Vader and Padmé’s Handmaidens – “Darth Vader” Comics Review

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2020’s “Darth Vader: Darth Heart of the Sith” story is one of the best recently published Star Wars comics. Not only because of the graphic quality, which remains high. “Dark Heart of the Sith” is unique because of its story and lore.

Unlike the majority of recent SW comics, 2020 “Darth Vader”‘s story is actually relevant. It isn’t a self-isolated story about how the protagonist traveled to planet XY and met characters who remain irrelevant outside this particular (equally irrelevant) plot.

No. “Dark Heart of the Sith” is a probe to the mind of post-The Empire Strikes Back Vader/Anakin Skywalker. The part of Vader’s self that has awakened after learning that he has a son. The comic’s writer, Greg Pak (previously the author of Star Wars: Age of Rebellion), really made himself stand out of the crowd the way the story is delivered.

In this aspect, the story is comparable to the final scene of the last episode of TCW or to “Twilight of the Apprentice” in Rebels. Or perhaps to Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn: Alliances. Overall, there are not many such deep excursions into Vader’s mind and reminiscences of the past. And most of them do not deal with the subject that is the chief topic of “Darth Vader”: Padmé.

The Handmaidens’ Tale

“Dark Heart of the Sith” also ties in with E.K. Johnston’s novel “Queen’s Shadow”. Without giving too big spoilers, notably, the comics features several of Padmé’s handmaidens as well as captain Tonra, who was introduced in the book.

The entire story is interlaced with Vader’s recollections of Anakin’s memories. A critical person could complain that these are merely redrawings of scenes from Attack of the Clones, and that they bring no new content. But I would argue that this is not the point. The point is that we see Vader recollecting them, something we have not seen essentially anywhere thus far.

And here I must praise the work of the graphic artists, specifically the penciller Raffaele Ienco and the colorist Neeraj Menon. When Vader visits Padmé’s memorial or remembers Anakin’s history, he experiences emotions – and we can see it. Not an easy feat to depict on a fully armoured character. Yet somehow, with the combination of posture, lighting and other elements, the artists manage to convey this.

“Darth Vader” is being initially published in six volumes, with the last two scheduled for September and October 2020. A complete novel of all six should come out 24th November. Personally, I believe that of everything that is available these days in the world of SW graphic novels, this is worth reading – and doubly so for prequel fans.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.