It has been just two weeks since I reviewed the previous issue of the Star Wars Darth Vader comic series. I enjoyed issue #3 after the long pandemic induced hiatus. Up until then the series, written by Greg Pak, was a bit of a hit-or-miss affaire. While I enjoyed the story, especially the introduction of Padme’s former handmaidens, I disliked how the setting jumped around. At the end of issue #1 I was firmly under the idea Darth Vader was searching Padme’s apartment on Coruscant, only for issue #2 shifting this to another planet. Such moment cause confusion and ensure that absorbing the story is made harder. Luckily the redeeming factors outweigh the negative. The emotional punches that were made by the Revenge of the Sith are relived by the reader, and Darth Vader, through flashbacks. Something I initially criticized but have since come around to.
Death by Sando Aqua monster
In issue #4 we see the consequences of Sabé’s trap for Darth Vader. She and her conspirators have attracted the largest sea monster of Naboo towards Vader – Sando Aqua monster. With the garrulous Zed-6-7 chatting away Vader takes on the monster. The authors appear to have forgotten that the setting is supposed to be a Gungan pod because the see monster is well capable of just pushing through the barrier. Only after Vader is swallowed whole do we see that the pod is bigger than initially shown in the previous issue. Sabé appears skeptical that the monster is capable of killing Vader and orders the droid that lured it to carry it off. Vader’s death troopers appear to understand Vader is trapped in the belly of the beast and also give pursuit. Yet, in typical Vader fashion he slashes his way out of the beasts belly – killing it.
Darth Vader vs handmaidens
And so with that needless fight the story is put back on track. After defeating the monster Vader decides to he needs visit Theed, and former queen Amidala’s grave in particular. Getting there is not easy, more loyal supporters of Amidala await him, whom Vader eventually overcomes. It is at this moment that we also see a steady stream of flashbacks of events from the prequel trilogy. At the grave, or mausoleum to be more accurate, Vader is confronted by one last group of supports. They are Amidala’s handmaidens, each a deadly opponent. Zed-6-7 identifies them as Eirtaé, Rabé, Saché, Dormé and of course Sabé. A fight ensues in which the five are determined to kill Vader and seem aware of some of his force skills. Just as Darth Vader appears overwhelmed does he strangle them with the force and toss them aside.
This issue culminates with Vader finally approaching the mausoleum and discovering the gift Anakin gave to Padmé on Tatooine. The flashbacks make it seem as though a little bit of the lightside has returned to Vader. When Sabé asks if he is done replies with “No” and forces the mausoleum doors open. And so this issue ends. There is a lot to speculate about with the final scene at the mausoleum. Vader did not kill the five handmaidens, a mistake his master has not discovered. Yet, this storyline must influence Anakin’s redemption as seen in Return of the Jedi. What could happen inside the mausoleum that could give that spark? I am also skeptical that the handmaidens do not realize who Vader is. His interest in the mausoleum should complete their deductions in that regard. As Obi-Wan might say, Anakin’s death can be understood from a certain point of view.
Saved by the handmaidens
Overall, this issue was saved by its second half. Vader’s encounter with the Sando Aqua monster was silly – as was its conclusion. Afterwards, the story made some jumps that were never logical. I am still not sure why Vader is headed to Amidala’s mausoleum. I have to reread issue #1 to understand that. A reminder by the producers might have been in order. Nonetheless, at the mausoleum this issue ends spectacularly. Watching the handmaidens fight was delightful. They look every bit the hardened warriors they are made out to be. This is a departure from The Phantom Menace in which one was just a decoy. I remain uncertain of the direction this story will take. Whatever happens will have to be in sync with events of ROTJ. It may be too heartbreaking to kill so many of the Naboo characters. Yet, Vader does not give anybody a pass.
Star Wars Darth Vader will resume with issue #5 on September 16th. Fill out the subscribe widget on the right if you do not want to miss that review!