In “The Chosen One”, the first arc of Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vader begins his training in his earliest days under Emperor Palpatine’s yoke. Written by Charles Soule, with an art team consisting of Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and David Curiel.
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith’s first arc, “The Chosen One”, begins immediately after Episode III. And I mean immediately. The book’s proper opening panel contains the agonised (and hilarious) “Noooo!” that Vader exclaimed upon realising his situation and the fate of Padme Amidala.
The writer of Dark Lord of the Sith, Charles Soule, also wrote the rather good miniseries Obi-Wan & Anakin. One of the flaws of that book, which was set much earlier in the timeline, was that Palpatine, then a Republic Senator, was too flagrantly sinister. Here, Soule is free to lay on the Emperor’s evilness as thick as he likes, and his version of Darth Sidious is one of – if not the best – ever written.
That Sidious is so well-written is a major aspect of what makes “The Chosen One” such an excellent arc. It’s still very much a Darth Vader story, but a version of him that we haven’t really seen before in this continuity. And that version is dependent on his relationship with Palpatine. The Emperor’s wildly unpredictable personality – vile and vicious one moment, friendly and supportive the next – is oddly reminiscent of the classic tactics you see in domestic abusers. When he punishes Vader’s insolence with a blast of Force Lightning, the implications are uncomfortable.
That, though, is important too. It’s here that we see and begin to understand why Vader never rose up against his master before; the Dark Lord might be more powerful than everyone else in the galaxy, but he isn’t more powerful than the Emperor. To see him here cowed and vulnerable is largely the point of setting the story at this specific time in galactic history.
The narrative setup in “The Chosen One” is Vader’s mission to build his own tasteful red lightsaber – a must for any Sith Lord. This is accomplished by making a regular old kyber crystal “bleed”, which is a fitting explanation for the red blades of the Dark Side. But the task is complicated by the Jedi being all but extinct following Order 66, meaning Vader needs to venture to far-flung corners of the galaxy to accomplish his mission.
The plot might contain some nice tidbits about the nature of Sith apprenticeship, but it’s really a hook on which to hang a story of Vader shedding the last vestiges of Anakin Skywalker and embracing his role as the right hand (no pun intended) of the Emperor. In other Vader-related comics and novels, we see him as we did in the Original Trilogy – confident and menacing, mostly unconcerned with any potential adversary. Here, we see him mentally and physically broken. The Jedi from whom he tries to acquire a lightsaber initially whoops him without much fuss. He struggles with the suit and his mechanical body and flashbacks to his old life.
Soule’s writing does a fair amount of the legwork in this arc, but it is often the art team who best get the message across. With Giuseppe Camuncoli on pencils, Cam Smith on inks, and David Curiel on colours, Vader’s six issues of suffering are given great style and definition, and a fitting colour scheme to wrap a bow around a very attractive package.
The final issue of “The Chosen One” makes the effort to slow down and flesh things out, neatly tying up any dangling plot threads and setting things up for the future. Darth Vader might still not be entirely suited (ahem, sorry) with his current predicament, but as this storyline draws to a close, we see him start to take ownership of his new identity, personally modifying his armour, and getting furious at the prospect of someone else meddling with it. It cracks a window into the future of the character, but also of The Dark Lord of the Sith, which is a vivid and engaging new look at the galaxy’s favourite asthmatic.