As weird as it is to see Darth Vader be overwhelmed, STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #3 does a good job of making it part of his growth. This is his first battle against a surviving Jedi, and it certainly won't be the last.
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Sith Trial
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Arguably one of Darth Vader’s most defining aspects is his intimidation factor. Numerous incarnations have portrayed him as a force of nature, a being “more machine than man.” The Vader we know in pop culture is a silent yet efficient killer. He has little tolerance for failure and is a master of the dark side. Yet the Darth Vader of STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #3 is just starting out. He’s struggling to adjust to his new life in his mechanical body. Thus, it is relatively unique to read an issue in which Darth Vader, of all beings, experiences injury and, more importantly, defeat.

Image from STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #3, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

First Time Sith Lord

Continuing from the previous issue, Darth Vader has tracked down the location of Jedi Master Kirak Infil’a, a survivor of the Jedi Order. A Barash-taker, Master Infil’a has sworn off activities related to the Order. Instead, he trains in isolation at the Passvaal Mountain. Now, however, he has a visitor in the form of Vader, who seeks to take the Jedi’s kyber crystal for his Sith lightsaber. Vader will find himself tested by the mountain’s trials and a Jedi trained predominantly for combat.

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The characterization of Master Kirak Infil’a mirrors that of Darth Vader. Both individuals have been shaped by their respective sides of the Force but for different purposes. Where Vader is depicted as an instrument of destruction, Infil’a represents that of creation. His introduction reveals the Jedi’s ability to “Force-assemble” multiple devices at once, something Vader’s droid describes as “art.” His power appears to rival Vader’s, yet until now, Infil’a has refrained from taking action as part of his vow. Vader consequentially represents the final test, allowing Infil’a to break Barash and fight on behalf of the Order.

It’s Not So Easy Being Sith

By contrast, the Sith Lord sees Infil’a as only the first test in a line of many to follow. Writer Charles Soule constructs the Mountain as a literal and metaphorical obstacle course that Vader must gradually overcome. With each trap sprung, another part of Vader’s body gets injured or broken, overwhelming him in some cases. Whether it’s his cape getting torn, his chest-plate bent, or his leg revealing its mechanical structure, it’s a jarring sight to behold. This highlights the current Vader’s inexperience, having yet to earn the reputation that will make him feared throughout the galaxy. It truly is the start of his journey towards becoming the figure we see in A NEW HOPE.

Image from STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #3, courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Giuseppe Camuncoli and David Curiel handle STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #3’s artwork. Both of these artists work quite well together. The art style is relatively clean and direct, with character models being distinctive and easy to recognize. One feature that stood out was the artist’s manipulation of light, especially when reflecting off of Vader’s iconic helmet. It serves to visually convey the Sith’s determination and rage, which contrasts with the dialogue-driven interactions between Infil’a and his android Arex. In short, if there’s a point to the art, it’s to convey motion and impact as Vader gets put through the ringer in his trials.

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Final Thoughts on STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #3

STAR WARS: DARTH VADER #3 is the buildup for a much larger show. It’s the first chapter of Darth Vader’s first mission. While many character-defining attributes are present, they are balanced out by a sense of vulnerability not usually acquainted with Vader. Even though his victory is inevitable, it is nevertheless intriguing to watch a scenario in which Darth Vader actually struggles against his opponent.

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