– Spoiler Review –
Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith #3 pushes Vader to his limits when he meets a truly formidable opponent in Jedi Master Kirak Infli’a, resulting in another excellent issue in an already riveting series.
As Darth Vader rushes to confront Master Kirak Infli’a and push himself further and further away from the Anakin still inside, we get to see Vader go on a twisted version of the Hero’s Journey. He’s already had his call to action, when Palpatine tells him to go and corrupt a kyber to make a Sith lightsaber; his supernatural aide is the Force; and now in issue #3 he finds himself facing a threshold: Infli’a and his mountain of traps. And even if he reaches the summit to face Infli’a, there is still a step or two left before he can receive his gift (the kyber to corrupt), with the most important and unavoidable being: journey into the underworld/abyss (something I previously covered in an article where I pointed out examples in Star Wars, including Maul going through this as well). Considering Vader’s show of power and pure destruction in the last issue, it would almost seem like a foregone conclusion he’d devour everything in his path and destroy Infli’a easily, but this is simply not the case considering the Jedi Master’s combat prowess and thus Vader more than meets his match. He ends the issue plummeting from the mountain (also having lost a leg), heading down to confront his own version of the underworld. The next step? Resurrection and rebirth, but since Anakin’s already been reborn as Darth Vader, what type of rebirth will he go through? The answer to that question is in the question itself…let me explain.
The important part is, “…since Anakin’s already been reborn as Darth Vader…” as it implies there’s still a bit of Anakin in Vader, so the next rebirth he must make is to bury and destroy as much of Anakin as he can if he truly desires to become a Sith and numb himself to the pain of all that he’s lost. Master Infli’a makes two observations that imply he knows there are discernible weaknesses to Vader aka the Anakin still prominently inside of him: 1) That Vader took in all the pain Infli’a felt when the Jedi were purged, meaning Vader’s using it to mask or drown out a much more powerful pain that would threaten to unravel him if he focused on it i.e. Padme’s death; 2) Vader is weak and couldn’t have purged the Jedi alone, implying if Vader were truly embracing his turn to the dark side, he wouldn’t have needed someone to help him, therefore some part of him is holding him back…which once again points back to the Anakin inside mourning over the death of Padme. What Master Kirak Infli’a doesn’t understand is how important of a role he’ll play in helping Vader crush Anakin.
As we learned in issue #2, Infli’a took the Barash vow, formally restricting him from getting involved in any Jedi Order shenanigans and devoting himself fully to the Force until his path would become clear. Infli’a assumes Vader has awoken his true path: destroy the ones who ended the Jedi Order and return its light to the galaxy, but he just doesn’t realize he’s only right from a certain point of view. In a way, he will help destroy those who ended the Jedi Order and return light to the galaxy, but it won’t be by killing Vader, it’ll be by killing Anakin (or at least helping Vader kill Anakin to some extent): by forcing Vader to crush the good (and pain) that is Anakin so far down that no one* will ever be able to exploit it again. In the years following this confrontation with Infli’a, Vader’s enemies will come to see him as a monster (and Palpatine will simply never be the nurturing type) because the Dark Lord’s actions will speak louder than any words (and he speaks very few), thus no one will ever think to look for good in such a machine of destruction. *Well, someone will, and such is the will of the Force, but at least it’ll be less likely for others to ever think of it.
Charles Soule is slaying it so far when it comes to Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith, pushing Vader through a grueling gauntlet, while also building a badass and intriguing Jedi that is most certainly Vader’s match at this point. That there are so many layers despite all the wanton destruction and fury that Vader unleashes really speaks to Soule’s understanding of the character and confidence in the tale he wants to tell. And on the art side, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and David Curiel are bringing visceral action and their own visual nuance to every panel and it is nothing short of exceptional. Some of my favorite panels include Vader parting the water and how the destruction of one of his metal legs (knee and below) looked a lot like a real leg exploding, which is disgusting as it sounds.
Vader’s earliest challenge is certainly building up to be an excellent first arc (“The Chosen One”) for Soule’s Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith series, while the art continues to impress as well.
+ Villain’s Journey
+ Kirak Infli’a
+ Creative team firing on all cylinders
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)