Darth Vader #12, Rule of Five Part II Review

by Dennis Keithly

Darth Vader establishes exactly what the “Rule of Five” is in Darth Vader #12.

This review contains plot details for Darth Vader #12 – The Rule of Five Part II.

Darth Vader #12 Rule of Five Part II Review

Darth Vader #12 – The Rule of Five Part II

Writer: Charles Soule | Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli | Inks: Danielee Orlandini | Colorist: David Curiel | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Francesco Mattina | Assistant Editor: Heather Antos | Editor: Jordan B. White

Darth Vader’s purge of the Jedi from the galaxy ran into an interesting obstacle in Darth Vader #11. In the company of the Ninth Sister, Vader investigated a report of a Jedi only to find he was the target of a bounty that originated at the highest levels of the Empire. In Darth Vader #12 – Rule of Five Part II, Darth Vader returns to Coruscant to investigate the source and meaning behind the bounty. Along the way, Vader further develops as a Sith Lord and stakes his territory in the Empire.

A New Lightsaber

Several issues ago, Vader captured and bled his Kyber crystal from Master Infil’a. In the previous issue, the Chas, a family of bounty hunters, destroyed Infila’s hilt, which Vader took with him and wielded after destroying the Jedi Master. A Kyber crystal is not much use to a Jedi or Sith with a saber, and therefore, Vader constructs a new lightsaber to house his crystal. The result is the hilt that Darth Vader is most often associated with. In addition, this design pleases the Emperor, whom felt the last hilt did not suit Vader.

Clues to the Mystery

As mentioned earlier, the Chas traced the signal for the bounty on Vader back to the Senatorial district on Coruscant. This opened the possibility, and Darth Vader #11 strongly suggested, that the Emperor himself put the bounty on Vader’s life. There is a time and place for misdirection and acting from the shadows. It is part of how the Sith confront each other. However, this is not one of those times. Vader has his droid assistant, at home in the sleek starship Vader inherited from the Emperor in Darth Vader #1, list for him those individuals with access sufficient to order the bounty from there. Translated from Aurabesh, that list reads: Corin Ferro, Wilhuff Tarkin, Jer Croteau, Casio Tagge, Joon Strephi, Tomas Azoras, and Zorta Cingaw.

Wilhuff Tarkin and Casio Tagge need no introduction. They were made famous aboard the Death Star in A New Hope. Tarkin further starred in Rogue One, and Tagge was an important part of the cast of the first volume of Darth Vader comics. The other three individuals are unknowns.

The mystery grows a little deeper when Vader arrives at Coruscant and the planet’s defenses open fire on his ship. Unsatisfied with the Ninth Sister’s piloting abilities, Vader takes over control of the ship and exhibits some of the flying that made Anakin famous. He eventually crash lands the ship and declares enough is enough. It is time to address the issue with Palpatine.

Later still, a couple of people discuss Vader’s rising power in a booth at a cantina. Each of them wears a disguise, but they appear human. They note a couple of things. First, nobody knows who Vader is. Second, nobody understands his relationship to the Emperor. Third, they resent Vader’s power. They feel it is unearned.

Darth Vader #12 The Rule of Five Part II - Vader the Pilot

A Teacher, Not a Tester

Vader’s confrontation goes well all things considered. First, the Emperor approves of the new lightsaber. Second, in response to Vader’s suggestion that Palpatine might have sent the bounty hunter after him, the Emperor remarks that he doesn’t employ such tests. He teaches. The role of the Sith Master is to learn all worth knowing and pass that on to his apprentice. It is incumbent upon the apprentice to learn and eventually seize the mantle of Master or fail in the process. That is the only test there is.

In addition, Palpatine informs Vader that he won’t do anything about it. In fact, Vader’s position will only bring more assassins, and to Palpatine, that is a boon. As such a target, he’ll never lack for enemies to destroy. While sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the Sith and Jedi, this is not one of those times.

Vader’s Resolution

In Darth Vader #8, the Emperor cautioned Vader about destroying all those that fail him. After all, the Emperor didn’t want to rule a galaxy of dead things. While the conspirators plan their next move in the cantina, Vader meditates. During his meditation, the audience sees images of a floating figure above a dark ocean with a sky tormented by lightning. The figure is depicted as a black swirling mass except for the limbs, which are portrayed as white light. This is undoubtedly Anakin as either he appears to himself or in some sort of Force limbo as he meditates. White mites flit about him as he contemplates his predicament (the good left in Anakin perhaps?). The limbs are undoubtedly white because Anakin no longer has them and they are not part of Darth Vader. Suddenly, he remembers the officer he strangled that lead to the Emperor’s reprimand in issue #8.

Vader addresses his solution to the Emperor, whom approves. Although he isn’t certain who among the elite made the attempt on his life, he knows it was someone among their number. Therefore, he creates the Rule of Five. After an introduction by the Emperor as to Vader’s place in the hierarchy of the Empire, Vader explains his rule: he will always survive the attempts on his life, but in response to any such anonymous attempt, he’ll randomly eliminate five officers. This time he kills Ferro, Bingan, Strephi, Azoras, and Barokki.

Darth Vader #12 The Rule of Five Part II - Vader and the Emperor

The Art of Darth Vader #12 – The Rule of Five Part II

Any review of Darth Vader #12 – The Rule of Five Part II would be remiss if the art was not mentioned. Once again, Giuseppe Camuncoli provides the pencil work while Daniele Orlandini contributes with inks and David Curiel is on colors. Their work combined provides some of the best art to date in this series. Vader is fierce and intimidating. Plus, the image where Vader ignites his new lightsaber is simply superb.

A Callback to Lando

As he frequently does, Charles Soule added at least one Easter egg in this issue. In the last issue, Soule included the Cha family. Chanath Cha first appeared in Lando #2, which was also written by Soule. In Darth Vader #12 – The Rule of Five Part II, a certain helmet makes an appearance. When Vader confronts the Emperor over the bounty placed on his head, Palpatine is admiring a helmet from the Jedi archives. This helmet first appeared in Lando #3. Seemingly imbued with dark side power, it played a pivotal role in the Lando miniseries.

Final Thoughts on Darth Vader #12 – The Rule of Five Part II

Soule’s story is masterful. After addressing the elite of the Empire, Darth Vader meditates once again. The floating black figure, unmollified by the reprisal visited upon the Imperial officers, still inhabits his hellscape of a roiling ocean struck by lightning. This time though, Vader does not suffer the light motes and summons black tendrils of dark Force energy that smite them. The light and the good that Padmé knew was in Anakin on her death bed seems to have taken a hit.

This second volume of Darth Vader tells two stories. The first is Vader’s training and education as a Sith. It began with acquiring his lightsaber. It continues with the lessons Darth Sidious teaches him about his place in the Sith hierarchy. Part of this story is Anakin’s reflection upon himself and his fall. With each issue, he embraces his hatred for Sidious, himself, the Empire, and all those that oppose him more. He grows more powerful and hates more. The Ninth Sister remarked in issue #11 that Vader desperately wants to die. Perhaps he does. It is the only release he sees from his torment. Yet, he will not allow himself that release. He hates himself too much for that.

Darth Vader #12 – The Rule of Five Part II highlights the other story of this series. Vader is still an unknown in the galaxy. The Emperor has not openly endorsed him. That changes here. Vader makes a potent introduction by exterminating rivals. However, a couple images of the hand of one officer reveals he missed his mark when it came to one of the assassins (look at the fingers in the cantina).

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