As always, trouble is brewing for Darth Vader.
For those not caught up, Marvel Comics' latest iteration of the Darth Vader series follows the antagonist directly after the events of The Empire Strikes Back. It's in this latest wave of issues that the Dark Lord of the Sith is forced to confront his past and reflect on the tragic decisions that led to the fall of Anakin Skywalker, but in his own twisted way, Vader has a new hope: his son, Luke.
Disgusted by his apprentice's growing signs of weakness, the Emperor stripped Vader of his limbs and left him where he found him in ruins on Mustafar. It was there that the fallen Jedi bested Ochi of Bestoon without the use of the Force and obtained a Sith Wayfinder from the Eye of Webbish Bog, setting the series' titular character up for a trip to Exegol in an effort to uncover his master's secrets. While his arrival on the planet is still a few issues down the pipeline, a new cover has given us a glimpse at what awaits Vader in the Unknown Regions...
Marvel Comics has revealed the cover for the upcoming Darth Vader Issue #11. The piece, depicting the Dark Lord surrounded by countless red lightsaber-wielding foes on Exegol, can be seen below:
WHAT THIS MEANS
The working theory is that Vader's new adversaries are part of the Sith Eternal cult that helped Darth Sidious survive what was once presumed to be his clear demise in Return of the Jedi. If this proves to be the case, then a new wave of questions has been thrown into the mix regarding the Exegol plot and The Rise of Skywalker.
If the Emperor had so many lightsaber-wielding servants at his disposal, why didn't they participate in the film's final battle in any manner? With the cultists being extremely loyal to Sidious, what prevented him from dispersing these individuals into the ranks of the First Order, making the creation of a being like Snoke unnecessary?
The real-world answer, obviously, is that none of the plot elements existed at the time of the Sequel Trilogy's conception. Stories such as the one that will soon transpire on Exegol now must work to make sense of the retcons made by Episode IX regarding Palpatine's survival and the First Order's origins, something that Lucasfilm is undoubtedly considering carefully as new narratives are crafted given the reception to the film.
Why we never see the red lightsaber wielders again could be as simple as the high likelihood that Vader will end up killing them all. The cultists are undoubtedly devoted to protecting the Emperor's greatest secret, but with an intrigued and angry Darth Vader on the scent, things will continue to get messy for those following the dark path.
The greatest hope to come from this arc is a somewhat reasonable explanation to why Anakin as a ghost didn't point Luke in the Emperor's direction on Exegol following his supposed demise. The Rise of Skywalker didn't give much of anything in terms of explanations, so how Vader's knowledge of his master's plot didn't reach its way to Luke remains unknown. It will be an effort to fit a square peg in a round hole, but this Darth Vader run has been excellent thus far and can hopefully deliver satisfactory answers to the many burning questions the culmination of the Skywalker saga left behind.