Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Ibraim Roberson
Colorist: Federico Blee
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Release Date: February 8. 2023
Reviewer: David Dunham
Dormé, Rabé, Saché, and Eirtaé once served Queen Padme on Naboo. Now they help Darth Vader rescue Sabé from rebel leader Jul Tambor. Can these former royal handmaidens free their friend without falling under Vader’s influence? Let’s dive into Star Wars: Darth Vader #31 and find out.
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Plagued by memories of their final meeting on Mustafar, Darth Vader wishes Padmé had helped him overthrow Palpatine and rule the Empire. So on the planet Brentaal, separated from Sabé, Vader strives to win her friends’ loyalty. As he once reasoned with her, he shares his wisdom with them and uses them to battle Jul Tambor’s droid forces. All the while, he argues how much they could accomplish together. Fraught skirmishes lead to an explosive final battle until evil writer Greg Pak leaves the reader on tenterhooks.
All this reminds me of how hard Anakin worked for Padmé to forge the life he wanted in Revenge of the Sith. As Vader argues with her friends, battles Jul Tambor’s forces, and strives to rescue Sabé, I wonder if he now sees her as his life partner. Vader’s determination makes me remember how Palpatine manipulated the Jedi Order and an entire democratic republic into a war that killed billions and still rages on. Had Padmé stood beside him, could he have overthrown Palpatine and forged a government that would prevent events such as the blockade of Naboo in The Phantom Menace and the current rebellion led by Jul Tambor, the grandson of the Techno Union leader Anakin killed on Mustafar?
Sabé’s friends remind me of Luke in Return of the Jedi as they refuse to be swayed by Vader’s arguments. But how can they not doubt their preconceptions when he makes so much sense? Might Sabé–won over by Vader’s arguments–become the partner that Padmé couldn’t? Or has Vader used Jedi mind tricks to make her his puppet? Perhaps regular readers can better answer those questions than I can, having started this series with Star Wars: Darth Vader #31.
Volcanic fire warms Anakin and Padmé’s features as he reasons with her on the planet Mustafar. Her features soften until she melts in his arms. Words encased in a red rectangle within black panels reveal Vader’s heartbreak that their final meeting ended differently. Unlike at the end of Revenge of the Sith, we see Vader rage within his armor as he realizes he has lost Padmé forever. On the planet Brentaal, Vader marches from his shuttle down a verdant hill, the handmaidens and a droid arrayed around him. Hints of pink tinge the cloudy sky to suggest the danger to come. A small building surrounded by speeder bikes reminds us of the much larger Massassi Temple on Yavin 4, from which a smaller fighting force overthrew Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader’s Death Star. Inside, Vader reasons with the women as he once did Padmé. A bald Umbaran–reminiscent of Count Dooku’s apprentice Asajj Ventress from TV’s Clone Wars–aids him. Her gravelly voice echoes off textured metal, angled surfaces, and dark wall areas illumined by glowing instruments. Holograms bring Vader and the Umbaran’s arguments to life.
Explosions transform walls into debris-spewing infernos that reflect their radiance on people and interior surfaces. Blaster fire temporarily illumines the smoky haze of battle and pales before the intensity of Vader’s lightsaber. We often view the four handmaidens in off-angle panels, making us wonder if they can resist Vader’s influence. Jul Tambor’s green skin, bronze armor, and blue clothes and cape reinforce his commanding presence. The rebel leader unleashes panels filled with more dangers and energy than in any scene in Revenge of the Sith. Yet nothing threatens Vader’s power in Star Wars: Darth Vader #31. Everything—his words in black dialogue balloons, his gestures that direct the Force, and every sweep of his lightsaber—emphasizes his overwhelming power and authority.
This issue will test everything you thought you knew about Star Wars. No bad acting, unbelievable special effects, or humorous “Roger rogers” will distract you from Vader’s persuasive arguments or the intense battle sequences. Atmospheric and detailed art visualize this gripping battle of wills that could change the future of the Star Wars universe. Star Wars: Darth Vader #31 reminds us of the allure of leaders who promise to end unfairness and create a better, more equitable world.