Darth Vader #13 – The Burning Seas Part I Review

by Dennis Keithly

Darth Vader carries on business from the Clone Wars in Darth Vader #13.

This review contains plot details for Darth Vader #13 – Burning Seas Part I.

Darth Vader #13 - The Burning Seas Part I - Cover

Darth Vader #13 – Burning Seas Part I

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

At long last, Darth Vader is a known entity in the hierarchy of the Empire. When “The Rule of Five” story arc concluded in Darth Vader #12, the Emperor introduced the Sith Lord to the Imperial commanders. Now, with that out of the way, Darth Vader is truly prepared to conduct the Empire’s business. That is exactly what he does in Darth Vader #13 – Burning Seas Part I. The Emperor has new objectives for the Empire. First and foremost is disabusing the galaxy that there is a democracy. To that end, Mon Cala will “serve well as an example [of] the price of defiance.” However, there is another issue: the influence of the Jedi is felt on Mon Cala, and while Vader might not serve as a general, he has the skills and drive to root out any Jedi presence on Mon Cala. Charles Soule blended elements from a variety of Star Wars sources and created an incredible Star Wars story in Darth Vader #13 – Burning Seas Part I.

Living in the Past

Issues eleven and twelve of Darth Vader demonstrated how much time Vader spends in meditation and dwelling on his past and his self-loathing. Vader lives inside his own head a great deal of the time when not actively pursuing the objectives of the Emperor. This is true in Darth Vader #13 – Burning Seas Part I as well. The opening four pages feature Vader’s meditations on his climactic duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi at the end of Revenge of the Sith. However, this time there is a difference. Vader is already encased in his ebony armor. When Kenobi pleads with Anakin not to make his fateful attack because he has the high ground, Vader responds differently. He summons a spout of lava with the Force. Vader then chokes and throws him with the Force and it is Obi-Wan consumed by fire from the lava lake.

Vader’s reaction should strike a nerve with many readers. Who hasn’t contemplated how they would have handled a major life event differently with the benefit of hindsight? Typically, most people reflect on life’s major events and contemplate a different word choice in an argument, or perhaps, a different action in a sporting event or physical confrontation. Darth Vader’s situation is far more drastic. Among all the beings in the galaxy, Vader hates Obi-Wan and himself above nearly all others. He is stuck in this moment, and he won’t get a chance at revenge on Obi-Wan for nearly twenty years aboard the Death Star during A New Hope.

Darth Vader #13 - The Burning Seas Part I - Vader dons his helmet

State of the Galaxy

Having subdued the Imperial hierarchy in the prior story arc, Vader’s attention is directed to political matters by the Emperor. The Emperor wants to demonstrate Imperial might – his might. Mon Cala presents the best target for a demonstration. Interestingly, the Emperor hasn’t chosen Alderaan. Of course that is the target on which Tarkin chose to demonstrate the power of the Death Star, and the Empire for that matter, during A New Hope. Then, as now, the Empire sought an opportunity to prove the futility of resistance.

Speaking of the Death Star, it receives a casual reference during the Emperor’s conversation with Vader. When the Emperor tells Vader Mon Cala will serve as an example of the “price of defiance,” Vader assumes “the station” is ready. It is not, and the Emperor explains that Krennic and his scientists have not achieved operational status with the primary weapon yet. Krennic is naturally familiar to Star Wars fans for his key role in the development of the Death Star in Rogue One.

Regardless, from this conversation, readers may glean that the worlds of the Empire still cling to some sense of democracy and self-determination in the year following the birth of the Empire. The Emperor cares little for that impression, and wants it stomped out.

Subduing Mon Cala

Vader offers to lead a military maneuver against Mon Cala, but notes he is no longer a general. The Emperor agrees and explains that another is control of the military aspects of the operation – Governor Tarkin. Vader’s mission lies with the Inquisitorious. They will seek out any Jedi influence on Mon Cala and destroy it. Soule deftly avoids a conflict with James Luceno’s novel, Tarkin, by having Vader’s shuttle simply fly by Tarkin’s Star Destroy with nary a word spoken between the two. Tarkin knows who is on the shuttle and what it means.

Tarkin proves he is more than just a Moff destined to conquer the galaxy through might. A military solution to the Mon Cala issue is the last option he wants. Instead, Tarkin would rather employ diplomacy, propaganda, and other methods first. Tarkin recognizes the value of subduing a world through means other than military. After all, Mon Cala is more valuable to the Empire as a source for resources than a wasteland.

Meanwhile, on Mon Cala, the Imperial diplomat attempts negotiations with the King Lee-Char. If he seems familiar, he was introduced to Star Wars audiences durin The Clone Wars. He is aided by Raddus, the admiral introduced during Rogue One. An issue is the Empire’s demand that Mon Cala sell all Kelpite production at a fraction of its worth on the open market. The negotiations go nowhere, and eventually the ambassador is killed when his shuttle explodes, and this gives Vader all the excuse he needs to bypass Commander Ackbar and the Mon Cala guard to conduct his investigation.

King Lee-Char’s appearance is remarkable considering that the main Star Wars title is also visiting Mon Cala. In Star Wars #44, Princess Leia made an unsuccessful recruiting visit to Mon Cala. One of the issues there was that Mon Cala was under Imperial rule and the King under Imperial arrest. These two series occur nearly 20 years apart. It seems likely this series portrays the events leading to King Lee-Char’s arrest.

Darth Vader #13 - The Burning Seas Part I - Tarkin and Staff

Jedi Business

The Emperor and Darth Vader believe a Jedi has found refuge on Mon Cala, and furthermore, that Jedi is assisting the King. Therefore, Darth Vader brings the Inquisitorius to Mon Cala. Commander Ackbar stands in their way with assurances that there are no enemies of the Empire on the planet. Then the Ambassador’s shuttle explodes and renders his argument moot.

In addition, there actually is an enemy of the Empire on Mon Cala in the form of the very Jedi that Vader and the Emperor suspect. As Tarkin prepares to unleash “new” Imperial fighters (TIE fighters), AT-DP walkers (from Rebels), and assault transports (from Attack of the Clones), Vader storms past Ackbar to begin his investigation.

Meanwhile, the Jedi hides in a cavern and receives communications about the Imperial activity. He seems unconcerned by the movement by the Empire and assures the Mon Calamarians they can handle it. In response to the news of the Inquisitorius, he says he knows who the dark armored figure is: Skywalker.

In an issue full of intriguing revelations and developments, this may be the most intriguing of all. The Jedi’s identity is a mystery. The race, age, and sex of the Jedi are all hidden by the Jedi’s robes. The only clue left for readers is the Jedi’s knowledge that the he knows Vader is Skywalker. Yoda and Obi-Wan are the only two Jedi confirmed by Revenge of the Sith to know Vader’s identity. It seems unlikely this is either of them. There is the possibility of Ahsoka, but the figure under the robes discounts that possibility. As for Kanan Jarrus, this is too early for him, and he was a kid that took up a career as a scoundrel after the Clone Wars. Darth Vader #7 revealed that numerous Jedi survived Order 66, perhaps it is one of them, and potentially one of those named on the view screen: Kayce Beradun or Quinlan Vos.

Darth Vader #13 - The Burning Seas Part I - Raddus and King Lee-Char

Concluding Thoughts on Darth Vader #13 – The Burning Seas Part I

Darth Vader #13 – The Burning Seas Part I is another masterwork of writing by Charles Soule. He demonstrated a mastery of Star Wars storytelling and history by expertly combining elements from nearly all phases of Star Wars in this story. Vader is intimidating and his power pulses right off the page thanks to the artistic talents of Guiseppe Camuncoli, Daniele Orlandini, and David Curiel. Guiseppe’s fine work only continues to raise the bar with each passing issue of Darth Vader.

These stories continue creating an intriguing history of the Sith and the early days of the Empire as the chronology marches on to A New Hope. Furthermore, Soule makes Vader’s inner anger and self-directed animosity concrete with each passing issue as Vader meditates on the dark side of the Force, his past, and his current place in the galaxy.

One final thought: Marvel appears to tell a unique story between Darth Vader and Star Wars. This issue begins the story of how the Empire tamed Mon Cala. Consecutively, Marvel and Kieron Gillen are teasing the conclusion of Mon Cala’s oppression in the pages of Star Wars. No official announcement about this has been made, but the stories seem way to integrated to be a coincidence.

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