Review – Vader is Haunted by His Past in Marvel’s Star Wars: Darth Vader #2 by Greg Pak
Darth Vader has revealed the truth to Luke Skywalker: He is the young Jedi’s father. Unfortunately, the boy refused to join him and escaped. Following the events of The Empire Strikes Back, Vader is now on a quest for revenge against everyone that hid his son from him. This journey led him to Tatooine in the first issue of the series and then to Coruscant where he searched the abandoned apartment of his late wife and the boy’s mother, Padmé Amidala. Now on the world of Vendaxa, the Sith lord finds himself face to face with a ghost from his past. Could Padmé still be alive? SPOILERS AHEAD…
This issue opens with a touching flashback to the first time Padmé confessed her true feelings for the Jedi Anakin Skywalker as the two of them were being led to their execution on Geonosis, a memory that has been often revisited in recent Darth Vader stories and one that obviously still haunts the former Jedi to this day.
Logic tells him that Padmé is long gone, but at the first sight of the woman standing before him, Vader is instantly struck by the similarities to his late wife, so much so that he says her name aloud. “What did you call me?” she responds. The woman is as confused as he is by this encounter. Why would this enforcer for the Empire care about a senator from Naboo who had passed on over two decades before?
The woman fires her blaster at Vader, but the Sith lord deflects the blast easily and uses the Force to rip the blaster from the woman’s grasp. “Who…are you?” he demands. She then tells him that he had said it himself. She is Padmé Amidala back from the dead to haunt him. Her intuition had shown her the button to push, but as Vader’s assistant, the Imperial forensics droid ZED-6-7 points out, that was a mistake. Vader is finished playing guessing games.
Wasting no more of his time, Vader raises the woman off the ground with the Force in an attempt to choke her into submission, an act that drudges up another memory from long ago where a young Jedi had used a similar Force ability on his own pregnant wife out of jealousy and rage. The memory caused the mighty Sith lord to falter, opening a window for the woman to escape, which is covered by a sudden onslaught of Vendaxan land squid.
After dispatching the creatures, Vader quickly catches up with his wife’s doppelgänger and asks her one more time, “who are you?”, this time applying a lighter touch, a tactic completely foreign to the Sith Lord. The striking similarities between this woman and Padmé was indeed having a profound effect on him. He urges her to tell him and to not be afraid. She assures him she was not afraid. She was angry. It is in that moment that Vader sees it at last. Padmé is dead. The woman standing before him was her shadow, one of her former handmaidens.
After this revelation, the forensics droid begins his work cross-referencing this new information with his Imperial data bank. It is then that he is able to confirm the woman’s identity. She is Sabé, Queen Amidala’s double. The droid notes that she is a shade taller than Padmé with a slightly more pronounced jaw and a slightly deeper voice, even after adjusting for age.
Vader questions her further to learn that years ago Sabé had broken into Padmé’s apartment following her death looking for clues about what really happened to her. She had assumed that the Emperor had killed her, but when Vader reveals that someone had stolen her away before her death, Sabé begins to come around. Darth Vader was committed to the same thing she was, discovering the truth and making those responsible for her friend’s death pay for their crime.
Vader assures Sabé that he always triumphs and that if she serves him, she will too. The woman agrees to join Vader on his quest of vengeance, but first, the two of them must work together to fight off the land squids pouring in on their position. Fighting alongside Sabé was once again a doorway to old memories, memories of fighting alongside Padmé in an arena long ago, lightsaber in his hand and a blaster in hers. The situation now was not all that different, and Vader is pleased to see that Sabé could also hold her own in a fight.
Before leaving, Sabé wishes to bury the soldiers of Naboo that Vader had killed to get to her in his assault on the bunker. Vader cares not for sentimentality, but something about Sabé causes him to see things a little differently. She doesn’t just look and sound like Padmé. The similarities come out in more intangible ways as well, such as her compassion.
Vader concedes to her wishes before setting off with her to Naboo. Unable to decrypt them, Sabé had hidden the security recordings from Padmé’s chamber somewhere on the planet. Now, with the help of her new ally and his droid, perhaps she could learn the truth at last.
When Vader came face to face with the mysterious woman in issue #1, I along with many others speculated that she was indeed Sabé, the former handmaiden and double of the late Padmé Amidala. Sabé was portrayed by actress Keira Knightly in The Phantom Menace, and the character was also featured heavily in last year’s novel Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow, the title of which is referenced in this issue when Vader refers to Sabé as the “queen’s shadow”.
There was definitely a little bit of shock factor involved with the partial Sabé reveal in the first issue of Greg Pak’s new Darth Vader series. I’m sure it was carefully crafted to urge comic readers to buy the next issue as well, but Sabé’s appearance for me goes so much deeper than that, opening up a world of opportunity to see Vader in a far different light than we have before. After just two issues, we’re already seeing the Sith lord’s vulnerabilities come to the surface. Normally, Vader would employ a “kill the past” response to this type of thing, but there’s something about Sabé that gives him pause, and I think that will make for some fascinating storytelling moving forward.
Pak’s use of Anakin and Padmé flashbacks is nothing new in a Darth Vader comic series, but he employs the technique well at just the right moments in the current story. This storytelling method further illustrates the truth that we who have seen The Return of the Jedi already know: Anakin Skywalker is not completely lost. Part of him remains. We know that ultimately his son will bring him back to the light, but I wonder how much Sabé will also play into his future restoration as this series unfolds.
Taking place almost entirely in one or two rooms, this issue is not very plot heavy, but it quickly answers the question about the mysterious woman’s identity (something I was afraid would stretch out over several issues) and continues to set the stage for what’s to come in a way that certainly has piqued my interest. I have enjoyed a lot of comics from Pak over the years (Planet Hulk for ex.), but after his Star Wars run left a little to be desired, I was concerned that his take on Vader might also disappoint. But so far, it seems that concern has been misplaced as the new Darth Vader series is one that I’ll be watching closely and greatly anticipating each month in the days ahead.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #2 by Greg Pak and artist Raffaele Ienco is available now in a comic shop near you or online at Comixology. Happy reading Star Wars comic fans!
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.