– Spoiler Review –
The war for Mon Cala brutally begins in Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith issue 14, though the side which causes hostilities leading to the “Burning Seas” might not be the one you think.
There’s been a lot of speculation regarding who the surviving Jedi advising King Lee-Char of Mon Cala would be, with the most popular answer being Quinlan Vos due to his name s inclusion on a list back in issue #7 of the series, but I’m very happy it’s not Vos (as I go into detail in issue #7 about) and very intrigued by the actual survivor’s goals/purpose on Mon Cala. Master Barr, an Iktotchi much like Saesee Tiin, is the survivor/advisor and for the most part he seems rather level headed about everything, nailing pretty much every aspect of Anakin’s turn and the reasons behind the Jedi’s inability to see what was going on with Anakin and themselves. Yoda was very honest about this in Star Wars Rebels, revealing he and the Jedi had succumbed to the dark side, for fear of losing their power as the unknown Sith Lord clouded everything, and Master Barr realizes the same thing. And he knows Anakin is Vader due to security recordings a slicer managed to hack back together from exterior shots of the Jedi Temple, replaying Anakin’s march on the Jedi Temple. He has a group with him, though whether they are Force-sensitives, even more Jedi survivors, or non-Force sensitives who simply put their faith in Barr remains to be seen, but he’s sharing his knowledge with all of them. Judging by the fact Vader being Anakin is a seemingly well kept secret by the time of the Battle of Yavin, it’s safe to say everyone’s death warrant has been signed for knowing this information. But Barr doesn’t think so, as he’s an Iktotchi man with a plan, and it sounds a lot like the inklings of a Rebellion, trying to expose the Empire’s atrocities because he knows exposing Vader/Palpatine for what they really are won’t matter anymore, as people could care less about Jedi and Sith at this point, and more about survival in galaxy’s new status quo.
However, his plan might be doing more harm than good, as it’s based off a Force vision, which always proves undependable (mainly because of how the person interprets the vision): Barr sees the Mon Cala at the center of the efforts to overthrow the Empire…but as we all know, he’s just very wrong about WHEN they’ll be at the center. The thematic crossover between Dark Lord of the Sith‘s “Burning Seas” arc and Star Wars‘ “Mutiny at Mon Cala” arc makes it even more clear, as it’s not until post-Battle of Yavin that the Mon Cala joining the fight against the Empire becomes a turning point in the galaxy, their fleet proving invaluable to the growing Rebellion. Since Barr is so convinced by his interpretation of the vision, as everyone who has ever had a Force vision seems to be, he’s taken steps to ensure Mon Cala doesn’t take any diplomatic options and starts the fight against the Empire. It’s a very un-Jedi like thing to do, and while Barr is aware the dark side was a cancer in all the Jedi, he seems to think he’s been cured, but it’s obvious by his actions he’s not. Lee-Char confirmed my suspicions from last issue: he did not order the destruction of the Empire’s envoy, and while it wouldn’t be inconceivable for Tarkin (or Vader) to have sacrificed an envoy to gain justifiable cause to invade Mon Cala, they don’t need to because they’d just invade anyways due to the Emperor basically telling them there’s no need to hold back anymore. That leaves Barr, who makes such a bold move to ensure the Empire is provoked to invade and to back the Mon Cala into a corner that causes them to fight, essentially his way of trying to make his vision come true. We already know the outcome, but just how badly and thoroughly Barr’s plan backlashes will be the source of the excitement over the next few issues, with a couple of surprises tucked in there for good measure because this is Charles Soule we’re talking about here.
So while you’d imagine the Empire, with Tarkin on the military front and Vader on the Jedi hunt, would be the main cause of aggression, it being the Jedi/Mon Cala instead is a wonderful flipping of expectations on their head. Yes, the Empire was going to invade regardless, and while Lee-Char had an easy out to keep things peaceful by letting the Empire figure out who killed the envoy, he listens to the Jedi and instead takes action: emptying the cities above the waves and sending massive sea beasts (which look like whales) to destroy the cities, thus swiftly killing the Imperials already attacking. It’s a devastating move, making the Empire’s fight that much harder, but the Jedi’s trust in his vision, and Lee-Char’s trust in the Jedi, doesn’t take into account the Empire’s resolve, specifically Tarkin’s willingness for surgical brutality and Vader’s penchant for destruction. The only reason Lee-Char trusts a Jedi so much is likely due to their help in getting him the crown during the Clone Wars, a scene we get in flashback form this issue for both a refresher for fans who watched The Clone Wars and a helpful tidbit for those who haven’t yet, reminding us of Vader’s history with Mon Cala and Lee-Char, but also pointing out why the King so easily listens to a Jedi over his own people, like Ackbar and Raddus. The delicious precision with which the past, present, and future collide in issue #14 is poetic, as a deep understanding of all these eras really adds so many extra layers to each panel, while even those who might not be aware of all these other events or ties can still follow the thematic implications of everything laid down here.
Not a whole of time was spent with Vader this issue, but it was due to the understandable reason of introducing Master Barr and all the intriguing stuff that comes with his survival. What little we did get, like the flashback or his confrontation with Lee-Char moments before the massive waves drowns the city, was still great. The flashback not only set up Vader’s history with Lee-Char, it revealed that despite his twisted, evil innards he can still have respect for individuals, though part of his positivity towards Lee-Char comes from how Padmé was involved with helping the Mon Calamarian become King. In fact, Vader might be saying good things about Lee-Char but mentally he’s thinking of Padmé, as the flashback seems to suggest, so I might be wrong about his respect. Either way, it doesn’t seem like he’s out for Lee-Char’s blood just yet, but I’ve been guessing the King will end up fried because Vader will learn Lee-Char knows his true identity. And while the Star Wars series has Leia and the gang out to rescue Lee-Char from prison, which seems to point to his survival, I’m imagining something like the Grand Inquisitor’s trick with Luminara Unduli is how Vader has been making Mon Cala believe Lee-Char’s been alive this whole time. I expect more Vader time next issue, as we end this one with him plummeting to the bottom on the ocean, unconscious from the creatures’ wave attack on the city.
The writing, as all my gushing above about the synergy in ideas pulled from across the saga, is top notch this issue, and Soule has been at this level very consistently all series long, an impressive feat he didn’t always quite match in the earlier Poe Dameron issues, but certainly hit with his Lando mini and with Poe in the last few arcs. But what takes his writing to the next level here is this stupendous art team of Giuseppe Camuncoli (pencils), Daniele Orlandini (inks) and David Curiel (colors). Be it the opening battle scene, the reflection of the giant wave in Vader’s eyepiece essentially being his OH SHIT look, or the destruction from the wave tearing through the city, the art captured both the big and small in captivating ways. I only have one minor quibble and it’s with the human faces, as it wasn’t easy to tell Anakin or Padmé apart in the flashback without using Jar-Jar Binks as a reference for each character’s placement in the panel.
Here are a few other things:
- If you’ve enjoyed any of Charles Soule’s Star Wars comics, Lando, Obi-Wan & Anakin, Poe Dameron, and now this Vader series, and/or have checked out his awesome creator-owned titled Curse Words, and/or have enjoyed his previous Marvel works, did you know he just released his first novel?! It’s called The Oracle Year and it’s a thriller of a story about a young man who gains the ability to predict the future, and how the world reacts to his predictions. I’m only a few chapters in, but Soule’s excellent writing skills make the transfer to novel form with ease, and it’s definitely more of a page turner than the ancient Jedi texts! Consider picking up a copy at a local bookstore or grab it through Amazon…I imagine you won’t be disappointed!
- As always, check out Soule’s notes on his latest releases on his site. For Vader #14, he reveals the crossover with the Star Wars series was coincidental, but it sounds like he and Kieron Gillen took a lot of care to ensure their stories assisted one another, and talks about his excitement about this arc. I do wish the notes page on his site had jump cuts to specific dates, or a way to link to a specific date, but I guess for now just hit F3 and either look for the date of the issue in question was released or search for the name of the series/issue number itself.
- Elia Bonetti, with Camuncoli, have been rendering me speechless with these awesome covers as of late and #14’s chilling, to say the least. And there’s one coming up I’d love to have hanging on my wall…
- In order on the hologram, I’ve translated the Aurebesh so you can see what other files Barr has on his droid: Sidious | Order 66 | Skywalker, Padawan (these are the two highlighted by Barr) | Maul | Tyrannus | Plagueis (interesting he even had that name!) | Binks (wait…what???) | Amidala | Sifo-Dyas | Kamino. Wow, that’s like the greatest hits from the prequels and most people, before the Republic’s downfall, would’ve ignored anyone who brought them all up together, claiming it was all some crackpot conspiracy theory.
Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith #14 is another excellent issue of the series, where writing and art wash over you like a wave you want to get lost in. The war for Mon Cala is here and it’s going to be a helluva story to read!
+ Barr’s baggage will haunt the good guys
+ How eras and ideas clash across time
+ Art makes a big splash (sorry not sorry)
– Human faces are a little choppy (last water pun, I swear!)
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