I was pleasantly surprised by both Star Wars – Darth Vader: Dark Heart of the Sith and Into the Fire. This is the best story arc I’ve read in any Star Wars comic yet. The storyline gives depth and insight into one of the greatest villains of my childhood. As long as Greg Pak is on this series, I’ll be reading it.
The events take place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Vader had failed to turn Luke Skywalker to the dark side, which leaves Vader at a loss for meaning and purpose. He told Luke he is his father and was rejected by his own son. I never really thought about how that might affect the stoic villain, but thankfully Pak did.
In his anger, Vader ignores the Emperor and sets out on a quest to destroy everyone who helped hide Luke through the years. This takes him to Tatooine, Coruscant, Vendaxa, and Naboo where he eventually visits the tomb of Padmé. It quickly becomes clear that this isn’t just a quest for revenge. Vader is dealing with his own past and with the Emperor’s part in it.
Pain & Anger
The Emperor senses Vader’s grief and decides to teach him a lesson in pain and anger to strengthen the dark side in him. Vader is left completely broken and told he must survive using his own strength to get back into the Emperor’s good graces, but he is forbidden to use the force. I’ve never seen Vader like this.
Pak does a brillant job showing us the inner workings and turmoil of Vader. Star Wars – Darth Vader uses flashbacks to powerful effect. Artist Raffaele Ienco demonstrates what Scott McCloud calls the invisible art beautifully. The imagery and repetition of Vader seeing Luke fall over and over—or is it Padmé—or is Anakin—captures the core of Vader’s psyche. I highly recommend these two volumes and look forward to more from Pak and Ienco. You can pick up volume 1 here.