Issue #34 of the Darth Vader comic series picks up right where #33 left off, with Sabé caught within Vader’s Force maelstrom on a desert island as he forces her to solve his own philosophical crisis: does living a life filled with hatred lead to more power, or just a lot of suffering?
Unbound Force: Part 2 is sadly a bit top-heavy. The first half of the issue deals with the question put to Sabé, who goes on a very interesting journey and quickly makes her own discovery about Vader himself. All of this is fascinating and provides more context to how Vader’s mental state is progressing in the build up to Return of the Jedi, but then it’s all put to one side as the issue scrambles to crowbar an unnecessary fight scene into the rest of the issue.
Vader looks as badass as he usually does when the odds are stacked against him, but the action completely stalls any narrative momentum for something significantly less interesting. For all the early promise and genuine excitement this issue brings, it ends in a very unsatisfying manner. At least we can rely on an encounter with Doctor Aphra to spice things up again next time.
As Sabé reckons with Vader’s ultimatum, he pulls her in closer to the center of his Force storm. The story panel is particularly interesting as he appears to be embracing her and she lays her head on his chest, like a loving couple might do, adding more messy layers to their relationship. It’s a nice touch, particularly as it’s not touched on again once Sabé experiences something very curious; a Force vision.
Exactly who this vision belongs to is up for debate here. Darth Vader insists that the vision belongs to her, and that seems the case at first, as we see visions of Sabé in an Imperial military uniform leading stormtroopers against the Rebel Alliance on Endor and bringing order to the galaxy, just like she always dreamed of. However, things take a turn from there.
Sabé frequently doubts that is her vision, believing that Vader’s showing her his own vision of the Force at first. Then, she starts seeing things that she couldn’t possibly know; particularly Luke Skywalker, who she understands in that moment is Anakin and Padmé’s son.
It’s possible that the Force could have decided to show her this to make her come to the realization that there is still good in Vader, just like Padmé said, but it’s equally possible that Vader has let her into his mind like she believes. Vader insists otherwise but as he says, he is not in control of his powers at this time.
Sabé’s realization that there is still good in Vader, and the key to unlocking that is through is son, is the clearest indication yet that Vader is becoming the man we see in Return of the Jedi, tired of the dark side and vulnerable to redemption via love for his son. It’s an exciting development and a really fun way to get another look in Vader’s head so close to the events of the film.
Unfortunately for Sabé, Vader is not quite there yet. He violently rejects the notion that there is still good in him, forcing her attention back to the question in hand. Power, or suffering? He’s desperate to know what she would choose.
Her answer is perfect and true to her character. She decides not to hate at all, leaving his question unanswered. It makes sense; the closest Sabé ever came to hating anyone was Darth Vader when she thought he was responsible for Padmé’s death. She was able to get past that and is allied with him not out of hatred, but a desire to bring peace to the galaxy. It is the only answer she could have chosen.
This enrages Darth Vader, and he lets out a mighty burst of Force energy, pushing her out into the sea where she is swallowed by a wave. I find it hard to believe she’s actually dead, but this seems to press pause on her arc for a while. I assume that the next time we see her again, she’ll try to redeem Vader and finally meet her end right before the events of Return of the Jedi.
This all happens quick enough to cram in the least interesting part of the issue by far; a random ship shows up full of people tipped off to Vader’s location (the cover art suggests they’re Rebels, but I suppose they could be former Crimson Dawn agents either as they don’t wear Rebel uniforms) and begins to attack him from the sky.
Vader struggles to match their firepower, but having constructed a staff and a personal shield from the wreckage of his Lambda shuttle, he manages to destroy the ship and bring it crashing on the beach. At one point he even shoots a blue energy beam from the staff, and I have absolutely no idea how it worked. As ever, Vader looks like a badass taking on the ship, but any rules do go out the window here and the stakes are non-existent.
The issue ends with Vader standing over one of the Rebels’ body, declaring that he doesn’t need the Force — all he needs is hate. One of the Rebels had incredulously suggested that he doesn’t have the Force anymore, which comes across as remarkably stupid given that we know that the opposite is true.
It’s a remarkably strange interaction considering he’d already told Sabé that he was more powerful than ever earlier in the issue. The main takeaway is that Vader has chosen to continue giving into hatred, presumably deciding not to answer the question he had put to the handmaiden.
This makes sense given where Darth Vader’s character needs to be right now, but I really wish writer Greg Pak had found a more interesting way of reaching this destination.
Josh is a huge Star Wars fan, who has spent far too much time wondering if any Star Wars character could defeat Thanos with all the Infinity Stones.