The moment Anakin Skywalker reawakens as the armour-clad Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith should be one of the most horrifying and tragic moments in Star Wars history. Instead, it’s one of the most infamously mocked moments of the prequels. This week's new Darth Vader comic though, revisits the moment do finally do it justice.
The previous—and honest to god fantastic—Vader comic understood that what made him such an intimidatingly villainous presence in the first place is the quiet, understated fury that drives every moment and action Vader takes. The fact that he could spill over at any time and snap your neck with his mind, or rend you with a slash of that crimson blade, as he effortlessly glides around like a shadow is what fills every encounter with him with a palpable tension. Suffice to say, even in his lowest point, Vader is not, and never really should have been, the sort of person to emit a lengthy baritone “nooooooooooo!” like he’s stuck in bullet time.
That’s what the opening pages of the first issue of this new Vader series—written by Charles Soule, with art from Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and David Curiel—understands as well, and it makes the moment of Vader’s rise in Revenge of the Sith so much better. It layers the tragedy of Anakin’s fall (and especially his betrayal at Palpatine’s hands), the undiscriminating potency of his raw power even in this new, compromised half-form, and the simmering nature of his fury in a way that is far more fascinating to watch unfold than what occurred on the silver screen.
The build up is slow, yet relentless, combining fleeting glimpses of Vader’s destructive force powers wreaking havoc around his operating table with one final, tragic memory of Padmé, punctuated by his own singular internal thought, repeated over and over.
The “no” here isn’t drawn out, or particularly grandiose, even if the havoc swirling around Vader is. It is not particularly emotional, either. It’s defiant. It’s dripping with understated rage, a refusal to accept what’s happened to him. The grief internalised rather than externalised—hidden away in the man within the monstrous machine.
That defiance—which drives Vader and Palpatine’s relationship throughout the saga until he finally puts it in action in Return of the Jedi—also comes in a moment we unfortunately don’t really get to see in the movies: Vader confronting Palpatine about the promise he could save Padmé from death...
And Palpatine pretty much just not giving a shit, ready to forge his new tool of destruction as he sees fit. If this was how it had gone down in Revenge of the Sith, I’m pretty certain we still wouldn’t be having all these “noooooo!” jokes over a decade later.