Review – The Journey to Exegol Begins in Marvel’s Darth Vader #7
Darth Vader is in the Darth Sidious doghouse…again! This time, old Sheev employs Sith assassin Ochi of Bestoon, in hopes he’ll once again smother whatever conflict Vader feels about Luke Skywalker. Sidious seems to be at the end of his rope with Vader, marooning him on Mustafar and forbidding him to use the Force as a Sith assassin closes in. While trying to survive, Darth Vader may have stumbled on the secrets to his master’s master plan.
Placed in the same spot where Obi-Wan Kenobi left him for dead, Darth Vader once again claws his way up the high ground in search of survival. Sidious observes in the distance, while his apprentice is severed from the Force and must use the sparse tools of the physical nightmare around him. The apparatuses keeping Vader alive are absent as the Force, so time works against the dark lord.
Memories of the past fill Vader’s mind as he reaches a familiar structure, the same control station where he murdered the last remnants of the Separatists. Their terror still echoes and conjures other voices. Vader’s spent a lot of time on Mustafar, as we know from previous stories, but this might be the first time he’s returned to this site. There’s a great deal of trauma associated with it as Vader faces the survival test.
Once inside, he sees the mummified Neimoidian corpses and their battle droid protectors. Vader tasks the mouse-droids in the room to bring him specific pieces of the battle droids, still unable to use the Force with his master watching. Slowly, Vader constructs a bastardized version of his armor to await his new opponent.
Ochi approaches, ready to prove himself to Sidious and the galaxy. And it seems like Ochi wants to prove himself, not be known as the Sith assassin who murdered a wounded Vader. Despite the absence of the Force, Ochi still anticipates Vader as a worthy opponent. And Vader comes out swinging. The equalizing aspect of their Force-less duel allows Ochi to get in some blows but Vader still proves himself to be lethal with a lightsaber. The battle moves to the exposed catwalks above lava rivers, where Ochi slips up.
Vader is done playing around. And he wants answers. With the war raging in the galaxy and a new threat to the Sith, Vader wants to know why Darth Sidious would take this much time to punish him. Rightly so, Vader suspects a bigger meaning beyond what’s immediately in front of him. And with the publication of From A Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back, we know Sidious has been spending a lot of time inside of Vader’s head and witnessed exactly what his plans are for taking over the galaxy and share with his son. The never ending game of apprentice versus master, or vice versa, continues to dominate the legacy of the Sith.
Only Ochi knows Sidious is trying to break the rule of two. He suggests he knows Sidious has a contingency plan, which I’m guessing points toward Exegol. On a side note, I hope we learn about the years Palpatine spent scouring the galaxy for Sith artifacts and crafting the plan he employed across the Skywalker saga. That would be a much more interesting story than this retcon I feel writer Greg Pak is undertaking with the final Darth Vader series. However Sidious discovered Exegol, Ochi seems to be in on something Vader is not.
As Vader demands answers, another voice presents itself. In Star Wars, many characters go looking for answers in caves. Why should that be any different here? Vader’s attention is drawn from a terrified Ochi to the mysterious voice calling out from the cave. The art by Raffael Ienco and colorist Neeraj Menon is solid throughout the issue. Some really haunting frames of Vader.
In a last ditch effort to claim the title of “the Sith assassin who killed Darth Vader”, Ochi attacks Vader while he’s distracted. Vader hurls his lightsaber at Ochi, who catches it and blasts the mouth of the cave. For a Sith assassin, Ochi is easily convinced this cave-in killed Darth Vader. We know better.
Vader’s survived and he’s encountered a being who will have all the answers…the Eye of Webbish Bog. So…this is a significant connection to The Rise of Skywalker and Vader’s grandchild, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. A scene cut from the film (still have no idea why), Kylo Ren encounters the Eye of Webbish Bog in the opening scene on Mustafar, after having killed the dark side acolytes. In Rae Carson’s expanded novelization of The Rise of Skywalker, Kylo Ren communes with this entity, who presents him with the Wayfinder and tells him to seek an ancient power on Exegol. I’m predicting he’s about to have a similar conversation with Darth Vader.
This issue and series is starting to feel tired to me. I really hate to say that. It started out so strong but I’m just bored by a rehash of the backbiting Vader/Sidious cycle. Equally, I’m annoyed this series will serve as a retcon for the leaky plot of the Skywalker saga’s conclusion. Yes, I was among those who did not care for The Rise of Skywalker and I won’t waste your time going over why…because I’m ready to move on. For those who enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker, this is probably a great opportunity to experience more of the lore behind Exegol and please don’t let my disappointment take that away from you. My disappointment mainly stems from the long held curiosity I’ve felt about what Vader was up to between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and I hope we get a little more than this. Greg Pak is a great writer, so I have hope.