Dark Vader has been many things to fans and characters in the Star Wars universe. But most of that has revolved around tragedy for himself and fear for everyone else. Marvel Star Wars Vader: Dark Visions is nowhere near the best limited comic series, but it still holds some new takes of Darth Vader. As the Star Wars franchise ages, we will eventually need to move on to other big bads. However, Vader is still one of the most iconic villains in pop culture.
This spooky season, let’s revisit a comic series encapsulating what Darth Vader means to the many citizens of a galaxy far, far away—and focusing on fear.
Dark Visions #1
The Story: A young boy on the planet Cianap gathers food with his people in the last moments they can spend on the surface. Meanwhile, TIE fighters and X-wings are battling above the planet. When Darth Vader’s TIE malfunctions and crashes on Cianap, the Sith Lord finds himself in a different battle. A battle that ultimately liberates a planet’s civilization from an eternity of living in fear. And he gives a young boy a good story to tell.
Did Darth Vader really save this entire civilization? Well, yes, he inadvertently saved them because he was defending himself (and a challenge to his power). And Darth Vader, during the peak of the Empire, probably rarely faced a true challenge. The boy that watches him and sees him as their savior thanks him.
“You should not thank me child.” Vader says before he catches a ride on his crashed TIE when a magnetic field lifts it from the Star Destroyer.
The Monster: There is an actual monster in this story but did the boy’s species avoid trading one monster for another in the Empire? Luckily the boy does not have to worry about that for now.
A Lesson in Fear: Just for the monster, who was probably used to being the apex predator on that planet until Vader showed up. The kid shares the tale of Vader with his community in the only ending in this series that is happy.
Dark Vision #2: Unacceptable
The Story: An officer who witnessed Vader killing an entire room of officers now faces judgment from the Sith Lord when he fails to catch a Rebel spy. And the very thought drives him to madness.
Commander Tylux remembers Vader’s words when he saw a room for officers Force-choked: “Failure is unacceptable.” And they haunt him through this entire issue as he desperately tries to search for the Rebel spy, who Vader is on his way to collect.
The Monster: Tylux has a reasonable fear of Vader. However, that fear leads him to make irrational and fatal decisions for his crew, including sending TIE pilots to a planet with a killer atmosphere, plunging his Star Destroyer into an exogorth, and leading his Star Destroyer into a Rebel fleet.
A Lesson in Fear: In the end, Tylux is cowering on the doomed ship when Vader approaches him with those exact fateful words. By then, it is unclear if what Tylux sees is real or hallucinating. Either way, he’s dead because of fear.
Dark Visions #3: Tall, Dark, and Handsome
The Story: A nurse attendant to Vader’s doctor increasingly becomes obsessed with the Sith Lord and spends her time fantasizing that Vader will save her from her job. The nurse regularly steals items left by Vader and is admonished by her boss, who warns her that she has a death wish. As her delusions intensify, her boss throws away her collection, causing the nurse to make her final mistake.
The Monster: The real villain of this story for many is the writer, Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, who received a lot of criticism for portraying the nurse as a crazy fangirl. Hallum responded to the criticisms via tweet:
“That really wasn’t my intention. I’m not here to police your read, but to me it’s about a person so beaten down and caged in by her fascist existence that she fantasizes about the only person in her world powerful enough to free her.”(@HopelessDent) April 24, 2019
Even if that was Hallum’s intent, which the writing does little to lean into her fascist existence, the art betrays him. Outside of her fantasies which are strictly tied to a romance with Darth Vader, she is drawn to be unstable. And not giving the main character a name also hurts feeling any sympathy or connection.
A Lesson in Fear: There was an intriguing story here, so I will interpret the part I see: some women are inexplicably attracted to evil guys (sociopaths, serial killers, and murderers), women who see that violence against others and sometimes themselves as a form of power. This issue is a warning not to flirt with danger less you want a lightsaber through your stomach.
Dark Visions #4: HotShot
The Story: A young Rebel pilot (Hotshot, since he is also not named) thinks he is ready to take the shot he could not take when he was a boy.
Hotshot failed to cover his father when he was a boy while the man fled Stormtroopers. Now years later, Hotshot is convinced that he has what it takes to be an X-wing pilot and is determined not to let his hesitancy in the past shape his future. His superior says Hotshot is years away from joining their ranks. Still, Hotshot insists he is ready when their squadron is under attack from Vader. He tells her the story of not saving his father and is given a chance to prove himself.
The Monster: While Vader is the big bad, the monster the main character faces is the ghost of his past mistake.
A Lesson in Fear: In the saddest ending of the series, Hotshot gets a clear shot at Vader’s TIE and freezes. His squadron dies, and TIE fighters overwhelm the fleet. Before Hotshot dies, he is transformed into that scared little boy who failed to save his father.
Dark Visions #5: You Can Run…
The Story: When a Rebel squadron steals valuable intel that could cripple an armada, Vader tracks them down to a bar near a dangerous jungle. The bartender confiscates weapons from patrons before they can enter and is locking up the case with the intel when Vader arrives. Now the lone survivor, the bartender, runs into the jungle, choosing to deal with the lesser of two evils.
The Monster: In the jungle lives a poisonous plant called the Flowering Axynth, or Nightmare Bloom. The bartender gets pricked by a thorn and starts seeing Vader, who is already scary, as a demon-like figure.
A Lesson in Fear: Even though the bartender knows that what haunts him are illusions, he still panics and uses the weapons he confiscated to shoot at the air. This gives away his position to Vader, who also gets pricked by the thorn but has mastered his fear. Vader does not even have to strike the bartender down to get the intel; the fear takes care of that.