Cut off from the Force, Darth Vader just drew on a skill many fans forget to wipe out his enemies and get one step closer to the truth.
Warning: minor spoilers for Star Wars: Darth Vader #10!
Darth Vader is known for many things. His look, his lightsaber, even his breathing have become huge pop-culture touchstones. And yet in his most recent comic, it’s actually Vader’s forgotten skill that will keep him alive, allowing him to strike down his enemies with breathtaking skill and reminding fans that however fully they think they know the character, he’s always capable of another staggering feat that no-one saw coming.
Set after The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Darth Vader – from Greg Pak and Raffaele Ienco – has followed Vader’s quest to learn the truth about the death of his wife Padmé Amidala and the survival of his children, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa. This quest involved defying Darth Sidious, aka Emperor Palpatine, which resulted in Vader’s master torturing him, destroying his robotic limbs, barring him from using the Force, and hiring assassins to hunt him down, all in the name of re-establishing Vader’s connection to the Dark Side. Since then, Vader has gradually been rebuilding his strength, culminating in him using an often forgotten skill to stay alive.
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Without the Force – and temporary lacking a lightsaber – Vader has had to fall back on other abilities. Pursued by Ochi of Bestoon, Vader showed his mastery of will, wading through lava to pursue his goals. Then, hunted by the Droid Crush Pirates, Vader used his knowledge of robotics to strike them down and replace his damaged limbs, finally capturing Ochi and forcing him to help discover the location of Exegol, and the secrets Vader hopes to find there. Now, in a preview from Marvel Comics, Star Wars: Darth Vader #10 finds Vader facing the Red Terror – the galaxy’s deadliest predator – when Admiral Corleque arrives with three star destroyers, sent by Palpatine to finish the mission Ochi started. What initially seems like a death sentence is immediately undercut when Vader – still carrying a pod in which he’s containing Ochi as his prisoner – whips around and wipes out the squadron of TIE Fighters sent to take him down.
Because he’s terrifying in so many other ways, Vader’s skill in a cockpit is often forgotten, but here he wipes out a squadron of fighters with apparent ease. While Corleque is confident Vader’s blasts can’t pierce the shields of his Destroyers, it’s clear he’s underestimating the Sith warrior, who has already conquered a gauntlet of challenges to reach this point, and may be preparing to turn one foe against the other.
What’s fascinating about Vader’s journey is how working against the Emperor’s wishes and discovering the truth of his family has forced him to draw on more and more of the skills he had before his transformation. Anakin Skywalker was a podracing prodigy in his youth, as well as a skilled engineer – indeed, even his programming of C-3PO would go on to save the Rebellion – and these are the abilities which have kept him alive in his exile. Though Vader still has a long way to go before his redemption, it’s fascinating to see his journey towards the Light Side marked not by the sheer Force power or lightsaber skill of Vader, but by his proficiency with those parts of life more marked by his time as Anakin. Though the Umbaran Administrator accuses Vader of favoring brute force, that accusation has ceased to be true, and fans can look forward to seeing more of Vader’s skill as his adventure continues on February 10.
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