Review – The Dark Lord Faces a Light from the Past in Marvel’s Darth Vader #23

Star Wars fans sure are getting a lot of prequel trilogy callbacks in the last few weeks, especially when it relates to Darth Vader, and writer Greg Pak offers his contribution in the latest issue of Darth Vader.


This series hasn’t shied away from Vader’s past life as Anakin, especially his obsession with Padmé. The introduction of Sabé, her closest handmaiden and shadow, continues to stir the good toiling beneath the fearsome visage of Vader. Now, Sabé reveals her knowledge of Vader’s true identity, with a proposal to finish something she and Padmé began a long time ago – a promise unfulfilled. SPOILERS AHEAD….



Not many people learn of Vader’s past life and live to talk about it, especially when they confront him with the knowledge. As we know, Sabé is fearless and out of poodoos to give when it comes to Vader’s temperament. Sabé does more than simply confront Vader, she reminds him of what Padmé saw in him. The duality of Anakin’s authoritarian opinions with the misguided intentions of good were things Sabé heard a lot about from Padmé. That, combined with Vader’s obsession with finding out more about her last moments of life, gave it away. In the novel Queen’s Hope by EK Johnston, Sabé learned of the secret marriage between Anakin and Padmé, making her one of the few who could connect these dots. Sabé uses this knowledge as leverage to get Vader’s help, in a task she hopes will resonate deeply with whatever is left of Anakin Skywalker.



Whoa… I mean… whoa! Pretty great cell from artists Raffaele Ienco and Carlos Lopez, with the glares of both Sabé and Shmi. Sabé recounts her attempts to end slavery on Tatooine (This story is a huge part of Queen’s Shadow by EK Johnston) and how Padmé gave her the resources to do it because she cared so much for Anakin. They were only able to get a small contingent of slaves off Tatooine. This group established a colony, now under threat by Crimson Dawn. Sabé proposes she and Vader help the colonists defend against the corrupt governor Crimson Dawn put in power. Remember, Sabé made her own alliance with Qi’ra, so she’s double-crossing someone here. Is it Vader? Is it Qi’ra? Whoever it is, Sabé convinces Vader to go along with her, but he warns her she’s walking a very dangerous path by creating this alliance. Perhaps Vader is aware this could be a trap set by Crimson Dawn? Whatever this alliance is, Pak underscores how precarious it is for both Sabé and Vader.



If you forgot Vader also had a group of bounty hunters with him, I don’t blame you. They’ve been pretty useless to this arc and series as a whole, like an uncut thread leftover from War of the Bounty Hunters, and the Story Group just happened to remember they were still here. Perhaps we’ve seen the last of them in Darth Vader. Sabé and Vader leave them behind without any explanation. Only Ochi seems interested in following them, since he’s an agent of Crimson Dawn. Beilert Valance and others ponder about what’s next for them. This series badly needed some clean-up, and taking these characters away is a great start.



Podracers aren’t the only thing from Vader’s past among these colonists. Their leaders appear to be Kitster and Wald, two of Anakin’s childhood friends from The Phantom Menace.



The art in this issue really stands out. There’s so much conveyed in what each of the characters feel and how it connects to their past. There’s no acknowledgement of their past connection, but it seems implied each of them are aware of something. Vader breaks the silence, proclaiming they are useless, and if this colony is to survive, he’ll be the one doing the dirty work. And within moments, the attack against the colonists begins.



Well, it wouldn’t be Darth Vader without some useless Vader-badassery filler panels. The attack on the colonists comes in the form of these unknown predators. The most notable thing here is Vader goes out of his way to save Kitster and Wald, suggesting a bit of Anakin breaks through. When the dust settles, the colonists realize these species aren’t indigenous. They’ve been captured, starved, and released by the governor of the planet to cause havoc for the colonists. Not only are the creatures attacking them, but they’re also consuming the land around them in the midst of a bad drought. If the governor can’t kill the colonists, he’ll starve them out.



Vader tells Sabé the colonists aren’t ready for this fight. They’re disorganized and won’t follow her orders. He suggests she prepare to do most of the fighting herself, while offering to help her the best way he knows how.



Darth Vader is neither generous nor humanitarian, so giving Sabé access to his armory must be a part of some plan. Personally, I don’t think this is going to end well for Sabé or the colonists. My prediction is Vader already alerted the Empire, and they’re on their way to simply take the planet. Knowing Vader is Anakin makes Sabé a huge liability. Really not going to be happy if her end comes in this series, but it seems to be heading in that direction. Crimson Dawn and Qi’ra are the wild cards here, and this is probably an elaborate trap for Vader. And maybe Sabé hopes to put Vader down, likely connecting it was Anakin who killed Padmé once he turned into Vader. This is going to be a messy conclusion, but one thing I’m certain of is this alliance between Sabé and Vader will not last.



The salt usually runs strong when I review Darth Vader, but I enjoyed this issue. The connections to Anakin’s past didn’t seem like cheap cameos, and Pak used them for much needed emotional weight. Vader’s flaws are what interest me, and I continually hope the writing goes back to that. We all know he’s the baddest Sith in the room, and useless battle scenes of him twirling a lightsaber are really the last thing this series needs to keep it interesting. Give me sad boi Vader any day. We only have a limited amount of runway before the events of Return of the Jedi, so I hope Pak uses it to plant some seeds for the redemption of Anakin Skywalker in Return of the Jedi.


RATING: 7/10



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Kyle Larson lives in Portland, Oregon. When he's not running trails, he's reading and writing.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson lives in Portland, Oregon. When he's not running trails, he's reading and writing.