I’ve made it a point to review every single issue of Charles Soulle’s stunning Darth Vader run these last 24 months: a series that I have been absolutely spellbound by.
I’ve done these in bulk, publishing three separate review of the different sections of this series (the opening arc here, the Jocasta Nu arc here, the Mon Cala arc here, and the final Mustafar/Momin arc here).
This arc – and indeed this entire series – comes to its conclusion in Darth Vader #25: and I wanted to devote a post purely to this finale.
And, my God, what a finale.
I mean, this thing is just pure poetry: pure, dark, twisted poetry. Visually, conceptually and thematically sublime, this is the most fitting end to what has been a stunning run of comic books.
It’s difficult to even talk about it here: unlike a book that is plot-based, this one’s hard to ‘review’ because the whole thing is a concept and a vision.
So I’m actually not going to say much about it at all, other than a few notes – you really just have to read it, because this is a beguiling, absorbing experience for anyone who’s a long-term Anakin/Vader enthusiast.
This is a book that cuts right into the core of this character’s mythology and his tortured psyche.
Essentially, with ‘Lord Momin’ gone, Vader has gone through the powerful Dark Side portal or doorway and is now experiencing a vision-like event in which his consciousness seems to have become untethered.
All of this plays out in tortured confusion: we get familiar words or lines from all across the timeline of the Vader/Anakin mythology, but the words, memories and sentiments morph from one character or memory to the next (for example, Padme’s ‘I truly, deeply, love you’ from AOTC shifts uncomfortably to Palpatine’s ‘Your hate has made you powerful, now fulfil your destiny’). This motif of painfully remembered words and statements from people in his life underscores the entire book, acting like a metronome.
We get everyone, from his mother Shmi to Ashoka Tano. And we cut through everything, from the events of the prequel films to Clone Wars and Rebels.
Key lines or sentiments echo from panel to panel: the only one that confused me a little is that we get the ‘Let the past die – kill it if you have to’ line. Which is Kylo Ren’s line from The Last Jedi: which is odd for Vader to be hearing.
Is this meant to show that Vader’s tortured psychology is the same as (or foreshadowing) the psychology of Kylo Ren? Or is it saying that, in the mind-space that Vader is currently in, he is somehow tapping into the distant future and hearing or gleaning something from his future grandson?
It could be either – Momin does tell Vader in one of the previous installments that this space Vader is outside of time. So he could be sensing Kylo somehow at this moment.
Either way, it’s a fascinating line to include here – and perhaps the ambiguity is more potent than having it spelt out. But it’s really something that makes you wonder.
There are so many killer moments here – which is amazing for just one, short comic book. The bit of Little Boy Anakin walking through the familiar alleys of Mos Espa hit me in the nostalgia feels immediately: but the stunning bit is where little Anakin notices his ‘Vader’ Shadow on the wall and is confused by it. The shadow then comes to life (as Vader) and attacks him: forcing Anakin to wake up, screaming, from the nightmare.
First, this is clearly a clever play on the iconic Episode I promo poster of Little Boy Anakin with the full-length Vader shadow behind him. I still have the full-sized poster of that on my wall – it’s always been a fantastic image. And here, we’re seeing it play out as an actual, real moment in Anakin’s life.
Second, when little Ani wakes up, his mother is there to comfort him, telling him “it’s only a dream”. Which is exactly what Obi-Wan tells Anakin in Episode II when Anakin says he is having nightmares about his mother; and exactly what Padme tells Anakin in Episode III when Anakin tells her he is having nightmares about her pregnancy (“like the ones I used to have about my mother”).
I mean, this is genius writing. Just in one little scene or panel is something that resonates through so much of the existing source-material and hits such a powerful note.
The later bit where he sees both Palpatine and Obi-Wan standing there, with the words ‘I am your father’ hanging between them is also pretty stunning.
But it’s the final piece of the equation – and the very thing that drew him to this situation in the first place – that is the most striking.
When he comes upon Padme standing on a balcony, with her back to him. By now he has reverted completely to the appearance of Anakin Skywalker, as he reaches out and pleads with her to come with him so he can save her. Padme’s line when she does turn around (“Are you an angel?”) is just perfect.
And then he is forced to lose her and watch her die all over again.
It’s really powerful stuff: the whole book feels like a love letter to Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker and that whole mythology around that character. It touches all the key notes and finds such a resonant tone throughout.
Some might quibble that it’s a little bit of a dead-end for a 25-book run: but we all knew he wasn’t actually going to bring Padme back to life – if he did, it would wreck the pre-existing story of the Original Trilogy.
So I’m more than happy to settle for sheer visual and thematic poetry – which really feels like the opening up of Darth Vader’s psyche and soul. As an end to what has been an astonishingly good run of first-rate comic books, this is more than fitting.
And you know what? Even if you haven’t read any of this series – just do yourself a service and read this one, last issue. No one steeped in the lore of both the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy is going to be disappointed in this finale.