Darth Vader, a hero of the Galactic Republic, turned enforcer of the dictatorial Galactic Empire, is a man in pain. After painfully witnessing the full power of Sith Master Emperor Palpatine on the secret planet Exegol, the former Anakin Skywalker turns his hate elsewhere: to his son Luke Skywalker and his friends (particularly Han Solo). In “Star Wars: Darth Vader no.12,” as he recovers from his wounds, Vader reminisces about a fateful encounter with Han Solo!
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
When it comes to Darth Vader, there is no other villain I could think of who went through trauma more than the Sith Lord himself. Born a slave on the desert planet Tatooine, the former Anakin Skywalker did not have much of a childhood as he would work to free himself and his mother, Shimi Skywalker, from the clutches of slavery.
Even after he was freed, he had to leave his mother behind as he pursued his Jedi studies. The death of the man who helped free him, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, would be the first time he experienced a death of a loved one. As he got older and grew to be a more powerful Jedi, he would also experience more trauma when he returned to Tatooine, only to have his mother die in his arms. After his transformation to Darth Vader, Anakin’s most traumatic memory was realizing that he was responsible for the death of his wife, Padme Amidala.
As Darth Vader, it’s clear that Anakin understands he cannot deny the trauma he experienced. All of that trauma made him into Darth Vader, a completely different person from the heroic Jedi he once was. Some fans argue that Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are two different people in the same body. I felt that George Lucas did a brilliant swerve by not having anyone except Mark Hamil and James Earl Jones know that Vader was Luke’s father. And many creators have used Vader’s dichotomy for their characters (whether good or bad). Several characters that come to mind are: The Flash’s” Caitlin Snow and Killer Frost, Bruce Banner and the Hulk, Jason Blood and the Demon, to name a few.
I felt that Greg Pak made Darth Vader a man who is very reflective of his trauma. The Sith Lord uses that trauma to channel his hatred towards Luke and his friends. In the last issue, Vader was running on spare droid parts as he rebelled against the Emperor until he surrendered to his master. We can see that the Emperor does not want Vader to go toe-to-toe with him. Vader had witnessed the Emperor’s true power and his plans, which involve the Final Order (as seen in “The Rise Of Skywalker). The Emperor wants to keep the former Anakin Skywalker in check since he already knows that Vader may very well betray him (which he does in “The Return of the Jedi). The Emperor sends Vader back to the Imperial capital of Coruscant to restore his mechanical yet fragile apprentice. As the medical droids begin to restore Vader, the Sith Lord reflects on his first meeting with Han Solo. He is (painfully) converted to complete machine form after his ordeal with the Emperor on Exegol.
In the flashback, Vader, with his crimson-colored lightsaber blade ignited, encounters Han Solo on the latter’s home planet of Corellia. Still, the Corellian narrowly escapes by hiding the Millennium Falcon in a dock full of YT-1300 freighters that look identical to the iconic ship.
This does not deter the Dark Lord of the Sith as he searches for the Millennium Falcon owner and eventually learns of Han’s identity and his previous life as a smuggler from the mean streets of Coronet. I felt that this was Greg Pak’s way of creating a bridge between the film “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and the original “Star Wars” trilogy. It invokes a twisted and funny irony for the fact little does Vader know, this former Corellian scumrat he has been chasing will be his future son-in-law.
But humor aside, this is how Vader can track down the Millennium Falcon in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” with help from Boba Fett. And that was how he was able to find Han Solo and have him encased in carbonite and shipped to Jabba the Hutt. This was a brilliant plan by Vader used to lure his son and capture him to turn him to the Dark Side.
I feel that Vader implied that Han was a pawn to get to him and rubbed that in Luke’s face. We also see this when a fully restored Darth Vader, along with Ochi of Bestoon, Palpatine’s Sith assassin, travels to a planet in the Outer Rim as they demand Bokku the Hutt to get the carbonite frozen Solo.
My theory is that if Vader were to get his hands on Han Solo, he knows that Luke would stop at nothing to save his friend and bring along his other friends. This would be the perfect opportunity for Vader to turn Luke to the Dark Side and have him rule by his side as father and son while they betray the Emperor.
The art done by Guiu Vilanova and Dean White (with Giada Marchisio) was parallel with Vader’s trauma. The art showed us Darth Vader, as we have never seen him before. We see Vader on a surgical table (like he was in “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” ) being operated on. What was so astounding about this scene was that Vader refused to be shut down by the medical droid so that he could feel his pain and let his son feel it. We see Vader screaming in pain as the droid goes to work on him, invoking flashbacks to Vader cutting off Luke’s hand and getting his new prosthetic. We also experience a pivotal flashback scene of Vader
getting ambushed by Han while he was chasing Luke on the first Death Star during the Battle of Yavin.
Another scene that warrants praise was Vader’s first encounter with Han and the fear on the usually confident Han Solo’s face. When I saw this scene in the comic, I thought about their second encounter in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Solo tries shooting down Vader with his blaster. In the comic, Han or Chewie tries shooting down the Sith with the Falcon’s quad-laser guns, which Vader easily deflects with his lightsaber. I wondered why Han bothered firing his gun at Vader when he knew even his ship’s trusty quad-lasers would not stop him. The heat of the moment of wanting to protect Princess Leia? Maybe.
Now that Vader wants Solo for himself, will he succeed? And if he does, will Luke go for the bait yet again as he did in “The Empire Strikes Back” now that the “War of the Bounty Hunters” is officially underway?
“Star Wars: Darth Vader no. 12” is available at your local comic book shop or wherever comic books are sold.
Synopsis: Prelude to the “War of the Bounty Hunters:” “Restoration” Returned to the fold after his rebellion against the Emperor, Darth Vader faces the horrors of reconstruction in the secret laboratories of Coruscant. As he blacks out under the knife, does he still dream of revenge against his master? Or do his thoughts drift towards his son – and the friends who make Luke Skywalker so vulnerable? Don’t miss this next critical new chapter in Vader’s ongoing evolution-featuring the revelation of the first time the Dark Lord learned the name, Han Solo!
- Writer: Greg Pal
- Artist: Guiu Vilanova
- Colorist: Dean White with Giada Marchisio
- Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
- Publisher: Marvel