Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Charles Soule
Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Publication Date – 11 September 2018
I have previously reviewed the second volume of this series here:
The creative team behind the amazing Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith series return with their third volume, The Burning Seas, which continues to follow the early adventures of one of fiction’s greatest villains, Darth Vader. This third volume contains issues #13-18 of what has to be one of my favourite current ongoing series.
This new volume is set one year after the formation of the Empire, and the Emperor is determined to show off the full military power he now commands. To that end, he dispatches Vader to the aquatic planet of Mon Cala, which has been resisting attempts to be completely incorporated into the growing Empire, and whose King appears to be receiving advice from a Jedi. However, this will not be Vader’s first journey to Mon Cala. Years ago, during the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker and the Jedi saved the planet from a Separatist invasion and supported the young Mon Calamari king’s ascent to the throne.
Leading a force of his Inquisitors to Mon Cala, Vader attempts to investigate the potential Jedi influencer, but the situation quickly devolves into all-out war. With Governor Wilhuff Tarkin leading the Imperial invasion, Vader and his forces attempt to locate the Jedi behind the unfolding events. How will Vader’s return impact the planet of Mon Cala, and what events will the mysterious Jedi’s actions have for the future of the galaxy?
In additional adventures, Governor Tarkin finds himself in the unenviable position of owing Darth Vader a favour. Vader’s request is a hunt with a twist: the hunter will be Tarkin, while the hunted will be Vader himself. Bored by a lack of challenges, Vader has tasked Tarkin to provide him with some worthy competition. Will Tarkin earn Vader’s respect, or will he and his team of mercenaries be the next victims of Vader’s rage? In addition, Vader has been tasked to investigate sabotage around the construction of the Death Star on Geonosis. As Vader encounters the creators of the Death Star, Commander Krenik and Galen Erso, he uncovers not only the saboteurs but also the full potential of the Death Star and the impact it could have on Vader’s position.
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith returns with another fantastic and captivating volume that not only furthers the adventures of Darth Vader but also ties the series into the wider Star Wars universe while fleshing out backstories and lore not explored in the movies. In this volume alone several minor characters’ pasts are shown, the history between Vader and Tarkin is explored and there is a particular focus on the events leading up to the Rogue One movie. Dedicated Star Wars fans will love that the main story of this volume is set on the planet of Mon Cala and introduces several key Mon Calamari characters. The readers are gifted with new origin stories for Admiral Raddus, who leads the Rebel fleet in Rogue One, and a young Commander Ackbar, famous for the line ‘It’s a trap’, which highlight their early abilities and show why they were so determined to fight the Empire. Fans of the Clone Wars television show also get an intriguing conclusion to the three-part Water War arc of the show’s fourth season. During this television arc, Anakin Skywalker and his allies helped save the planet from an invasion and helped the young Mon Calamari King Lee-Char ascend to the throne. Now, in a reversal of this arc, Vader returns as an invader and his main target is the Mon Calamari king he once protected with his life. It is a compelling switch that creates some terrific drama and emotion during this comic book arc. Surprisingly enough, there is also a focus on the Mon Calamari cruisers, the large imposing ships that become a fixture of Rebel Alliance and the subsequent Resistance. Several of the plans underway involve the future of these ships, and the twisted priorities of a Jedi regarding them are quite chilling to behold. In addition to the main story of this volume, one of the issues is heavily involved in the construction of the Death Star. As a result, Vader interacts with several characters who feature in the Rogue One movie, and the creative team are able to suggest he had a lot more to do with the events of Rogue One than shown in the movie. This issue also sees Vader return to Geonosis, the main setting for the latter half of the Attack of the Clones movie, and it is very cool to see him return to this important location in his previous life.
On top of the above insertions into the Star Wars universe, the creative team also spend a significant amount of time in this volume exploring the relationship between Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. When both characters are introduced in A New Hope, Tarkin always appeared to be in command of Vader and appeared to be someone that Vader respected. It was an unusual relationship, considering Vader’s personality and his role as the Emperor’s apprentice. This volume creates a fascinating new narrative that shows when Tarkin was put in charge and why Vader allowed it to happen. This is first shown during the main story of this volume, when Governor Tarkin, who is leading the invasion of Mon Cala, requests Vader’s assistance to end the war quickly. Vader is shown in these issues to independent from Tarkin, who still shows the ability to get what he wants from Vader, even if it may cost him down the line. The creative team spend a good amount of time during the four issues that focus on the invasion of Mon Cala highlighting Tarkin’s tactical ability and ruthlessness, reminding the reader what a great villain Tarkin is in his own right.
The rivalry between Vader and Tarkin comes to a head in the sixth issue of this volume, when the two of them hunt each other on a wild planet. This is one of my favourite stories in the whole Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith series so far, as the two Imperial heavyweights go head to head in a true battle of the villains. This issue does an amazing job of highlighting the attributes of both characters. Tarkin’s cunning, intelligence and determination to win are in full display, while Vader is shown to be not only a destructive force but also a creative opponent who is able to surprise even Tarkin. The conclusion of this story is very clever and helps define the relationship these two characters have in the movie. The final issue of this volume finds Vader officially under Tarkin’s command, but shows that Vader is not as subservient as Tarkin would wish. The main focus of their rivalry in this volume is the Death Star, especially as Tarkin is convinced that his creation will make Vader obsolete. Soule laces some suggestions during this final issue that many readers will find extremely intriguing and puts a whole new light on Vader and Tarkin’s relationship, especially in the final exchange between the two, where Vader presents a prediction to Tarkin: ‘If you invest too much of yourself in this battle station – – it may end up your tomb.’ The exploration of the relationship between these two dynamic and iconic Star Wars villains is an exceptional part of this new addition to the fantastic series and a really cool feature for Star Wars fans.
For the first time in this series, the creative team tackle a large-scale Star Wars battle as the forces of the Empire attempt to invade or subdue the entire planet of Mon Cala. The battle sequences that are produced are breathtaking in their scope and execution, as the reader is treated to land battles, space fights, orbital bombardments, battles above, below and on the planet’s ocean surface and even a weaponised tidal wave which sweeps away masses of Imperial forces. The artwork of these battle scenes is really exceptional; especially the sequences set underwater, which offers an unique scenery backdrop not typically seen in other Star Wars comics. The creative team do a fantastic job showcasing the massive military capacities of the Empire and the pure devastation their newly created military machine can do. I also loved the clever and very entertaining way that the rogue Jedi Ferren Barr manages to use certain Imperial forces against Vader’s Inquisitors, in what has to be one of best examples of karma in the entire history of Star Wars.
As they have in the previous volumes, the creative team behind the Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith series go out of their way to showcase how much of a badass their titular character can be. In addition to the issue in which he powers through all that Tarkin can throw at him, Vader spends the rest of this volume cutting through opponents like they are nothing, including hordes of Mon Calamari and Geonosians. In addition to these fairly standard actions (standard, that is, for an all-powerful Sith Lord), Vader does some other extraordinary actions, whether it’s surviving explosive rock falls, attempting and nearly succeeding to push back a tidal wave, surviving at the bottom of the ocean and then subsequently taming and eventually killing a massive sea monster he encounters there using only the force, Vader appears like an absolute boss. He also has a fun reaction when his Inquisitors abandon their mission and attempt to save him from the bottom of an ocean, instead of being grateful, he calls them fools and makes it very clear that ‘I never need…RESCUE’. It is again captivating to watch how far Vader continues to move further and further away from the Jedi way, as even at the start of this series he had the potential to come back from the dark side. However, his actions in this book, such as the utter destruction of something significant and good that he previously created, re-imagining his previous battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi with devastating new details, and his slaughter of a whole brood of Geonosians that he compares to animals just like he previously did with the Tusken Raiders in Attack of the Clones, once again show how far he has fallen. I must also highlight the great artwork in this series when it comes to Vader. Not only are his exploits shown in full and exquisite detail but the artwork presents him in such a sinister light in every single scene he is in. This is another masterful portrayal of an exceptional fiction villain.
The third volume of the Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, The Burning Seas, is another outstanding addition to one of this year’s most consistent and entertaining comic book series. This specific volume features massive and intense battles, an intense fight for supremacy between Vader and the ruthless Tarkin, and the continued outrageous and destructive adventures of one of the greatest villains of all time. This entire run of Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith is definitely worth getting into, and The Burning Seas is easily the best volume of this entire series so far. A must read that comes highly recommended.