The Dark Lord distributes vengeance on all that opposed him in the incredible final episode of the series.
This article covers Darth Vader #25, the final issue of the Darth Vader series, and contains explicit spoilers.
Darth Vader #25
Writer: Kieron Gillen | Artist: Salvador Larroca | Colorist: Edgar Delgado | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover Artist: Juan Gimenez
At the conclusion of issue twenty-four, Darth Vader had neutralized Cylo V and thwarted his attempt to steal the Super Star Destroyer Executor. However, that was not the end of Dr. Cylo. The Emperor’s former ally resurrected himself in another cloned body aboard one of the vessels in his space whale fleet. This issue opens with Darth Vader assaulting that fleet.
Assault on the Space Whale
Before the doctor can escape, Vader assaults Cylo’s fleet. He brushes aside the need for any assistance from the Executor, and then Crashes his Advanced TIE into one of the whale ships. Recognizing the danger he is in, Cylo flees. Although, he is not without a few tricks of his own. The remaining Cylo clones activate and ambush Vader from their cloning chambers. As the fight rages, Cylo brags that he is essentially immortal and taunts Vader. Vader’s response, “That I can kill you repeatedly is your most appealing trait.”
The dialogue in this issue is suberb. Vader condemns Cylo with the line, “I will make you ash…you will fly into the sun.” At first, that appears to be a taunt. Cylo took it as an attempt by Vader to use a mind trick. It was difficult to tell in the panel. However, the next panel reveals what they are standing on: a container above the brain of the space whale they are currently aboard. Vader mind tricks the whale. To Cylo’s horror, the whale does exactly as Vader commands. Vader evacuates from the ship as the whale flies right into a star. Cylo’s attempts to stop the whale are futile and he perishes. Thus, Cylo has finally been killed for good.
The Verdict on Cylo
Cylo was something of a unique villain for Star Wars. Cloners are not unique in the galaxy. The Kaminoans were the first to officially appear in Attack of the Clones. However, Cylo took it a step further. He modified his creations with cybernetics. Again, that isn’t unique. General Grievous is but one example of cyborgs in Star Wars. Lobot would be another. What made Cylo different was that he used cloning to immortalize himself. He could seemingly transfer his essence to new bodies. This sort of thing was done with Emperor Palpatine in the Legends story Dark Empire.
In addition, Cylo attempted to make the Force obsolete. He believed his creations could rival and surpass Force abilities. Somewhat predictably, each one of his creations failed to defeat Vader. Issues twenty-three and twenty-four highlighted that Darth Vader was a cyborg of sorts. In fact, Cylo was revealed to have a hand in creating the Dark Lord’s components. Cylo’s mastery over this aspect of Vader temporarily gave him the upper hand, but it was Vader’s use of the Force, not the cybernetic enhancements and repairs to his body, that brought him victory over Cylo.
Gillen did well in writing Cylo. He was genuinely unlikable. Somehow, Cylo made the villainous Darth Vader into a protagonist. That is saying something considering how ruthless Darth Vader is. It is unlikely that Cylo will make any top ten lists of best Star Wars villains, but he served this story well.
The Dark Lord Rises
After defeating Cylo, Vader returns to the Executor. His first action is to seek an audience with the Emperor. Palpatine reveals that Dr. Aphra has given him a full report. The good Doctor has disclosed Vader’s secret plans to the Emperor. With this knowledge, Palpatine outlines Vader’s many crimes, as reported by Aphra. To her surprise, the Emperor is pleased. After all, Vader has acted as a true Sith. As the Emperor put it, “You let your anger and pride guide you to the darkest places. That is our way Lord Vader.” These moments when the Emperor outlines the ways of the Sith are some of the most satisfying of the series.
Of course, this means that Aphra lost her trump card over Vader. However, Aphra hides her panic well. She explains that she had no choice. Then she reminds Vader that she didn’t reveal his real secret concerning the Rebel pilot (which we know to be Luke). However, it is all for naught. Vader orders her to walk with him. They reach an airlock. Then, poor Dr. Aphra appears to meet her fate. Darth Vader flushes her out of the airlock despite her pleas for a quick, merciful death. He didn’t grant her that.
The Fate of Tagge
The next loose end is Grand General Tagge. The Grand General also receives some disappointing news. The Emperor deems that he should be demoted due to failings in his command. His support of Cylo on Shu-Torun being the most serious of his poor decision.
All of his authority has been ceded to Vader. Almost immediately, Tagge begins explaining to Vader why he isn’t quite the failure the Emperor proclaimed him to be. Vader will have none of it. Tagge doesn’t survive his explanation. He meets his end as many Imperial Officers do, through a Force choke. Ironically, Admiral Ozzel appears to be promoted to Vader’s top lieutenant, and many Star Wars fans will know how that turns out in The Empire Strikes Back.
Tagge’s inclusion in this series was well done. First, he is often overlooked. His role in A New Hope was relatively minor. In essence, he warned about the vulnerability of the Death Star and the foolishness in relying on in completely. Most Star Wars fans didn’t give him another thought after that. Gillen turned that Tagge’s warning into a reason to promote the character. Furthermore, tt wasn’t an invalid point. The destruction of the Death Star left the Empire vulnerable because the Empire put all their eggs in one basket. However, Tagge, like many Imperials, was arrogant. Also like many Imperials, his arrogance was his undoing. His story within the pages of Darth Vader provided the Dark Lord with another antagonist that fans would recognize, and could also root against. Gillen utilized him well.
After settling things with his crew, Vader experiences a Force vision. During the vision, he reaches out to Luke. The background turns from a black star field to red. Perhaps this vision was more of a daydream. This may have been Vader contemplating his fondest desire: to reunite with his son. It’s an interesting sentiment. In issue twenty-four, Vader mentally, and perhaps emotionally, severed nearly every tie to his past by destroying Padme, Obi-Wan, and his old self within his conscience. Yet, he still clings to the hope that Luke might join him here. However, that will have to wait, but Vader promises it will be soon. With that, the issue and series appears to conclude. However, there is more.
Part Two: Not So Dead After All
The story shifts to earlier moments as Aphra’s apparently lifeless body is seen floating in space. As she drifts towards an asteroid, something begins to pulse. A hangar door opens to reveal a small starship. Shortly thereafter, Black Krrsantan and Triple Zero bring her aboard the ship. Fortunately for Aphra, her exposure to the void was short.
Interestingly, Rebels featured a similar scene in the recent episode “The Holocrons of Fate.” One might recall that Kanan survived exposure to the void after Darth Maul flushed him out an airlock. Beings surviving the void of space appears to be popular with Lucasfilm at the moment.
As it turns out, Aphra engineered this plan. She knew her only chance to survive was if Vader believed her dead. Vader would only believe her dead if he did the deed himself. Triple Zero points out that Vader could have used his saber, but Aphra points out that Vader would never have been that kind. Therefore, Aphra reasoned well and planned accordingly.
This brings up an interesting question. Did Vader in fact attempt to kill Aphra with a cruel death? Or, was he aware that she could use the same technology from the Son-Tuul Pride heist to save herself? It is unlikely he would have forgot. Perhaps there is some mercy from the Dark Lord after all. The issue is left open for another day as this segment of the story ends.
The Next Adventure
Dr. Aphra determines that this adventure was fun, but she never wants to do it again as Krrsantan’s ship jumps to hyperspace. Thus, Aphra’s tale has ended. Or has it? Might she show up in the tentatively titled Classified series set to debut in December? One can hope so.
Overall, Aphra was a welcome addition to the Star Wars pantheon of characters. She played a pseudo-villain. On the one hand, she willingly served Darth Vader. She commanded the death of some innocents. In addition, she doesn’t seem to have much of a conscience. On the other hand, what choice did she have but to serve Darth Vader? She was only allowed to survive as long as she was useful. Vader said it himself.
Aphra was also unique. She stands out from other new Imperials that have entered the Star Wars canon recently. For instance, she isn’t a well-intentioned career officer such as Admiral Sloane (as seen in A New Dawn, Aftermath, and Kanan). Also, she isn’t quite the cold blooded manipulator epitomized by Governor Pryce from Rebels. She has been the dark reflection of Han Solo. Her primary concern is herself. She seeks fortune and glory. Hopefully, Darth Vader was not her final appearance.
Darth Vader # 25, Part 3: Book IV Coda
Writer: Kieron Gillen | Artist: Max Fiumara | Colorist: Dave Stewart | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
The Lone Survivor
The end of this issue has an interesting story tacked on to the end. The story returns to the earliest issues of the series. Readers may recall that Vader slew an entire village of Tuskens while waiting for Boba Fett and Black Krrsantan to arrive for a meeting. However, it turns out that not all the Tuskens perished. One survived. After escaping, this lone Tusken sets up a campfire and waits. Eventually, other Tuskens arrive. Their chieftan (or is it a shaman?) manages to create a shared vision in which the other Tuskens somehow witness Vader’s slaughter of the village.
Needless to say, the Tuskens are sufficiently frightened. The Tuskens erect a massive structure in Vader’s likeness, and the survivor is set to burn at the stake below it. The other Tuskens bow in supplication. Therefore, this appears to be an offering to an angry god. The legend of Darth Vader grows.
Although this addition had little to do with the overall story, it was a fitting epilogue. This series detailed how Vader truly became a Sith Lord in the Emperor’s eyes. It was also about how Vader secured his place in the Empire and became the terror seen in The Empire Strikes Back. The Emperor said it earlier, Vader’s anger and pride guided him to where he needed to go. It was Vader’s anger and desire for revenge that resulted in the deaths of so many Tuskens.
Unfortunately, Darth Vader has come to an end as a series. The tale of Vader’s rise to power following the destruction of the Death Star has been told. Now, Vader grew into the ferocious Imperial commander seen in The Empire Strikes Back. This was a creative telling of how Darth Vader came to learn of Luke Skywalker and his determination to overthrow the Emperor. Gillen’s writing excelled with some creative world building. Cylo, his minions, and the space whale fleet were all interesting additions to the Star Wars legacy. It’s disappointing to see this story come to an end. It has been some of the best, if not the best, Star Wars comic storytelling thus far. One can hope that Gillen will resume Vader’s story at some point in the future.
Favorite Panel for Darth Vader #25
Earlier, I outlined Aphra’s shocked response to the Emperor’s pride in Vader’s action. Without much fanfare, I have selected the panel where Vader direct her to walk with him. The shock on her face is evident. Larroca drew a great Vader. Hopefully, he gets more Star Wars work in the future. That is the favorite panel for Darth Vader #25.
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.