by Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS! If you haven’t read the issue, proceed at your own risk.
Why is Darth Vader scary? It’s not necessarily because he’s so powerful, or because he’s so evil, although he’s obviously both. It’s because he’s unknowable, robotic, relentless, opaque. His mask betrays no expression, his words and actions only rarely betray emotion, and his motives often seem inscrutable. That kind of ambiguity begets strong reactions from almost everyone who sees Vader, be it outright fear or the kind of resentment festering in the Imperial Officers who place a hit on him in Star Wars: Darth Vader 12, not realizing what he’s done to gain his authority. In many ways, Vader’s unknowability is his greatest strength (only those who truly know Vader — such as Luke or even Jocasta Nu — ever manage to defeat or one-up him), but it also might be his greatest weakness, because as Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli suggest, even Vader doesn’t seem to fully understand himself, and his frustration over that is tearing him apart inside.
Camuncoli’s interpretation of this internal rage is easily the highlight of Darth Vader 12.
While on the outside Vader appears to be calmly meditating, on the inside he’s nothing but turmoil. He’s back on Mustafar, where he lost his fight with Obi-Wan, his body made up of the same lava that destroyed so much of it, his phantom limbs shining like stars, as if they’re aching in agony — his distress even distorting the panel and borders around him. This is not the mindscape of a peaceful man, but nor of a man like Palpatine, who is evil but assured in his treachery. Vader doesn’t know what he wants, or perhaps even why he’s so angry.
What does Vader want, anyway? His desires throughout this issue are basic — to not be shot at by assassins, to be shown the respect he thinks he deserves by the Imperials. Notably, when Vader seemingly gains both goals, his inner turmoil is not assuaged; his anger only grows stronger, cracking the window of his room while he meditates. I think what has Vader so upset is the fact that he doesn’t know what his true goal is anymore, that he seemingly isn’t satisfied by everything that he sacrificed so much for, that he turned to the Dark Side for.
In a few decades’ time this dissatisfaction will eventually lead to Vader’s redemption and death, but for the moment, even as it tears his psyche apart, it makes him an unstoppable combatant. The assassins and those who hired them have no idea the depths of power and resourcefulness at Vader’s disposal, and even Palpatine, who has always played his apprentice like a fiddle and can sense his emotions, seems to misunderstand Vader.
Is that what Vader really wants: endless enemies to fight? Is Vader someone who relishes violence and craves battle? I’ve honestly never gotten that impression from him, and the fact that even Palpatine himself doesn’t understand how to satisfy Vader will eventually be his undoing as well. Misunderstand, misinterpret, or underestimate Darth Vader at your own peril.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?