Darth Vader comic #25: Fortress Vader, Part VII by Charles Soule

"Darth Vader #25: Fortress Vader, Part VII" written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Daniele Orlandini, David Curiel, Dono Sanchez-Almara, and Erick Arciniega
     Wow! Simply wow. What an issue! We get callbacks from the Prequels, "The Clone Wars," "Rebels," and previous issues of this series. I couldn't have asked for more. And I have to admit, there were definitely tears as I took in the awesomeness of this finale.
     Pretty much the entire issue is Vader in the spirit world(?) accessed by the portal Lord Momin built into his castle on Mustafar. We see Yaddle, Yoda, Mace Windu, Quinlan Vos, Depa Billaba, Yarael Poof, Adi Gallia, Ferren Barr, Saesee Tiin, Kirak Infil'a, Jocasta Nu, Shaak Ti, Plo Koon, and Eeth Koth, all ready to face off against Vader. We know for absolute sure that every one of these Jedi have passed on except for Yaddle, Yoda, and Quinlan Vos. Plus later, Emperor Palpatine and Obi-Wan Kenobi show up and we know both of them are still very much alive. This leads me to question whether or not this is an actual spirit realm. I feel like it's more of a Dark Side vision world as opposed to anything else. Regardless, the battle Vader has with the aforementioned list of Jedi is intense, brutal, and hard to read in spots. Literally every single one of the vision-Jedi gets completely annihilated by Vader's hand--he looks to be using two sticks that glow red rather than an actual lightsaber, but they still do enormous amounts of damage to the doomed Jedi. After he makes short work of the vision-Jedi, Vader moves on to find Palpatine and Obi-Wan protecting a hallway inside what appears to be the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. After Palpy handily executes Obi-Wan, Vader handily executes Palpy with his own version of red Force lightning.
     Before all this, we have Vader walking across a vast, barren land re-witnessing bits from each of the Prequel trilogy movies including extras from that era. We even get a bit of Shmi being super kind and motherly to him as he has a nightmare based off that old Phantom Menace promotional poster with Darth Vader's shadow coming from little Ani. The connections in this issue just floored me beyond belief! As he walks through his memories, his swirling red vision body slowly starts changing, growing up and losing limbs in tandem. We not only see shots directly from the Prequel movies, but also shots of Ahsoka from both early-"Clone Wars" and "Rebels." I couldn't contain the mistiness in my eyes as I relived all these simultaneously heartwarming and sad moments in poor little Ani's life.
     We do eventually come to Padme, dressed in her funeral garb. She does not recognize Anakin and then immediately falls to her "death" (with red lightning bolts shooting out of her eyes) which absolutely tears him apart. The whole issue is super trippy!
     Vader's final visit in the vision world is from...none other than...LUKE SYKWALKER!!! His own son enters his vision, giving him a taste of what is to come. Vader is completely blown away by the brightness and power of Luke's lightsaber and the vision fades to nothing, Vader waking up back in the portal chamber in his castle.
     As the issue concludes, Palpatine asks Vader if he learned what he set out to learn and Vader (albeit after hanging up the hologram call with Palpatine) says "yes". So what did he learn? Perhaps that there is a huge threat to him lurking in the future. Perhaps that Padme cannot be saved. Perhaps that he is so far gone that he will never return from the Dark Side. Perhaps that he is truly Vader through and through and for the rest of his life. We'll never know for sure, but it's absolutely an interesting bit of speculation.
     My only complaint is this: Vader's missing limbs keep changing sizes on his vision body--I feel like the artists could have done a little better of a job keeping that consistent.
     I can't believe this series is over. It saddens me to the nth degree but what was put out there was masterfully brilliant and I am so happy to have been a reader. This was a bang up finale with some truly beautiful callbacks--and for someone who loves canon connections as much as I do it was beyond satisfying. Even if you haven't read any of the previous issues in this particular Darth Vader long-run comic series, you should check this one out!! It brings everything together and gives you tons to think about. What an ending!


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