– Spoiler Review –
Despite only two issues left after this, the Darth Vader series shows no signs of slowing down in issue #23. Vader is a wrecking-ball of destruction as he continues his assault on Cylo and his remaining creation, Morit, while Aphra devises a plan to possibly save her skin beyond the events of this series. But as exciting, action-packed, and full of necessary exclamation moments as Darth Vader #23 gets, it ends with a big, surprising, cliffhanger I don’t believe anyone quite saw coming.
I think all my praying to the Force has paid off: things look to be improving for Doctor Aphra’s chances of survival beyond this series! After her quick-thinking turned Triple-Zero and Beetee back on her side last issue, the joyously murderous bots injected Aphra with an antidote to Tulon Voidgazer’s gas to help her survive and escape the Executor (which only disappoints them because so far no one had to die while doing so). Just as she’s about to escape with the droids and Black Krrsantan, Cylo’s orders for his men to retrieve Emperor Palpatine from his quarters gives Aphra, “…another of my patented never-go-wrong ideas.” It would seem the resourceful Aphra believes rescuing Palpatine might just give her a second chance at life in Vader’s eyes. If there’s any way she’ll survive the series, something I think now has more chances of happening than successfully navigating an asteroid field (which isn’t saying much but one can hope), it’ll be her helping Vader out in these last two issues. While Aphra is normally very sarcastic, her chastising of Cylo’s men for attacking the, “…poor defenseless Emperor…” at first seemed like her humor, but the more I thought about it the more I believed it wasn’t. Most of the galaxy doesn’t know Palpatine is a Sith Lord, not even his closest confidants, and they’ll all continue to be ignorant of that fact long after he dies. It’s more than likely Aphra doesn’t know either, so she truly believes the Emperor is just some pale old dude that needs protecting…protecting that Vader would be forever grateful towards her for. Hopefully the never-go-wrong part of her latest idea holds…
Throughout the series, it has always been easy to hear James Earl Jones’ deep bass of a voice speaking the Dark Lord’s dialogue in your head, and in DV #23 it was so for EVERY single line. From his extremely badass and squee-inducing declaration and promise to Cylo that, “You will not be escaping. I am coming for you,” his words during the battle with Morit, to his final line, his dialogue has never felt as pure Vader as it did this issue. And it’s thanks to not just Kieron Gillen’s writing or the Dark Lord’s actions though, but also to the continued perfection of Salvador Larroca’s Vader and Edgar Delgado’s colors catching him in poses that just scream intimidation and focused fury. We’re nearing the end and the team continues to find new and enticing ways to portray Vader in every panel, a true blessing for the DV series as a whole.
It’s hard to deny the power of Vader’s fury in this issue, as his rampage across the Executor to its bridge is epic on several accounts. It all starts with his message to the bridge, essentially summing up these final three issues by declaring his sole purpose to end Cylo at all costs. This means Vader will destroy everything in his way which soon includes Morit who, despite being ordered by Cylo to avoid Vader, rushes off to battle the Dark Lord on the outside of the Executor. The move costs him his life, as Vader makes quick, glorious work of Morit, destroying one of his rocket boots and jettisoning him with debris from the structure into space, forcing him to burn up in the nearby planet’s atmosphere (one of several moments that had me yelling, “DDAAMMNNN!”). One panel in the battle sums up Vader’s fierceness and anger, conveying so much about the character with so little, and while I’m not saying it’s my favorite panel of the series yet, it’s certainly one of my top panels of the entire year so far: in it, it only shows Vader’s visor, where Morit’s slowly fading body can be seen in the reflections of the Dark Lord’s scary mask’s eyes, an image which stops me dead in my tracks every time I see it.
With Morit eliminated, Vader makes his way to the bridge to end Cylo, but it doesn’t quite go the way anyone expected, ending the issue in one of the most surprising moments in the series. While it was first technically hinted at in issue #6, followed by a mention in #17, and finally confirmed in #20, Cylo is the one who created Darth Vader’s suit. The Dark Lord is his first, and as this series has shown, best creation. I always figured their final confrontation would be slightly personal for both them since #17, as Cylo has been struggling to create anything better than Vader, but never did I imagine Cylo would have prepared for his creation to revolt against him: he installed a system override into Vader’s suit! So just as Vader is decimating everything in his way to Cylo on the bridge, Cylo simply presses a button and halts Vader right then and there. The cybernetics doctor taunts Vader, claiming the Dark Lord has never been a threat because he’s had personal access to Vader’s suit for twenty years, thus being able to stop him whenever it pleases him. He admits not being sure if his override still worked, but since he’s had this the entire time Vader’s been destroying his work and his plans, why hasn’t Cylo used it earlier? Could it be that he doesn’t have as much faith in/cares as much for his machines as he claims or has been waiting to use it so he could get the glory of stopping Vader himself? The scene ends with Cylo making a fun callback to Obi-Wan’s words about Vader in A New Hope, as Cylo says he, “…often wondered whether what rose from our operating table was a machine or a man…”
With Vader on his knees, totally not in control of his suit or body, it’s hard to argue he’s more machine now than man. But what will save Vader from his mechanical prison, how will he be able to free himself? Judging by the cover of issue #24 (which I had assumed was just a cool cover, never guessing its potential, as I don’t read the blurbs with the solicitations) the man inside the suit will likely find a way to gain back control of it, least he have to stay still and let the memories of his decisions and destruction wash over him and drive him to madness. Cylo believes he has his answer about Vader being machine or man, Obi-Wan felt he knew too, but it looks like we’ll get a chance to see something only Luke did: the man still inside the machine.
Here are a few other things:
- I imagine the Emperor would’ve loved having Cylo’s override for Vader’s suit during Return of the Jedi, but something makes me think all that Force lightning would’ve fried it anyways.
- Triple-Zero’s line about his professional jealously towards whomever is stealing the Executor makes me laugh every time I read it. It’s going to be weird to have Star Wars in my life without he and Beetee to bring some comedic dark humor into it.
- I’ve been wondering why Krrsantan has been involved with any of this insanity over the past few issues, with one of my previous guesses being he’s around just so they can kill him off easier, but this issue finally answers the question: Aphra owes him money so he’s sticking around to collect. Sounds pretty fitting for the bloodthirsty bounty hunter.
- There were many standout panels this issue, but the splash page at the start of Morit and Vader’s battle took me by surprise both because it was hiding in the middle of the issue and because of how breathtaking it looked and made their coming battle feel. Kudos all around!
Another issue closer to the end for Darth Vader, another issue full of reasons this series has been one of Marvel’s best since the start.
+ Aphra’s never-go-wrong idea
+ Vader unleashed
+ Cylo’s big surprise
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games: #20 | #21 | #22 | #24 | #25
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25)
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)