– Spoiler Review –
Vader’s defeat of Master Infila, thus securing a kyber crystal to corrupt, might have been difficult, but it turns out the hardest part was still ahead. Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith #5 is an unforgettable issue that’ll long be remembered in the years ahead.
Vader’s final test is upon him: corrupting the kyber crystal to complete his metamorphosis into the Sith Lord we all love to fear. This turns out to be the hardest part of the ordeal and goes in such a wildly unexpected direction I was left reeling, diving immediately back into the issue to experience this unforgettable moment and journey. Seriously, this might be the single greatest issue of the entire Star Wars Marvel run, as it easily comes close to the previous Vader series’ 24/25 issue wallop.
On Mustafar, Vader extracts the kyber from Master Infil’a’s lightsaber and endeavors to corrupt it. He initially fails, which causes him to realize the horrors of what he has all done, leading him to reconstruct the Jedi’s blade, fulfill his role as the Chosen One, and seek redemption from his dear friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Wait…what!?! It’s been known for some time that kyber crystals are strangely alive in some way, from how they call out to Padawans who search for them in the caves of Ilum or even need to be corrupted in the first place to serve the Sith, but never did I imagine it could go so far as project a vision into those that wished it harm. The Force knows Vader’s ultimate role, that he is the Chosen One (ah, now I get why this arc is called “The Chosen One”), and tries to sway him back to the light by tapping into the part of Anakin still left inside that knows what he’s done is wrong. Does the kyber produce this vision? Does Anakin after his initial failure? A combination of both? We may never know the answer. As each new moment of this alternative future played out across the panels, I initially had completely fallen for it, struggling to comprehend how I was seeing what I was seeing. It’s a moment any comic fan should go out and experience, thanks to how boldly and confidently it’s handled by both writer Soule and the art team, Camuncoli, Curiel, and Smith
Normally when a character touches an object and receives a vision, it’s of some apocalyptic future that could result from their current choices. Normally, said future is one both the audience and character in question don’t want to see happen, so both are united in the decision to reject letting such a horrible fate come to pass. Here, the hopeful string of events the kyber crystal shows Vader is one the audience would actually like to see, but Vader rejects the vision like most characters do, though his decision stems from having gone too far already, unable to believe such events could happen/he could be redeemed. So he crushes the final vestiges of Anakin, banishing the good inside of him deep, deep down into the depths of his mind, something we first got a glimpse at in the phenomenal Darth Vader #24 from last year, and corrupts the kyber to fuel his Sith lightsaber. It’s an apocalyptic scene of its own, the planet of Mustafar erupting around him, all that he loved fading into the recesses of his mind as his anger and rage take over, and it sends absolute chills up the spine. He returns to Palpatine, ready to call him Master, ready to have his boiling rage shaped and molded as only a true Sith Master can provide him. We saw the monster birthed in Revenge of the Sith, here we see the monster embrace its fate and its decisions, rejecting any chance (for now) to be anything but a monster.
Charles Soule has managed this Villain’s Journey so deftly over the previous 4 issues, it really allows this epic moment to sink in even more, while those who’d read this issue alone would also be able to feel the impact on Vader following its events (but you’d be missing out on one of the strongest debuts if you only read this one!). I had figured from the outset of this arc the corruption of the kyber would probably be the least significant part of Vader’s Sith lightsaber journey and Soule played with that fact throughout, setting up Infil’a to be a bigger component but also subtly hinting he might not last as long as one expected. This journey has been more of a psychological one for Vader however, considering he’s already committed the horrible deeds, so it’s fitting the biggest moment is purely cerebral. It was executed wonderfully, thanks to Soule’s writing for sure, but equally important has been the art, driven by Giuseppe Camuncoli’s pencils, Cam Smith’s inks, and David Curiel’s colors. Early on, Vader is drawn to look weak, slouching as he exits his ship on the surface of Mustafar, broken and battered from his battle with Infil’a, which feeds into and helps pull the reader into being tricked by the vision (at least for me) when he first tries to corrupt the kyber. But the most striking and beautiful moments come as Vader fully corrupts the kyber, intercutting panels of Anakin’s memories with the erupting Mustafar, hammering home both the physical and mental pain Vader must pour into the act to fully take over the kyber’s will. Masterclass work from the entire team on this one.
Here are a few other things:
- Could this spot where Vader taps into the dark side “locus” of Mustafar be where he eventually builds his castle, as seen in Rogue One??!?
- Over at Tosche-Station, Bria brings back the gif review for the excellent Lord of the Sith #5 and once again says everything I just did without typing nary a word.
- I haven’t got a chance to watch it all, but ABC News’ Inside Marvel is back to dissect issue #5! From what I did watch, Soule reiterates he’s meant these first five issues to really make you feel what Vader is going through, which I’d say he’s completely succeeded at that job, while Editor Jordan D. White drops an intriguing idea on Vader going to Obi-Wan in the vision: I said it was for redemption and he mentions some people have said he went there to have Obi-Wan finish him off…but we’ll never know! So, who’s going to write that fanfiction?
- Between both this issue and the YA novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan showing us a potential alternative to events we know and love, I suddenly compelled into considering writing some fanfiction. No more showing cool and intriguing AU possibilities, please and thank you!
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith #5 is a near-perfect issue, paying off an excellent arc so far, with major kudos going to the entire creative team involved.
+ The kyber crystal’s attempt to get Vader to convince himself to choose redemption
+ Psychological focus
+ Art accentuates everything this glorious issue is trying to do
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 (#9-13) | 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
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader Series 1 on-goings)
Captain Phasma (miniseries)
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) | Ashes of Jedha (#38-43) | Annual: #1 | #2 | #3
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
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)