for good. Vader held on, feeling as though he was on the verge of something every time he attempted to open the door behind the dark side nexus.
Soule also present us with another Force school of thought. After the Tide, we now have Endstorm and Lifefires, two alternate names for the dark and light side of the Force. Father Kkkt is clearly Force sensitive as he declares that fighting the latest Endstorm has depleted his strength and the natives clearly have a command over local wildlife. If we take a hint from the previous issue that Mustafar is the planet Momin destroyed with his weapon as fact, I would surely like to see what it took for the inhabitants to adapt and survive in their new environment and circumstances.
Finally, we are entering the last two issues of this comic run with Vader having to face his greatest challenge yet. He has to fight on two fronts – with Mustafar inhabitants and a revived Momin. The natives will not go down without a serious fight. We can also only speculate about Momin’s true power at this point, but he will certainly be greater challenge than, say, Kirak Infil’a. There are no innocents that Vader can sacrifice to deter Momin, and the ancient Sith surely has more aces up his sleeve. Yet, no one should underestimate Vader’s rage, while on the brink of achieving his greatest desire.
I can’t praise this arc strong enough. I might have said before, but it requires a great writer to expand upon the familiar story while introducing new lore which opens doors for future story tellers. Soule does just that and Camuncoli’s art is a perfect match. I have to also commend coloring by David Curiel and Dono Sanchez-Almara. You can only do so much with a lava planet and they manage to make Camuncoli’s art vibrant and interesting in spite of its singular environment.
With the last two issues coming by the end of the year, I think it’s now safe to say we are looking at quite possibly the best comic run in the new Marvel era. After seeing the summary of the next issue, I have no doubt that Soule and Camuncoli will deliver the explosive conclusion to Vader’s deep dive into the dark side, and his rise to power.
Before we experience it though,
THIS ISSUE GETS 8/10 STARS
“FORTRESS VADER” – PART 6
The FORTRESS will stand, but at a terrible cost.
The fire will come to MUSTAFAR, and all will burn.
The final design is revealed, woven from war, treachery and pain.
Staff member, comic and book reviewer. Cheers for the Light Side, but would drink with Grand Admirals.
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