In Darth Vader #20, the Emperor reveals all and Thanoth reveals a secret.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Darth Vader #20.
Darth Vader #20
Writer: Kieron Gillen | Artist: Salvador Larroca | Colorist: Edgar Delgado | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Darth Vader #20 is a transitional issue. Transitional issues frequently suffer from pacing and plot issues, but this issue is an exception. The previous story arc is wrapped up while the next story arc is established. Although light on action, this issue is not light on impact. The war on Shu-Torun has been concluded. In the previous issue, the Emperor summoned Darth Vader back to Coruscant with the promise to explain everything that has transpired. In route, Darth Vader received a message from Inspector Thanoth. The Inspector revealed that he had knowledge of the whereabouts of Darth Vader’s minion, Dr. Aphra. Considering this was supposed to be a secret that Vader had gone to great lengths to protect, this was a rather alarming development. Vader returns and handles both meetings giving priority to the Emperor.
First, the Emperor reveals his grand scheme to Darth Vader. Palpatine gives Vader a grand speech that recites the history of the Sith. As many Star Wars fans know, a “Rule of Two” was put in place by the Sith to resolve the issue of infighting among the Sith. In their quest for power, the Sith not only fought the Jedi over the centuries, but each other as well. Once the Rule of Two was established, the Sith went into hiding and slowly consolidated their power. The Sith’s plan culminated with Darth Sidious, who once again conquered the galaxy on behalf of the Sith. However, Sidious tells Vader that the fate of the Empire relied on Darth Vader’s survival.
Therefore, the Empire was put in jeopardy when Vader was defeated by Obi-Wan on Mustafar. As has been hinted at in previous issues, Cylo was instrumental in saving Darth Vader’s life after his defeat. With Vader’s rescue from the brink of death, the future of the Empire was saved. Fresh off his success with Vader’s body, Cylo promised the Emperor that he could create servants that could surpass anything that came before. Intrigued, Palpatine permitted him to experiment. Vader recognizes the Emperor’s mistake in doing so. Cylo became powerful, and in so doing, he became difficult to remove, which the Emperor freely admits.
The destruction of the Death Star provided the Emperor with a possibility though. The Emperor shared his dissatisfaction with Vader’s failure, and allowed Cylo to create minions that could challenge and possibly replace Vader. The Emperor professes that he had the foresight to see that Cylo would go too far and he would betray the Empire. Only then could he safely be purged from the Imperial hierarchy. When asked if Vader understood, Vader replies in the affirmative. If he had not been successful in his competition with Cylo’s minions, the Emperor would be making a similar speech to one of “Cylo’s toys.”
It’s time for admission: as interesting as Cylo’s minions could be, they had begun to grow tiresome. They simply didn’t seem to fit the Emperor’s style. They have been revealed to be a means to an end, and now they are the enemies of the Empire, and Vader has been tasked with destroying them and Cylo outright. This is a satisfying outcome to this ongoing plot line. It will be interesting to see Cylo’s surviving henchmen will attempt to collaborate in effort to defeat Vader. Also, does Cylo have any tricks up his sleeves where is Vader is concerned? He helped create Vader’s cybernetics. One must presume that he knows their weaknesses. Perhaps he has installed some trap that he can exploit. The conflict should be interesting.
Vader’s meeting with Palpatine also suggest that Palpatine may not be a secure in his relationship with Vader as previously thought. The Emperor makes a point to exaggerate how successful and powerful he has become over the years. At the same time, he attempts to placate his apprentice by assuring him of his importance in outing Cylo as a traitor and to the future of the Empire and the Sith. However, does one detect a note of fear in Palpatine’s explanation? It seems as though the Emperor is beginning to realize his apprentice is catching up to him. Does the Emperor believe they are close to equal footing in terms of their powers? Was the entire scheme with Cylo an attempt to dispose of Vader using the very same shortcoming of the ancient Sith – namely that the weak would band together to defeat the strong? If Cylo’s minions could collaborate long enough to defeat Vader in the belief that one of them would replace the Dark Lord, then Vader could be removed and a younger, less experienced apprentice could be found. That plan, if it was the plan, failed. Therefore, the Emperor has moved on and is now postponing the inevitable confrontation between master and apprentice by explaining how important Vader is to the future, not the present. Their meeting concludes with Vader leaving to seek out and destroy Cylo.
However, Vader’s meeting with the Emperor is not the only business he must attend to. Inspector Thanoth revealed to Vader at the conclusion of the prior novel that he was on to Vader’s past schemes with Dr. Aphra. Whether this was a clever post hoc development or Gillen had always intended for Thanoth to come to this, the story telling is clever and brilliant. Thanoth was not so easily fooled in his prior dealings with Vader. As is revealed, he realized that the events that allowed for Dr. Aphra’s escape were entirely too convenient. He chased down the leads and determined that Vader was her benefactor. Furthermore, in doing so, he discovered that Darth Vader was searching for Luke Skywalker. Surprisingly, this does not bother him. The “why not” is even more interesting.
Thanoth is loyal to the Empire, but not necessarily the Emperor. As he puts it, the Emperor has grown weak, and he is only a man. Thanoth believes in the “Eternal Empire.” The Eternal Empire needs a strong leader, and that leader, in Thanoth’s view, is Darth Vader. Therefore, Thanoth is only too happy to reveal Aphra’s whereabouts. He decided to do so in person, and his reasoning is sound. He could have delivered this news courtesy of an anonymous message. But, what would that get him? A lifetime of looking over his shoulder. He knows his life is forfeit as soon as he reveals Aphra’s location. Therefore, there is no added danger in revealing his knowledge of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s plan. There is one more surprise though. He knows Vader’s identity as Anakin. Upon stating his pleasure working with “Anakin,” Vader slays him. It could be no other way.
Gillen’s plot for Thanoth was simply brilliant. Thanoth had been presented as a “Sherlock Holmes” of the Empire. He saw the clues others missed. He deduced the truth where others were blind. And yet, all those issues ago, he appeared to have been fooled by Vader’s ad hoc scheme. The result was that Thanoth looked foolish. Darth Vader #20 redeems him and redefines him. He becomes worth of the Sherlock Holmes comparison.
The remainder of the issue focuses on the droids. Vader dispatches Triple Zero and BT-1 to the Cosmatanic Steps to retrieve Dr. Aphra while he handles the situation with Cylo. If the droids cannot bring Dr. Aphra back, then their orders are to execute her. There is a side story attached to the end of the issue in which Triple-Zero and BT-1 seek out an old associate of Dr. Aphra’s to acquire repairs and upgrades. The purpose of the story is to provide the history of the Triple-Zero Matrix. However, the story in and of itself does not seem to be essential to the overall story.
It has been announced that the Darth Vader series will conclude with issue twenty-five. Gillen has stated that the purpose of this story has been to see how Vader redeems himself and regains his position at the Emperor’s side. That story is nearing its conclusion, and therefore, the story of this series is nearly over. It will be disappointing to see this series go. However, Darth Vader #20 has set up the remaining five issues well. There is the potential for a lot of secrets concerning Vader to be revealed.
Darth Vader #20 Favorite Panel:
As mentioned earlier, Darth Vader #20 is light on the action. However, what it lacks in action, it makes up for with excellent dialogue and story development. The conversation between Vader and the Emperor was first rate. In fact, Gillen has written, and Larroca has illustrated, many excellent conversations between these two over the course of this series. I have chosen Vader’s answer to Palpatine as the issue’s favorite panel. It is this moment that Vader starts to reveal to Palpatine that he truly understands how the Sith operate.
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.