SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Darth Vader #18, by Charles Soule, Daniele Orlandini, Giuseppe Camuncoli, David Curiel and Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
Few beings in the Star Wars universe are quite as deadly as the former Anakin Skywalker, the Jedi-turned-Sith Lord; Darth Vader.
Similarly, few Star Wars characters have a more iconic and instantly recognizable look than the cybernetic-armor-sporting Sith (although, Boba Fett and Darth Maul certainly come close).
However, in Marvel’s Darth Vader #18, the titular Tatooine native undergoes a temporary wardrobe change that manages to make him even more formidable than before.
The issue begins with Governor Wilhuff Tarkin taking a short respite at a campsite on the Outer Rim planet of Chandar’s Folly. We quickly learn through Tarkin’s inner-monologue that, out of the 20 men who partook in what’s described as “the hunt,” only eight remain, himself included. It doesn’t take long, though, for the issue to reveal who the team’s prey is.
“He’s out there, Tarkin,” says to a hunter named Yerga. “Sissian just picked him up. To the northwest. But something’s different.”
It’s then, as Tarkin looks into a pair of binoculars, that we realize his “prey” is none other than Darth Vader. However, rather than his traditional black cloak, Vader has the orange hide of a clawed beast draped over his shoulders.
“You saw the skin he’s wearing?” Yerga asks Tarkin, to which he replies in the affirmative.
As Tarkin then explains, Vader’s new “cloak” is made from the hide of a valath – the apex predator of Chandar’s Folly – which he somehow managed to kill without his lightsaber in his possession. As such, Vader is able to take advantage of the valath’s chromatophores and blend into his surroundings.
Surely, though, Vader’s attempt to enter “stealth mode” would be for naught, as his suit’s unmistakable, noisy life support system would give him away… right?
Well, as we soon discover, even that is unable to hinder the Dark Lord of the Sith.
After the sounds of the virtually invisible Darth Vader’s labored breathing finally disappear, Tarkin’s team believes they’re in the clear, at least for the time being. They quickly realize just how wrong they are, though, when Vader suddenly appears out of thin air and chokes the life out of one of the team’s two Chadra-Fan’s.
“I realize what he must have done,” Tarkin thinks to himself. “Vader deactivated his armor’s breathing apparatus. I did not know he could. I have never heard him without it. I assumed he needed it to survive.”
Tarkin certainly isn’t wrong, either. As evidenced by Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader did indeed die shortly after having his helmet removed, albeit after a hard-fought duel with Luke Skywalker and a critical dose of Force Lightning from Emperor Palpatine.
Nevertheless, even though Darth Vader is only able to truly go “off the grid” for a short period of time, he proves rather emphatically that, even without a lightsaber, he’s still a cold and calculating force to be reckoned with.