Revisitor is a regular column in which I look back on personal favorites from comic history, whether they’re a single issue, graphic novel, comic strip, webcomic or basically any form of sequential art you can think of. When I do this, my hope is to include perspective from the people who made these comics – like I did with the debut edition about Mike Mignola’s Hellboy story, “Pancakes” – but that may not always happen. This is not one of those times.
Darth Vader is a man with a plan.
That might not always be clear in the movies, as he was a heavy in A New Hope, sort of a lackey in Return of the Jedi, 4 and a bit of an insufferable permanent teenager as Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. It’s really only in The Empire Strikes Back amongst the main films where we see the methodical genius behind the iron fist, 5 as we watch Vader not just react to situations but control them with his might and mind.
This is not to say he’s a bad character by any means. Darth Vader is obviously a legend whose time on screen is loaded with iconic moments. Beyond that, Vader is someone that transcends his roots in film, becoming a lasting idea in a way few pop culture phenoms do. Whatever form he comes in, he’s an exemplary villain.
Nor is his lack of a plan due to the character himself being incapable of such a thing. It’s more of a product of opportunity, as films have finite timespans to work with, and even an A-list villain like Vader is going to feel the crunch due to other story and character needs.
During my time inside, I’ve been visiting and revisiting two other places our guy Anakin Skywalker shows up, and it’s hard not to feel these stories that lack similar time restraints are able to reveal other sides to the character we hadn’t gotten the full force of before. One is The Clone Wars, the Dave Filoni-driven animated series about the period between the prequels Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. It’s a remarkable series, and one that highlights a version of Anakin that isn’t just about hating sand and feeling huge emotions. He’s a highly effective general, a caring Jedi Master, and a far more level-headed person than we see elsewhere. As much as I’d like to write more about The Clone Wars, 6 though, this isn’t about that. It’s about the other story I was talking about: Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s Darth Vader series from 2015 and 2016.
Ready for some heat? Here it is: no Star Wars story ever told better exemplifies Darth Vader as a master operator than this one, which over its 25 issues charts Vader’s efforts to ward off rivals within the Empire while he attempts to learn more about this blonde kid with a familiar lightsaber. It’s a lot more than that, of course. There are all kinds of measures, countermeasures, double-crosses, second-guesses and machinations by those who orbit the Sith Lord, but if this tightly plotted series proves anything, it’s that even the cleverest of agents will bow to Vader when he’s given the time and opportunity to make a plan.