Exegol. Palpatine. Snoke. The Final Order.
These are all concepts Star Wars fans are still trying to make sense of well over a year after The Rise of Skywalker released in theaters. There have been many discrepancies with the handling of the Emperor's return in the Skywalker saga's final chapter, with the film notoriously leaving the explanation to "somehow Palpatine's returned."
Later ancillary material revealed that Palpatine in Episode IX was actually the Force essence of the Sith Lord encapsulated in a clone body, despite the appearance that the figure had somehow survived an explosion. The Rise of Skywalker also revealed that Supreme Leader Snoke was a clone, one of the many creations Palpatine had tinkered with during his time on Exegol.
The latest arc in the 2020 Darth Vader comic run has worked to clear the air on many of Episode IX's inconsistencies, but in doing so has created more questions.
A new issue from the ongoing run has indicated that there's a strong tie between Palpatine's puppet and the son of Skywalker...
SNOKE WAS CREATED WITH...LUKE SKYWALKER'S DNA?
In Darth Vader Issue #11, it was heavily implied that Luke Skywalker's severed hand was recovered from Bespin, and DNA was used on the project to create Snoke.
Additionally, it was revealed that the source of Palpatine's immense power and the might of the Final Order fleet is a massive kyber crystal.
Disney was rumored to be developing more animated “films” within the Star Wars universe.
Matt Lanter confirmed that fans will get to see the animated version of Anakin Skywalker in a future project that he "can't talk about yet."
Darth Revan was rumored to return in a future Star Wars project on Disney+.
UNLIMITED POWER FOR DARTH VADER'S LINEAGE
There are a lot of weird things going on here, but the best attempt will be made to make sense of it all.
Luke's hand... Snoke...what?
It should be noted that Luke Skywalker's severed hand has been discussed as a plot point for the sequel trilogy dating all the way back to one of the earlier drafts of JJ Abrams' take on The Force Awakens. Initially, the film was to open with the hand still clutching Anakin's lightsaber, tumbling through space and making its way towards Jakku. The hand would then disintegrate upon entering the atmosphere, and the lightsaber would plummet into the sand and serve as the MacGuffin for the film.
Obviously, that version of the story never happened, but apparently, Luke's hand has been on the back burner for Lucasfilm for quite some time. The reveal that Snoke was a clone in The Rise of Skywalker was met with both intrigue and groans, but the general verdict was that the being was a strand cast created with tissue and provided false memories.
One big question always remained: how is a clone able to use the Force?
It seems as though Darth Vader is suggesting that midichlorians were extracted from Luke's hand and placed within the pickle Snokes. If that doesn't sound bizarre enough, consider that Snoke is now biologically tied to Luke and the Skywalker lineage, making him a partial clone of the young Jedi.
There's no telling if the Emperor would later use this genetic material for his own clone body as well, or if the clones seen in this comic issue were failed attempts and Grogu's midichlorians were required for a new trial. Given that Snoke was a presence in Ben Solo's life at birth, the latter option doesn't seem likely. The Supreme Leader who was once said to be an ancient being now appears to be the same age as Ben himself.
As for the enormous kyber crystal, the comic seems to indicate that Palpatine is torturing the rock to fuel the power of his Final Order fleet and potentially even himself. The crystals are described as living things, something previously suggested in other stories where they were bled or healed. Presumably, Sidious used his knowledge his power gained from the crystal to shoot his essence across space before his body tumbled into the second Death Star's reactor core.
There's an interesting line in Return of the Jedi that seemingly always needed additional context, and at the very least, the kyber crystal plot element has provided that. When Vader tells Luke, "You don't know the power of the dark side. I must obey my master," it's now clear that he believes he can't beat Palpatine due to the powers yielded by the crystal. However, in hindsight, this also makes the Emperor's demise more questionable in the immediate aftermath of Anakin's return.
Issue 11 served as the final piece of the puzzle in Darth Vader's Exegol arc, and overall, things are even more confusing than they were before.
With the knowledge he had about Palpatine's machinations on Exegol, why didn't Anakin point Luke towards his Wayfinder that would guide him there at any point in the years following Return of the Jedi? How is it possible for a kyber crystal unconnected to the Xyston-class Star Destroyers to enable their super weapons? Is Snoke truly conceived of Luke's DNA, and does that make him even more of an honorary Skywalker than Rey?
There are still many questions to be answered regarding The Rise of Skywalker's Palpatine plot line, and right now, the answers being provided don't make much sense. Perhaps a future storyteller will be able to come in and clean up the situation, but at the moment, things are messy and continue to be as new layers of the tale unfold.
Regardless, this chapter in Darth Vader's run is complete, so it may be some time until this thread is picked back up.