– Spoiler Review –
Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith #13 is an excellent beginning to the “Burning Seas” arc, where Vader visits Mon Cala to bring it to heel for the Empire, and is part of a era-spanning crossover with the mainline Star Wars series.
Nearly a year* after declaring the Republic was now the first Galactic Empire, Palpatine decides it’s time to show the galaxy his voice is the supreme law, sending Darth Vader and his Inquisitors, as well as Governor Tarkin and a contingent of the Empire’s military, to Mon Cala so they may bring the planet to its knees before the Empire. In the current Star Wars arc, “Mutiny at Mon Cala,” the Rebellion is attempting to free the planet of the Empire’s yoke, and it all revolves around busting Mon Cala’s king out of jail to rally the peoples of Mon Cala to raise their shells in defiance against the Empire once more. While not a direct crossover between the two series, like has been the case in the past, this one instead will let the two series share events and repercussions from those events, and I look forward to see how it all plays out, because between Star Wars #44 and Darth Vader – DLotS #13, it’s already quite exciting.
Before Mon Cala, the issue starts instead with Vader revisiting his greatest defeat to date: the lightsaber battle on Mustafar with his old friend and master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. To think Vader mediates in his chamber, constantly rerunning the battle over and over again, finding ways to do things differently so he may defeat Obi-Wan, is both tragic and unsurprising: it lacks surprise because it’s a perfect moment to funnel continuous rage through his body, as each new variation on an actual win will probably make Vader angry at himself for not thinking of it then; and it’s tragic because he’ll never let that moment go, something we found out in the first Darth Vader series (its penultimate issue #24), where the first place Vader’s mind goes once trapped within his suit is back to the very same shores of Mustafar. I’m curious to see why Charles Soule decided to start this arc with Vader ruminating over the battle again, as it wasn’t included just to show a cool what-if scenario for the fight.
For those who want to see how the Empire becomes known as the dreaded Empire, instead of the ‘peaceful’ agent of change after the bloated Republic is swept aside in the name of security, DLotS looks like it’ll cover some aspects of how Palpatine begins grasping systems under his control. Tarkin is not yet a Grand Moff, but he’s given a Star Destroyer (which will eventually become his flagship) and control over the invasion of Mon Cala, and while it only begins in issue #13, hearing him discuss how to attack and control a planet whose main societies live underwater is an interesting lesson in tactics. His line, “The power of an Empire is not in what it destroys–but what it controls,” might be my favorite of the issue, as even though he’ll end up being happy to destroy planets at one point, for now it shows his shrewdness and how comfortably he fits within the Imperial ranks. Tarkin’s dialogue here is spot-on, as I swore I could hear Peter Cushing, or even Stephen Stanton, at times while reading his lines.
While Tarkin controls the military ventures of the Empire on Mon Cala, Vader has his own task: figure out if Mon Cala King Lee-Char is being advised by a Jedi, as Palpatine senses familiar tactics in Lee-Char’s negotiations with the Empire. So Vader rounds up the misfits of the Inquisitorious, including the Ninth Sister, Sixth Brother, and a yet-to-be-numbered Brother, and makes planetfall on the hunt for any hint of Jedi. I’d been hoping we’d see more of the Ninth Sister after her enjoyable appearance in the previous arc, and while short, she gets a potentially unintentional funny moment: when Gail Ackbar approaches their shuttle, he demands to know what authority they have to land unannounced, and despite the various and obvious size differences between the Ninth and Ackbar, he stands tall in front of her and she simply hands over a little datapad to explain why they are visiting; It’s all in the visuals, but it really made me laugh at the somewhat absurdity of this giant alien lady, who could easily kill Ackbar in a second, being nice enough to hand over a datapad. Vader’s learned very well not to kill any and all of those standing in his way, as Ackbar continues to not be afraid and confronts Vader regardless of the Imperial writ he just read regarding the Inquisitorious’ presence. To see Vader and Ackbar together, considering they fought side-by-side to help free Mon Cala only a couple years before when Vader was still Anakin, was a pretty cool moment and it really highlights the toughness of the ol’ Mon Calamarian to stand up to such frightening creatures and not even flinch. I’d enjoy a chance to see Ackbar and Vader deal with each other throughout this arc, but Ackbar might be a little busy with protecting the planet against the Empire’s pending military invasion.
As I guessed in my review of last week’s comic issue, Star Wars #44, the King of Mon Cala is still Lee-Char, as seen in the 4th season of The Clone Wars. To get a chance to see him again as the King in the new galactic normal that is the Empire’s rule is a great continuation of his role from the show, as he’s now a tough, but still fair ruler who is focused on the bigger issues at hand. He won’t give into the Empire’s one-sided negotiations for materials, asks the important questions on why they seem to be building and strengthening a military in a time of peace, and he has his eyes on the bigger picture of how Mon Cala’s actions effect the rest of the galaxy’s desire to fight back against the Empire. Beyond Ackbar, another familiar face appears at Lee-Char’s side: Raddus, the eventual Admiral who rushes off to help the Rebellion win their first major victory at Scarif, as seen in Rogue One! He already seems fixing for a fight, eager to show the Imperials the might of Mon Cala and secede so they may rally the others who feel the same way, striking while the Empire is still in its infancy. Obviously things do not to go the Mon Cala’s way here, but Raddus will manage, along with Ackbar, to tear away at some point, joining with the nascent Rebellion in hopes to one day fight them back for good.
As Soule’s been able to pull over the course of the Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith series, he finds another way to surprise, pulling out one helluva twist which raises several, big, and intriguing questions. Lee-Char IS being advised by someone in hooded robes, so potentially a Jedi as Palpatine assumed, though their identity is kept a secret here. While that’s interesting in-of-itself, the bigger surprise comes from the fact that whomever is under those robes, they know that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker! First Jocasta Nu figured it out and now we have someone else in the galaxy who knows the biggest little secret the Emperor and Vader have ever kept? Seeing as the Imperial Ambassador’s shuttle is bombed at the end of the issue, if this is a tactic employed by this secretive figure, then this Jedi has fallen off the wagon a bit if he’s assassinating people, as Ackbar seems stunned to see the ambassador killed, so I’m assuming Lee-Char didn’t know about it either. But who else, besides a Jedi, could know Anakin is Vader? This is such a fascinating thread, I cannot wait to see who might be behind that hood! UPDATE 3/18: Over on Twitter, Wesley pointed out the list of presumed alive Jedi we saw in issue #7 of this series could hold the secret of whom the hooded individual is! The guess: Quinlan Vos. I’m mixed on it being him and I go into greater detail why in issue #7’s review.
The fact this advisor tells Lee-Char that Vader is Anakin also opens a whole other can of worms. According to Star Wars #44, the King is alive and well, though somewhere in an Imperial prison, so any insurrection by the Mon Cala peoples would result in his death and swift retribution to the planet by the Empire. In that issue, Leia sets out to free Lee-Char from prison, but if Lee-Char has been made aware who Vader really is, his chance of actually being alive are rather slim, but if he is, he won’t be making it out of prison alive because that secret is still rather well-kept by the time of the original trilogy. In fact, Vader could kill Lee-Char by the end of this arc, a cruel irony after helping crown him during the Clone Wars, and then use a similar hologram trick like what the Grand Inquisitor did with Jedi Master Luminara Unduli in Star Wars Rebels to make the people of Mon Cala believe their king is still alive. Since information learned here is changing my ideas and theories for the mainline series shows the potential of this new type of crossover.
I can’t quite explain it, but somehow Soule manages to outdo himself and this series once again, giving the new arc an excellent start, as it manages to keep a refreshing pace despite exposition abound, while throwing tons of ingredients on the board and keeping us guessing on how it’ll all play out, despite us already knowing the ending. Along for the thrill ride is also the stupendous art team of Giuseppe Camuncoli (pencils), Daniele Orlandini (inks), and David Curiel (colors), who really highlight the juxtaposition of the nature-infused society of Mon Cala with the stark, metallic surroundings of the Empire, and give a haunting new take on the battle between friends on Mustafar. They are joined by Joe Caramagna as letterer again, helping keep the art the focus despite lengthy speech bubbles. And kudos to Heather Antos and Jordan D. White for changing up crossovers, as issue #13 here already highlights the idea’s strengths.
Here are a few other things:
- *PLEASE NOTE, via a tweet from Matt Martin of the Lucasfilm Story Group, whose main purview is the comics, the time jump introduced in the issue’s opening crawl is meant to be around a year, not three years. Even Palpatine’s line about it being “years” is incorrect and Matt admits he didn’t see the errors until the issue went to print, meaning it’ll be changed at least for the trade paperback of the arc (and potentially for the digital versions sooner). The biggest reason it saying three years is a problem is due to the Sixth Brother being in this arc, as he dies about two years or so after Revenge of the Sith at Ahsoka Tano’s hands, as seen in her novel Ahsoka, which would make him running around here a little problematic.
Past, present, and future collide in Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith issue #13, a potent mix which promises exciting tales ahead for the “Burning Seas” arc and crossover with the Star Wars mainline series.
+ Who the hell is this advisor and how the hell do they know Anakin is Vader?!?!?
+ Vader’s rumination on the past
+ The Empire shedding its skin and showing its true colors
CURRENT COMIC SERIES REVIEWS:
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-13) | Remastered (#14-19) | Annual: #1
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13) | Legend Lost (#14 – 16) | War Stories (#17-19) | Legend Found (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Ashes of Jedha (#38-43) | Mutiny at Mon Cala (#44-49) | Annual: #3