– Spoiler Review –
Despite only being two issues, the latest arc for Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith, “The Rule of Five,” packs a great little punch while acting as a punctuation mark for the previous arc, “The Dying Light.”
On a rather routine trip to investigate a potential Jedi sighting, Darth Vader is attacked by bounty hunters instead, and it doesn’t take him long to uncover and destroy those who would be foolish enough to put a bounty on him in the first place. In hindsight, it’s befitting of Vader as a character that this potential threat is dealt with so swiftly, as it would diminish the rise to power aspect this series is covering, as well as get dull quick if it was 4-5 more issues of him battling a bunch of bounty hunters before finally cracking the case. Sure, with the art team and writer this series has, an endless battle with bounty hunters probably would be fun regardless, but it wouldn’t continue to reinforce DLoS‘s nuanced portrayal of the baby Sith Lord, instead just add to his killing machine persona, best exemplified by the hallway scene at the end of Rogue One; however, he does murder a few fools by the end of this arc, five to be precise, but it’s for a very specific reason and is thus more befitting of this series’ trajectory.
Initially made to look like the kill order came from Emperor Palpatine himself, which Vader confirms is not the case by directly confronting ol’ Sheev, he uncovers the perpetrators of the bounty are actually Imperial officers. These officers don’t understand Vader, the sudden power within the Imperial hierarchy he wields, and they don’t seem to appreciate his lack of respect for them, which one officer found out the hard way by nearly being choked to death. Since Vader’s creation at the end of Revenge of the Sith, he’s mainly operated in the shadows and the lack of information regarding his part of the Empire has shown throughout the series: the Empire-friendly clones protecting the old Jedi-outpost think he’s a Jedi and attack him (though Vader did neglect to transmit his clearance codes on purpose), an ISB agent shows him zero respect when Vader is permitted into an investigation, and the clones guarding the Jedi Temple as he routes out Jocasta Nu inside attack Vader because again, he’s mistaken for a Jedi. It’s very clear by the time of A New Hope, and especially The Empire Strikes Back, everyone in the Empire is both aware and afraid of him, so how did it get to that point? What stops any further plans to oust Vader by Imperial officers? Well, because of the rule of five, aka the name of this arc, of course!
Despite not uncovering all the perpetrators of the attack on his life, Vader decides to provide a lesson for those who would see him harmed, and he hatches a plan inspired by teachings from his Master. At a meeting to introduce Vader to the Imperial officers, and explain his place in the Empire’s hierarchy, Vader singles out five officers and chokes them all to death in front of the others, sending a very clear warning he’s not to be messed with. While he tells the room these names are picked by random, 4 of them come from a list of people who could’ve faked the transmission of the bounty on Vader to make it look like it came from the Emperor. The rule of five effectively raises everyone’s fear in Vader, as well as their suspicion in one another in case they ever hear anyone talk ill of Vader and remember what he’ll do regardless of who is the one talking against him. Vader could’ve easily murdered all the officers to get the same point across, and provided us with another Rogue One scene, but it is far more interesting to see Vader, once Anakin, use his dark sided soul to produce the same results but keep a large swath of officers alive, which helps keeps their military strong and respectful of the new player in town.
This arc had Vader spend some time with the Ninth Sister Inquisitor, who provides sass and insight which I hope to see more of in the future of this series. The first Vader comic series proved sass around the stoic Vader could have wondrous results, giving us Doctor Aphra (my favorite comic character, hands down), so I appreciate how writer Charles Soule’s usage of the Ninth Sister functions the same, but doesn’t try to outdo what came before, instead attempting a different approach. The relationship between the Ninth and Vader is that of co-workers who don’t like each other but have to work together regardless, though the Ninth knows her place. Beyond her sass, she also has a strong ability to sense emotions through the Force, which she directs at Vader and realizes he’s eager and hungry to fight another Jedi, whether it kills him or not. This thread about Vader’s desire for death, potentially by a worthy enemy, doesn’t get explored much beyond it’s mention in issue #11, but I hope it’s something Soule will touch on again in the future, as it’s an intriguing thing to explore since it makes me wonder if Vader ever truly gets over said desire, and how. Either way, more time with the strong personality of the Ninth Sister Inquisitor, please.
The Cha family are the ones to attack Vader for the bounty on his head, and thanks to their wealth of intriguing technology and quick thinking, they manage to escape the encounter alive. This is important because the family currently consists of Bhada, the father, Ramat, the mother, and Chanath, their daughter, the last name being familiar to fans of Charles Soule’s first Star Wars comic, the Lando miniseries! Seeing as it’s still one of my top five series of all time, this was a pretty cool connection for Soule to make, giving us some minor, but exciting glimpses of where Chanath got started as a bounty hunter. There’s plenty left to explore of her background, as this far from answers every question, instead opening up a few more, but it’s fun to see it slowly unravel. While it’s not necessary to have read the previous Lando series to appreciate the Chas’ roles in issue #11, I’d highly recommend reading it regardless.
Two more quick things. This arc includes the introduction of Vader’s iconic lightsaber, seen in the cover for issue #12, but it is done with little to no fanfare. My disappointment stems only from the fact we didn’t get any design insights from Vader, as otherwise it was nice to see he simply builds it and continues on, as the real meat of the story behind that lightsaber is how he took his first kyber from a Jedi and bled it to his will, which was the focus of the first arc. Secondly, this arc revisits the amazing glimpse we’ve gotten previously into Vader’s inner mind, showing us a beautiful, but turbulent world, where the last vestiges of the good in Vader are represented by tiny blue butterflies. Lesley Maeham, over on Twitter, showed off a custom POP Funko figure of how Vader sees himself in these mediation and it is incredible! I hope we continue to see this representation of his inner mind, as it is exquisite and allows the art to tell important character beats without a single word.
Charles Soule continues a piping hot streak as writer here, both investigating Vader’s mind and showing his thinking man side more than his pure killing machine side, something far more enjoyable to see than bloodlust (see the recent Darth Maul comic for how that turns out be boring). And the art team of Giuseppe Camuncoli (pencils), Daniele Orlandini (inks), and David Curiel (colors) have been murdering our eyeballs with their impressive work. How Camuncoli draws Vader, despite being a tad disproportionate to how we normally see him, helps convey so much emotion, and the whole team’s work on those scenes set within Vader’s meditations continue to mesmerize. Joe Caramagna as letterer makes the script and art work effortlessly together. And for letting Soule tell even a little story like this one, in preparation to clean up residual threads for the next arc, we have Assistant Editor Heather Antos and Editor Jordan D. White to thank.
Here are a few other things:
- This was my first arc review, which I’ll admit was a bit different, but just as enjoyable to write as individual issues. Normally I’m guessing and theorizing what’s ahead for the events in the arc, so it was nice to get to look at what did happen rather than focus on what I was wrong about guessing!
- Something I didn’t mention in my review of #12, but I really liked how Giuseppe included women to the ranks of Imperial officers, instead of having a block of white dudes.
- I’m still fairly certain issue #11 included our very first depiction of canon Bothans.
Short, but packed with intrigue, Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith‘s “The Rule of Five” arc (issues #11, 12) sets to an end events and plots from the first 12 issues, providing a bit of a clean slate for the series going forward.
+ Rule of five instilling the fear we’re familiar seeing on Imperial’s faces around Vader
+ Ninth Sister sass
+ The Cha Family connection
– For now, discards interesting notion of Vader’s desire for death
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