Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII

by Dennis Keithly

Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII brings volume two of Darth Vader to a close. Vader assesses the past, confronts his present, and glimpses his future as his path is laid clear.

This review contains plot details for Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII.

Darth Vader #25 - Fortress Vader Part VII - Cover

Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII

Writer: Charles Soule | Breakdowns and Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli | Inks: Cam Smith Finishes: Daniele Orlandini | Colors: David Curiel, Dono Sanchez-Almara, and Erick Arciniega | Letterer: Travis Lanham | Cover Artists: Giuseppe Camuncoli & Elia Bonetti | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia

Volume two of Darth Vader began the moment Vader awoke on the operating table. Fresh from his defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan and baptized by the fires of Mustafar into the ways of the dark side of the Force, Vader leapt from the table and lashed out at his new master, Darth Sidious. His biggest fear, the death of his wife Padmé Amidala, realized, Vader struggles to find his place in the hierarchy of the Empire. The Emperor wasted no time putting Vader in his place. Then, over twenty-five issues, Vader fought to establish himself as a Sith and claim his rightful place by the Emperor’s side. In Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII, Vader crosses into another dimension of the Force, and while he is there, he revisits his past, confronts his present, and glimpses his future. In the end, Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII concludes this series with Vader accepting his fate and taking control of his destiny.

Revisiting the Past

As Fortress Vader Part VII begins, Vader crosses through the portal he constructed with Lord Momin. The crossing is not easy. Vader’s body crumples and falls behind. In its place, Vader wanders through in a spectral form. The flesh parts of his body (his limbs) lost in battle over the years are depicted in white, ghost-like apparition limbs. The core of his body, however, is boiling, seething, and swirling energy. Vader finds himself in the hellscape of his visions when he meditates on the Force.

The first revelation Vader faces was that Darth Sidious played some role in his conception. This theory existed for some time. Palpatine hinted at the possibility in Revenge of the Sith during the opera scene. The details are sketchy here, but the implication is clear. Sidious manipulated the midicholorians and created life. This explains Shmi’s mysterious pregnancy.

Vader then finds himself as the young child Anakin. Very quickly thereafter, a specter of Vader consumes him. From then on, Vader’s force presence returns. It evolves from the young child Anakin and grows into the young man Anakin was before he fell to the dark side. As Anakin wanders through this dimension, he glimpses the key moments of his past. Notably, the memories of his victories and happiest moments are consumed by fire. Winning the Boonta Eva Classic, Padmé’s confession of love for him, and his marriage all vanish in flames. Those were the things that Anakin was. No longer.

Darth Vader #25 - Fortress Vader Part VII - Anakin and Padme

Let the Past Die

The journey across hell eventually takes Anakin to the Jedi Temple. Assembled on the steps are so many of the Jedi that Anakin either disagreed with as a Padawan and Jedi Knight, killed during Order 66, or hunted and killed after becoming Darth Vader. Vader fights them all once again. During the battle, Kylo Ren’s famous line from The Last Jedi slowly plays out across the panels: “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” This is precisely what is happening. If Vader had any ties to the Jedi holding him back, they are all destroyed in this scene.

Vader isn’t finished killing the past then either. He enters the Jedi temple and finds his two father figures waiting for him: Palpatine and Obi-Wan. Borrowing a line that Vader will utter to Luke eventually in The Empire Strikes Back, the text block states “I am your father” with Palpatine and Obi-Wan standing on both sides. The two major influences of Anakin’s life begin a duel to the death with Palpatine gaining the upper hand. However, in this realm, Anakin walks right up to Palpatine and destroys him with Force lightning. In this world, it is the only way Anakin can become what he was meant to be.

In this moment, Vader is like Kylo Ren. The Sith and the Jedi are unimportant. They only stand in his way. All that matters is finding Padmé.

Confronting the Present

Fortress Vader Part VII next brings Anakin to the moment for which he was searching. Vader finds himself as Anakin again. He appears just as he did before he betrayed the Jedi. On the balcony of his palace stands Padmé. Anakin pleads with her to go with him. For a moment, it appears that Vader’s goals and desires in building his fortress were accomplished. Only for a moment though.

This Padmé rejects Vader. She knew Anakin, and Anakin is dead. The message is clear, the man Padmé loved is long gone. Padmé also appears in her funeral dress. The woman Anakin loved is gone as well. She was never really there. This is a dark side apparition. She throws herself over the balcony and is consumed by apparent dark side Force energy. Vader is left screaming “no!” all over again. His voyage has come full circle.

These panels also reflect Padmé’s final message to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. He took a path and went somewhere that she couldn’t follow.

Darth Vader #25 - Fortress Vader Part VII - Spectral Vader vs the Jedi

A Glimpse of the Future

Padmé’s demise in this alternate dimension isn’t the end of Vader’s voyage in Fortress Vader Part VII. In the distance, a shaft of blue light either erupts from the heavens or the surface (the panel is unclear). A silhouette of a familiar looking Jedi emerges. Likely, this is Luke Skywalker. Luke ignites his lightsaber, and Vader is flung out of this dimension by a blast through the Force. He then awakes in his body.

If Momin truly aided Vader in constructing a portal to the dark side of the Force, then this scene has tons of potential for interpretation. Jody Houser’s Age of Republic: Qui-Gon Jinn #1 comes to mind. In that issue, Qui-Gon meditated on the Jedi’s fight against the dark side of the Force. During the fight, the struggle against the dark consumed Qui-Gon, but the light side provided a beacon and a way through the darkness. Soule seems to suggest that Luke is that light side beacon for Vader, even if Vader doesn’t understand this. Or, does he?

Vader’s Communication with Palpatine

When Vader regains consciousness, he summons his lightsaber to his remaining hand and destroys the altar that opens the portal in his fortress. Next, he contacts Palpatine. The Emperor began to fear for Vader’s life and contemplated finding a new apprentice. When Sidious notes Vader’s damaged appearance, he asks if Vader discovered what he sought. Vader terminates the transmission, but still answers the question. It is a simple “yes.” Then the issue ends with Vader standing among the bodies strewn out in front of his fortress.

What did Vader learn in Fortress Vader Part VII? Several potential answers present themselves. First, there is no going back to his former life. Padmé is gone forever. In addition, Anakin is gone. The presence of Padmé declared him dead. This is notable. Vader “killed the past” and the present in order to become what he believed he was meant to be and acquire. He wanted Padmé, but everything he did wasn’t enough. Therefore, the path ahead with Palpatine is all there is for him.

Alternatively, he saw the vision of Luke. Perhaps, he realized there is a way out of his life of servitude to the dark side for him. Also, maybe he doesn’t yet understand what that path is. At this point in his life, Anakin doesn’t know he has a son. The appearance of this figure at the end of Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII should be puzzling. Vader never got a clear look at Luke.

Concluding Thoughts on Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII

Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII is ambiguous. It seems that Soule deliberately wrote it that way. Getting into Vader’s head can’t have been easy. Regardless, the Fortress Vader story arc was a interesting study of Darth Vader. Readers know that even though his quest to reunite with Padmé failed, Vader kept his new fortress. It appears in Rogue One after all. Perhaps it is a reminder of the lesson he learned in this story arc. Or, maybe Vader thinks he still might commune better with the dark side and find another way to Padmé there. That seems unlikely. He destroyed one portal that failed him. His path forward seems clear to him. Given his insistence to Luke that the dark side is powerful, and that they might one day rule the galaxy together, he seems set on this path.

One might wonder if Palpatine understood such a portal on Mustafar was possible. In Rebels, Palpatine attempted to persuade Ezra to open a portal that lead to the “A World Between Worlds.” Perhaps such a portal might have given Anakin what he wanted. Also, Palpatine teased Anakin with the potential of the dark side of the Force to overcome death. The dark side has failed Anakin for the second time. One might wonder if destroying this portal is a strike against Palpatine and his desires.

Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII saw Vader travel through hell in search of his greatest desire. In the end, the adventure failed. Still, Vader learned a lesson. He has seized his destiny and it is his to mold.

Final Thoughts on Darth Vader

Unfortunately, the Darth Vader series concludes with Darth Vader #25 – Fortress Vader Part VII. One might argue that this is the best Star Wars series Marvel has produced to date. Soule’s vision of Vader has been something to behold. Beginning with the “Chosen One” story arc, Soule wrote amazing stories one after the other. Vader’s first Sith lightsaber, the subjugation of Mon Cala, and the establishment of the Inquisitorious all graced the pages of Darth Vader. Giuseppe Camuncoli provided outstanding artwork all along the way. This series will be missed and it leaves a huge hole in Marvel’s publishing schedule for Star Wars comics. Hopefully, Soule will get the opportunity to write Star Wars again soon.

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