Darth Vader: Marvel Comics Evolved Our Greatest Villain

By Contributing Writer, Joesph Shrader

You think you knew the story.

You’ve watched all the films countless times, maybe even read an Extended Universe/film tie-in novel or two. Over all these years, you thought you knew the true Dark Lord of the Sith; but what you’ve known thus far has only been part of Anakin Skywalker’s story.

Enter Marvel Comics, and writer Charles Soule. Together, in 2017, they launched a new comic book series, one that would be considered saga-changing canon for the Star Wars universe as we know it, simply titled “Darth Vader.” This book would span just 25 issues, but it would forever alter the history of cinema’s grandest villain.

The book begins with the aftermath of Revenge Of The Sith—in the months that followed Vader’s birth, this outstanding Marvel comic shows us what Emperor Palpatine expected from his apprentice, and all the things Vader had to endure during his ascension to the seat as the right hand of the ruler of the Empire.

In the very first pages penned by Soule, Lord Vader would be tortured at the hands of Emperor Palpatine. These panels essentially set the tone for all 25 issues—they are unexpected, they are at times brutal, and they are unbelievably shocking.

As the series progressed, it’s evident that Soule was given free reign to build upon the legacy of Vader in ways we hadn’t considered. Panels throughout the series delve into various segments of Vader’s story—the history of the now-infamous red Sith kyber crystals, taking us alongside Vader’s quest to create his own lightsaber; a climactic battle with the mysterious and surviving Jedi Archives librarian; his leadership struggles with Moff Tarkin; and the chilling, complex, and fascinating story of the castle on Mustafar. And this series also gives us possibly the greatest reveal since Luke confronted Vader on Bespin (which I won’t spoil here).

And as if those crucial events were not enough, Soule also fleshes out the incomplete turn of Anakin Skywalker to the Sith Lord Vader. Remember, Luke tells Leia (and us, the audience) in Return Of The Jedi, “There is good in him, I’ve felt it.” Marvel’s Darth Vader shows us several moments where the man and great Clone Wars leader and general we knew as Anakin is still a very small part of the monster Vader ultimately becomes. These brief glimpses of his humanity remind us that maybe he is truly not beyond redemption.

Darth Vader is a character like no other, and, surprisingly, his story still continues to unfold. Throughout Marvel’s Darth Vader we are privy to his arduous, painful journey from part-machine to full-blown monster as he falls prey to the many perils that the Dark Side of The Force provide all too easy for him: indulging his lust for power, always conceding to his anger, and the one final, fatal flaw—he never stops trying to return Padme from the afterlife, an obsession that finds him searching deep within the recesses of The Force, depths that even The Emperor had never achieved.

Soule’s work on this comic serves only to grow the legend that we know as Darth Vader. While he is still a calculating, menacing evil, he is also a creature that is as conflicted as he is determined.

Marvel’s Darth Vader series only grows his legend of villainy, taking us alongside Vader and his continued journey into madness.