How do you end a comic that has been so consistently excellent like Darth Vader? You make Darth Vader #25.
Spoilers aplenty from here on out.
I shouted “NO!!!!” and then curled up and cried a little halfway through reading this comic and then towards the end, I breathed this giant sigh of relief, went “THANK GOD,” and then started crying a little more. Why? BECAUSE APHRA LIVES. We thought she died but no, she lived and really there was no other way this book could have end than like this.
That’s probably the best way to describe this entire issue because once you look back, there’s no other way it could have concluded than how it did. How else can you end Darth Vader except with Vader victorious? Cylo’s dead, Tagge’s dead, Aphra is out of the picture, and Vader has the Executor and is in the Emperor’s good graces again. That in itself is a testament to Kieron Gillen’s writing. The ending wasn’t surprising (mostly) but goddamn this was a fantastic journey. The Vader team has added such a depth to the Sith Lord’s story that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch him in the Original Trilogy the same way ever again. There’s such a lovely parallel between how Vader takes down Cylo and how he eventually takes down the Emperor. Both men underestimated him by thinking they knew what made him tick. Their hubris was their undoing and they paid the ultimate price for their arrogance.
But let’s get back to Aphra because if there has been a standout character in this book, it has absolutely been her. Dr. Aphra was pitched to the audience as a sort of dark side Indiana Jones but she was oh so fast to transcend the trope and become so much more. She was smart and capable and talked a lot when she got nervous. She always felt so damn real but nevermore so than when Vader shoved her into the airlock and she pleaded “Not like this.” Those four pages genuinely broke my heart. Aphra was right all those issues ago: a lightsaber to the chest is a far kinder way to go than being ejected into space. There’s something about how Vader’s only response to her is to say “I promised nothing” that’s just unsettling yet feels note perfect for him. Salvador Larroca’s art speaks for the story once Vader sends Aphra into space. A moment of silence feels like the right way to mark the end of a partnership. It also feels right when we learn pages later that Triple Zero, Beetee, and Krrsantan managed to save her. While I may be sending Marvel the bill for the heart attack they gave me, this was the best possible thing that could have happened to Dr. Aphra and I’m thrilled that she has more adventures in her future. And she’s right: This is the only way he would ever let her go. She knew too much and yet she stayed loyal about what matters. What a damn good character.
Darth Vader #25 is a satisfying end to an outstanding series. Everyone involved with creating this book deserves every last accolade and I cannot recommend it enough.
Darth Vader #25: Kieron Gillen/Writer, Salvador Larroca/Artist, Edgar Delgado/Colorist, Joe Caramagna/Letterer, Jordan White/Editor, Heather Antos/Assistant Editor