Darth Vader is one of the most iconic figures in Star Wars history. Despite being Darth Sidious’ puppet, he was feared more than Emperor Palpatine himself.
So, how did he become so feared in the galaxy?
Image Source: StarWars.com
I’m getting ahead of myself. I count myself among the millions, dare I say billions, of Star Wars fans. So, like the rest of the community, I was stunned when the-recently-Disney-purchased-Lucasfilm announced that the Expanded Universe would be re-branded as Star Wars Legends…and non-canonical.
Needless to say, I got over myself and delved headfirst into the new canon. That’s when I realized one thing.
There were so many gaps still present in the original canon, the E.U. had to become Legends. This was especially true of my favorite Star Wars character, Darth Vader.
True, we got to see how and why Anakin Skywalker became Lord Vader in the prequels, but what about how he became so feared in the Galaxy? Was he always this powerful after becoming a Sith Lord? How did he hone his newly found Sith powers?
This is where the post-April 2014 canon comes in. Let’s examine the gaps that the new canon has filled involving Darth Vader:
1. Lords of the Sith by Paul Kemp
The events of the novel Lords of the Sith occurred 5 years after Revenge of the Sith. The Emperor and Lord Vader look to bring Ryloth (Home of the Twi’lek people) under Empirical rule, and to root out a traitor at the same time. However, there is a long-standing resistance in place. This resistance is led by no other than Cham Syndulla, father to Star Wars Rebels’ hero and Ghost captain Hera Syndulla.
Key Point: This was the first opportunity we actually got to examine the relationship between Darth Vader and his master. We get a glimpse of Vader’s thoughts, thoughts that he cannot keep masked from Palpatine. Every time Vader has a troubling thought, Palpatine senses it. But, Vader knows this. Instead of lying to his master, he tells him the truth everytime.
One of these memories gave the readers a hint of Darth Vader’s remorse for his role in Padme’s death and Order 66. This is the first time we see the inner conflict that Luke saw within Vader. That is the important aspect here. We previously believed these feelings only came about due to the appearance of his son. We now know that the Sith Lord faced an inner conflict long before Luke confronted him.
2. Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith Comic (Marvel)
Although only on Issue #3, the new Darth Vader comic already aims to fill in a lot that is unknown about Lord Vader. This comic begins immediately following the end of Revenge of the Sith.
Key Point: Vader is a newly minted Sith Lord. Why didn’t he ever challenge Palpatine’s orders the way he always defied his masters as a Jedi Knight? We see that in the first issue, when Vader is humbled by the Emperor’s use of Force Lightning on him. This is the Emperor’s way of punishing Vader for his Force outburst when he found out that Padme was dead. He then goes on to tell Vader that if he ever touches him with the Force again, he will “finish what Kenobi could not.”
Image Source: Darth Vader #1
Another thing we are going to learn about Vader during his earliest days as a Sith Lord is how he obtained his lightsaber. In the novel Ahsoka, we learned how a Sith Lightsaber becomes red in color. The Emperor gives a more in-depth explanation in this comic.A lightsaber turns red when a Sith Lord overwhelms the Kyber crystal within the lightsaber with pain, fear, and anger using the Force. In turn, the crystal “bleeds” and voila! You have yourself a red Sith lightsaber.
I suspect that another thing this comic will tell us is how Vader eliminated the remaining Jedi. We found out in issue #2 that Vader found out the location of the remaining Jedi from a backup archive at a Mid-Rim Jedi outpost. He goes after one such Jedi Master, Kirak Infil’a, in an effort to secure his lightsaber.
3. Star Wars Rebels Season 2 (Disney XD)
Star Wars Rebels has been filled with cameos from our favorite Star Wars characters. We’ve seen Lando Calrissan, Princess Leia, Mon Mothma, even Obi-Wan Kenobi. The award-winning animated series has answered a lot of questions throughout its 3 seasons. However, you’ll only find out more about Vader’s story in one season – Season 2.
Key Point: Season 2 of Star Wars Rebels marked the first time we were actually able to see Darth Vader in action on prime-time while in his prime. It is worth the watch, as Vader does not disappoint. On the first episode of Season 2, he Force lifts an AT-ST that Kanan Jarrus brought down on top of him for chrissakes!
But honestly, the best Darth Vader-related event that we were not aware of before Rebels happened on the season finale. In an exciting battle, Padawan fought former master, as an all-grown up Ahsoka Tano matched lightsabers with her old master on Malachor. As of this writing, we still don’t know Ahsoka’s fate…
Image Source: Star Wars Underworld
4. Rogue One
The entire Rogue One movie can be summed up in the first two paragraphs of the opening crawl in A New Hope. The first of 3 planned Star Wars anthology movies, Rogue One did an excellent job of showing us how the rebels obtained the plans to the Death Star.
Sidenote: I don’t know if there is a hint of sarcasm in the movie but, the Death Star’s chief engineer’s name was Galen Erso. Ironically, he also was the person who was responsible for warning the rebellion of the Empire’s super weapon. That technically makes Galen a “Starkiller”…
Image Source: inverse.com
Key Point: In Rogue One, Lord Vader’s castle on Mustafar was shown. We are led to assume that he chose Mustafar as a home because it was the source of so much pain and anger. Of course, both are fuel that keep the Sith fire burning. We also get to see Vader in his bacta tank. In the 3-D version of Rogue One, we even get to see him “assemble”!
Of course, there was also that badass scene at the end of Rogue One, when Vader showed the world how he felt about Rebel Scum!
5. Star Wars/Darth Vader Comics (Marvel)
Finally! This was a dream come true for Star Wars fans who also read comics. The purpose of each series became clear early. The Star Wars comic illustrates Luke’s transformation from a novice to a Jedi. In the beginning, we painfully watch as he attempts to use Force powers that he has no control or understanding over. Regardless, both comics illustrate both Star Wars and Vader lore really well.
Key Point: There are so many events that have taken place in the comic books that weren’t known before! But, in sticking with the theme of this article, I will only expound on the events that involved Lord Vader. The Star Wars comic begins with the Rebellion attacking a key Imperial weapons facility. On the canon timeline, this occurs right after A New Hope. As you know, Obi-Wan revealed Luke to Vader in Episode IV. Needless to say, when Vader feels Luke’s presence, he travels to the Weapons factory and has a confrontation with him. This marks the first one-on-one confrontation between father and son after A New Hope. We previously thought that did not occur until The Empire Strikes Back.
Of course, Luke still does not find out Vader is his father until that famous scene in The Empire Strikes Back, but it is still important because this confrontation sets Vader on a path that ultimately leads to my favorite Marvel comic crossover, Vader Down.
But first, the Darth Vader comic begins with a severe reprimand from the Emperor himself. He blames Vader for the destruction of the Death Star and “demotes” him. He goes as far to tell Vader that has has proven himself “a blunt instrument, far better to be wielded than to wield.” Later on down the line, The Emperor introduces 6 potential replacements for Vader, including Dr Cylo, who was the cybernetic scientist responsible for creating Vader’s cybernetic suit.
We also find out that Vader secretly meets with Jabba the Hutt in an unofficial capacity. What follows is an awesome scene where Vader defeats a bunch of Jabba’s henchmen and proceeds to force choke Jabba in order to get him to “understand”. VAder reveals the reason for his visit to Tattooine is to locate bounty hunters to find Luke (Boba Fett and Black Krrsantan). This is the moment where he tasks both bounty hunters to find Luke. As you know, Jabba wants Han so it’s an added bonus that Luke is traveling aboard the Millennium Falcon.
Vader begins to really show his treacherous Sith characteristics. He seeks out a rogue Archeologist named Doctor Aphra (one of my favorite characters in new canon) in order to create a droid army of “unwavering loyalty”. Doctor Aphra also tracks Luke to a planet called Vrogas Vas. It is here where Vader Down takes place.
Vader is like the Incredible Hulk in Vader Down…invincible! It is in this crossover series that we see how powerful and ruthless he really was. He takes out 2 entire Rebel battalions by himself. His TIE fighter is finally brought down by Luke when he crashes his X-Wing into Vader’s TIE in a suicidal move. Once on the planet’s surface, Vader is surrounded by yet another Rebel batallion who tells him to surrender his lightsaber. Vader then informs them that all he is surrounded by is fear…and dead men!