Star Wars: Darth Vader – Dark Lord of the Sith Volume 4: Fortress Vader- Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli (Marvel)

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… And so we reach the end of Vader’s rise to the villainous monster we all know and love. With Palpatine gifting him a planet of his own, the stage is set for the Dark Lord of the Sith to become the most iconic and terrifying boogie man the galaxy has ever seen. The journey is complete. This final volume is something of a three parter, the first of which seemingly closes the Inquisitors thread with typically ruthless efficiency. A team of underlings put together for Vader to head up was never gonna end well was it? I don’t imagine Vader playing well with the other kids do you? Continuing the purge of the few remaining Jedi who are scattered and hidden around the galaxy Vader and the Inquisitors go about their business with a cold blooded success rate that brings to mind Anakin and the Younglings. Not nice. Vader’s reward for doing his Master’s bidding is a whole planet to himself, the fiery hell from which Vader was born: Mustafar. The locals don’t take too kindly to a Dark Lord of the Sith turning up and building a massive temple amidst their lava land and the indigenous flea folk wage war against the Empire. As if that wasn’t enough, Vader has a long forgotten evil doer’s spirit to contend with through a mask that Palpatine has gifted him. Momin was another one who was certainly not so good at playing with the others and his work continues when the wearer of his helmet is possessed by his life force and picks up his dire desires and deeds from where he left off. A third and final act sees Vader having something of an existential pique of nostalgia as we see his descent to Darth in a dream like sequence that concludes at the point where Vader is ready to receive the visit of Governor Krennic in Rogue One.

Wow. What a ride it’s been following this series. It could so easily of been predictably more of the same Star Wars story spinning where we see Darth Vader getting in to fights and perilous situations, that we all know, no matter how dire, our favourite anti-hero will prevail. Actually drawing a picture of the character himself and exploring a sometimes tetchy relationship with the utterly evil Palpatine has coloured in the dark descent with different shades of darkness. This is refreshing. The artwork is equally impressive. Painting Vader as a dominant and ruthless figure in the final volume is a stark contrast to the sometimes vulnerable Anakin-cum-Sith-Apprentice of the earlier volumes which ensures the real feel of fear he instils is now fully and fearsomely formed. The battle scenes with the Lava Fleas amongst Mustafar’s fiery backdrop are claustrophobic and colourfully chaotic in equal measure and explain a great deal: a character born from such a hellish world is gonna be one dark, dark individual indeed and they certainly don’t come much darker than Darth Vader do they? This fourth and final volume serves as a fitting end to a great series that looked deep in to the dark soul of the Dark Lord and surpassed expectations as a result. No matter how many new additions there are to the Star Wars canon, be they in films, books, comics, cartoons or whatever else, Darth Vader remains the ultimate villainous presence that has the Jedi quaking in their boots like no other. Top marks for this one. Marv Gadgie

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