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Darth Vader: Issue 39: Dark Droids: Crucible of Hate

What is it ? : On Mustafar Vader's droid forces have been repaired, but they're looking for Zed-67 who is missing, when he returns he has been taken over by the Scourge, and he has brought the Octuptarra droid he discovered with him. It fights the droids, defeating them with ease, and turns on Vader, immune to his Electrostaff and to the destructive power of the Zaly shield, it is a difficult fight for Vader still without full control of his powers.
Zed-67 hacks the memory of Arex, a droid once owned by a Jedi master, hoping to find a way of defeating Vader, as Scourge hopes to take control of him and use his power. And discovers the Jedi teaching of Hate Leads to Suffering, to which Vader responds with the Sith, Hate leads to Power, and Zed comments that Vader is so full of hate, but so lacking in power.
Arex guides Vader, to regain his power he needs to tap into his hate, so who does he hate most?
Vader remembers Qui-Gon telling him that he wasn't there to free the slaves, and his mother dying because she was never freed. He remembers Palpatine lying to him that he'd killed Padme. And Vader reaches out with the force and grabs the droid, ignites his lightsaber and slices off it's legs and then cuts it's body in half.
Speaking through Zed, The Scourge tells Vader that he has gained power due to him realising that the Scourge is all powerful and will become everything, so he hates it most of all. But he cuts it down, with Arex commenting that no, it is nothing, the force is everything. Vader responds, that no, HE is everything.
Palpatine senses that Vader is back in control, and through the force tells him that he has found the core of his hatred, himself. Vader agrees, but then responds that then he dug deeper.
Palpatine understands, and tells him that he will see him soon. . . .

High Points : While mainly consisting on one long fight, the flashbacks are back and redeem this issue, getting to the core of the hate within Vader. He claimed to hate the Jedi because they didn't save his mother, but that's not the truth, beneath that he truly hates himself, he wasn't strong enough to save his mother or even Padme. But even beneath the self hatred, he hates Palpatine. Palpatine manipulated him, Palpatine lied to him, Palpatine is the reason behind all the pain in Vaders life, and that Hatred gives him power.

Low Points : The Scourge isn't a particularly great opponent, while it would be interesting for it to be able to turn everything against Vader, it is very limited, as it apparently needs the Spider Droids for their long range transmitters to link the droids it takes over into it's hive mind, so with only a couple of these on Mustafar it can't control all of Vaders Droids. While this is an interesting limitation, and one which will stop it taking control of the entire galaxy, against Vader, it comes across as pretty weak and ineffectual.

So what do you really think ? : That flashback and the information it reveals is what makes this issue stand out, we're back to an exploration of Vader as a character, getting to his motivations. But it's all too small a part of the issue, and if we'd had more of the exploration of Vaders hate, digging through his feelings for many characters, rather than just Qui-Gon, himself and Palpatine, and we'd seen the world through Vaders eyes a bit more, it would have been brilliant. Seeing Vaders thoughts on Yoda, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan, etc, how he blames them for everything that happened, but the hatred at his core isn't actually based upon their actions, how he's self aware enough to hate himself, and aware enough to know Palpatine was behind it all. More of a build up to that revelation would have made it more satisfying.

Final Words : This feels more like what the Vader comics are supposed to be about, but we're a long way from the other side of this series, and Vader struggling to defeat just one droid is a long way from him riding a Summa-Verminoth into combat against Palpatine in the early issues, and I want that silliness back as well. But for the moment, I'm very happy to have the exploration of Vader back (at least for this issue).

Score : 8.5/10

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