Unknowability is a Strength in Star Wars: Darth Vader 3

by Mark Mitchell

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, read on at your own risk!

Last month when discussing Darth Vader 2, I counted the fact that Darth Vader largely remains a cipher in his own series as a core weakness in Charles Soule’s story, but with Darth Vader 3 I think I have it all wrong. It’s still true that readers looking for a deep, complex shading of Darth Vader won’t find it here, but really, who wants that in the first place? The Prequels were predicated on the audiences’ interest in “understanding” Darth Vader, and those were terrible. The world already has enough context for Vader’s actions thanks to years and years of pop culture indoctrination. Darth Vader as a mostly silent, imposing villain is optimal Darth Vader. It’s the difference between original Halloween Michael Meyers and reinvented Rob Zombie-era Halloween Michael Meyers.

Darth Vader isn’t a black hole, then, he’s an onyx mirror — the better to more brightly reflect his surroundings. It’s because Vader doesn’t have much to say as he climbs the hills of the Mid-Rim that each of Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and David Curiel’s jaw-dropping illustrations command such attention. We’re able to admire the details, in word and picture, that propel the story forward, because the issue is unburdened by needless exposition and monologue.

Mea culpa. Darth Vader 3 is the stripped down, bare knuckles Darth Vader I finally realized I needed.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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One comment on “Unknowability is a Strength in Star Wars: Darth Vader 3

  1. Mark, I’ll be interested to hear you develop more the benefits of this onyx mirror approach. Having read lots of older Star Wars comics, I agree that Vader is a character best kept at a distance. Some of the best Vader stories I read built themselves around viewpoint characters (Woods’ Five Days of Sith, which used a naive lieutenant who was forced to bear witness to Vader’s actions, and Purge: The Tyrant’s Fist, told from the perspective of an ISB agent whose counsel provided a key point of maturing in a young Vader’s existence), and of course Gillen’s run keeps us at a constant remove, looking at Vader and using his inscruability to force us to invest heavily in empathy. Ultimately, what these stories all have in common is that they are all about Vader, in the end. Getting inside of his head ruins his mystique, but viewing him from the outside creates a compelling character by forcing us to invest our empathy in understanding his inscruability.

    Here, your onyx mirror metaphor seems to be suggesting that the strength is that it isn’t about Vader, but on how plunging Vader into the middle of events lets us better understand everything else (which is a good case. I’d argue that this is pretty close to how Vader is used in A New Hope, before he became Luke’s father). But what is being reflected? If the value of this story isn’t Vader, but what he reflects, what is it? It feels like a key part of the argument you are making, and I’d love to understand that more

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