– Spoiler Review –
It must be another issue of Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith, as I was left speechless but managed to eventually utter a few exclamations of “wow” once I finished issue #4’s final panel, finally seeing Vader embrace the monster within.
Last issue, Vader rushed up the mountain to face Kirak rather foolishly, relying on the pure power of his anger and hatred than really trying to think how best to approach his opponent. He paid a steep price for his single-mindedness, being cast off the mountain, bits and pieces of his suit destroyed, and ultimately left for dead. Sure, we knew he couldn’t die, but it was quite a fall for the newly minted Sith Lord to take, especially after being rebuilt so soon after his even bigger blunder (never go after someone who has the high ground, kids!). But watching him rebuild himself on the fly here, embracing the mechanical side of his past and using his previous tinkering skills to his advantage, was nothing short of awe-inspiring. He takes the remains of Kirak’s butler droid and uses its pieces to put himself together, like if the Frankenstein monster had the medical knowledge Dr. Frankenstein had to rebuild himself a little less hideous body or something. Once restored as best as he can, Vader sets out to finish the mission he set out on: take a Jedi’s lightsaber and make it bleed. In case you couldn’t guess it by the way this series has been going, this gets as brutal as you might expect.
Master Kirak Infil’a, despite all his dueling prowess and time away under the Barash Vow, suffers from some of the same flaws the rest of the prequel-era Jedi suffered from, including over-confidence. Don’t get me wrong, I think if Vader had to battle Kirak again on the mountain, the Jedi would have been triumphant again, maybe this time permanently (though likely would’ve failed against Palpatine), but he underestimated his opponent and pays an even bigger price than Vader did last issue. Kirak goes to the nearby city housing his Jedi starfighter, eager to leave and bring light back to the galaxy, and visits the fine little family safe-keeping his starfighter (I like how the issue danced around just exactly how long he’s been out there). By leaving the mountain and coming to the city, and by underestimating Vader, Kirak dooms not only himself, but the lives of everyone around him.
See, back in issue #2, Vader proudly declares to the clone troopers attacking him, “I am not a Jedi. I have no limits,” and issue #3 Kirak consistently calls him a monster, for the lack of a proper title to give to Vader. In issue #4, Vader truly embraces both his boastful comment and Kirak’s enduring nickname for him, truly becoming the monster he claims and needs to be. He certainly did some monstrous things during Order-66 (younglings, anyone?), but without trying to appear minorly sane to his wife, what’s Vader like when there’s literally nothing left to hold him back, so broken is the Anakin inside it’ll be a long time until he resurfaces again? How about destroying an entire city, all of its innocents included, just to kill one man to get a lightsaber crystal? Sounds pretty brutal to me. Kirak doesn’t know how to fight against someone who cares not for anyone else’s life than his own, as not even all the lightsaber training in the galaxy prepared him for a monster quite like Vader. Whatever bits of Anakin were left in Vader have officially been buried (minus his tactical mind and mechanical skills, of course), as he destroys the city’s dam and uses the distraction to grab Kirak by a Force choke, letting him live long enough to see the dam break, to see his ultimate failure, before Vader snaps his neck and drops him in the drink. Vader realized that while his anger and raw power had been enough up until this point, it wasn’t going to be enough against a stronger, more disciplined opponent, and embracing the monster within provided him with the victory seemingly out of reach up until that point.
I’m a little surprised (and even a little disappointed) Kirak bit it so quickly here, but it really shouldn’t be a surprise that this early, unhinged, and brutal Vader would find a way to so utterly destroy an even more powerful opponent than he. In the end, I know there’s plenty more to uncover about Kirak, so here’s hoping one day we’ll dive a little bit more into his story, but it felt like we got just enough here to make his character work. Now with Kirak dead, Vader has the thing he came out to quest for: a Jedi’s lightsaber to take the crystal from and bleed it to the dark side. If the next issue is anything like these last four, we’ll be in for quite the treat, no matter what comes.
Seriously, Charles Soule has done some truly excellent work in the comics, but so far none of it has been able to top his first series, Lando. I have to say, the trajectory this series is on, I’m confident this will be his best work yet and might just end up joining Kieron Gillen’s original Vader series as an instant classic. We’re not there yet though, but it’s hard to think otherwise when the book has been this good and it’s only been four issues. But it’s not just Soule that’s been making this an excellent series to check out, it’s also due to the exceptional work of the art team: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and David Curiel. There were many panels that stuck out to me this issue, including all the ones from inside Vader’s helmet, where we see out the one undamaged eye-piece, but there’s one that sent shivers literally down my spine and might just be the single best panel of the year (which you can see below)! Vader, at the top of the dam, bellows an order to Kirak, “COME,” and he’s bathed in darkness, his suit in tatters, and his one good optical eyelid glowing. It’s a truly haunting and ominous panel and I would gladly have it hanging on a wall somewhere in my house (preferably not right around a corner because it could potentially freak me the hell out).
Here are a few other things:
- Colli, the mechanic Mareena’s child, had the exact reaction I would’ve had if someone came into my home and told me they were going to destroy evil and bring light back into the galaxy as confidently as Kirak does here: “Whoa.” It was a little, less epic moment than the rest, but I loved it all the same.
- Thanks to Florian over at Jedi-Bibliothek, he uncovered some hints at what the next arc will cover and it’s so bizarre and surprising it’s ultimately very exciting and awesome: Vader and the Grand Inquisitor (the very same from Star Wars Rebels!) hunt down…Jocasta Nu! Somehow she managed to survive and is spiriting away all the Jedi knowledge she can (if it’s not in the Jocasta Nu archives, it simply doesn’t exist), so to prevent her from spreading this to potential Jedi in waiting/hiding, they plan on taking her out. Count me in.
- The Inside Marvel: Darth Vader continues, this time discussing the previous issue. What’s neat about this edition is how not only is Giuseppe guesting on the show, but they even include looks at his untouched original artwork for the issue. And around the 18:00 mark, Charles Soule calls this arc his best work out of everything he’s done so far, Star Wars or not, and at least for the Star Wars part I feel like I agree. I don’t mind putting up with how some of the questions and discussion here is aimed for a more mainstream, non-comic reading crowd, but I’d really love to see a lady guest or two in these videos to chat about the series at some point. UPDATE: It seems these go live the Thursday morning after the issue releases, as here is the Inside Marvel for issue #4.
- My usual LCS had the misfortune of having a couple boxes of this week’s shipments destroyed in transit and of course it was the Darth Vader issue this week and not Rogue One. Thankfully, another nearby LCS didn’t have the same problem, but I felt a little bad for going elsewhere. Look, I needed to have this issue though, so sorry, not sorry? Well, holy wow, at least the issue did not disappoint!
Dark Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith issue #4 is the best showcase yet of how truly special this new series is and you’re definitely missing out if you’re not reading this already.
+ Vader embraces the monster within
+ Kirak finds out strength isn’t all that matters at the same time Vader figures it out as well
+ The whole creative team continues to create brutal, beautiful art
Darth Vader (Series 1)
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Aphra (#1-6) | And the Enormous Profit (#9-14) | Annual: #1
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13) | Legend Lost (#14 – 16) | War Stories (#17-19) | Annual: #1
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader Series 1 on-goings)
The Screaming Citadel (crossover of Doctor Aphra and Star Wars 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) | Yoda’s Secret War (#26-30) | Out Among the Stars (#33-37) | Annual: #1 | #2 | #3
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Captain Phasma (miniseries)
Jedi of the Republic – Mace Windu (miniseries)
Darth Maul (miniseries)
Han Solo (miniseries)
Rogue One (adaptation)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (miniseries)
Shattered Empire (miniseries)
Princess Leia (miniseries)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (miniseries)