darth vader: dark lord of the sith – “The rule of five” IS PART OF THE CURRENT STAR WARS CANON. CHECK OUT THE TIMELINE.
“The Rule of Five” isn’t the best arc of Charles Soule’s so-far excellent series, but then again that hardly matters. It’s a coda to his previous story arc, “The Dying Light”, and taken all together, the six issues (#7-12) comprise the second volume of Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, which is known as “Legacy’s End” and will be available from May 8, 2018.
In the meantime, though, “The Rule of Five” is an enjoyable little aside that snips off some lingering plot threads, ties together some of Soule’s canon Star Wars work, and hits some important character notes that are integral to Darth Vader’s overall progression.
In the first issue, Darth Vader, along with the Ninth Sister Inquisitor, is lured by false reports of a Jedi sighting to an ambush by the Cha family of bounty hunters. You’ll recognize the name: the daughter, Chanath, featured quite prominently in Charles Soule’s Lando miniseries, where she was a bounty hunter working for Palpatine himself.
Needless to say, Vader survives the ambush. But in the battle, his lightsaber is destroyed, and a bit of sleuthing reveals that the order to kill him came from the highest levels of Imperial command – likely the Emperor himself. This is a bit of a bluff, but as a first-issue cliffhanger, it works well enough. The Sith are weird, and it’s not out of the question that Palpatine would elect to “test” Vader in this kind of way.
The second issue reveals the culprit – or, at least, a few potential culprits. And while I tend not to share spoilers in these reviews, it’s kind of necessary here to get to the heart of what “The Rule of Five” is about, and what it means for Darth Vader’s character going forwards. See, the fact we don’t know the identity of the conspirator is the important thing. To solve the problem, Vader has Palpatine invite all the Imperial officers to a meeting, where he is formally introduced. And then he “randomly” selects five of them to strangle. This is the genesis of the terror that Vader inspires throughout the Empire; the first whispers of what messing with him might entail. It’s the moment when the Dark Lord stops being treated with suspicion and disrespect and starts being treated as what he is – someone who won’t just kill you, but probably two or three of your mates as well.
There’s a surprising amount going on in these two issues. “The Rule of Five” doesn’t have a lot to do, narratively, but it covers a lot of territory all the same. The first is obviously the neat callback to some of Soule’s other work in the form of Chanath Cha, but another example is a cameo from the Sith mask that will eventually end up aboard the Imperialis. I like this kind of connectivity, even if it is relatively minor and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
What is important, and what is unfortunately treated without much fanfare in “The Rule of Five”, is Darth Vader finally constructing his iconic Original Trilogy lightsaber after his previous weapon was destroyed in that first-issue ambush. After Dark Lord of the Sith opened with the brilliant “The Chosen One” arc, in which Vader went through all kinds of shit to fashion his own red saber, this is comparatively minor. It shouldn’t be, given the iconic nature of the weapon, and how integral it is to Vader’s overall image, but here we are.
Better is the presence of the sassy Ninth Sister, a unique character purely by virtue of not giving a single shit about Vader’s bullshit. The way she talks to him – respectfully, but not overly so – is refreshing, because so many of the secondary characters who interact with the Dark Lord are so consumed by panic and fear. She isn’t given much to do here, but hopefully, she’ll feature more prominently in subsequent stories.
On that subject, if there’s one thing I enjoy the most about Dark Lord of the Sith, it’s that people struggle with how they should view Vader. The Imperial officers attempting to kill him here – evidence suggests it was some random bloke he choked in the eighth issue – is naïve, sure, but it’s also a smart way of putting across how the rest of the galaxy must have felt about Palpatine’s new apprentice – especially at this point in history. Suddenly here’s this fella, strutting about in a fancy suit, giving commands and attacking whoever he takes a disliking to – which is pretty much everyone. Nobody knows anything about him or where he came from, and most Darth Vader stories take place too late in the canon to really explain what that must have been like for the Empire’s rank and file.
So, Charles Soule has done it again. Dark Lord of the Sith once again delivers in the form of “The Rule of Five”, a brief but impactful story arc that fleshes out Vader’s role in the Empire and deepens the continuity by tying together this series with Soule’s older work. As always the creative team here – Giuseppe Camuncoli (pencils), Daniele Orlandini (inks), and David Curiel (colors) – bring it all to life with fantastic art and colors. Their depictions of Vader’s tormented mind are particularly excellent, and his impatience with the galaxy will no doubt mirror my own impatience as I eagerly await the next issue.