SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Darth Vader #20, by Charles Soule, Daniele Orlandini, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Dono Sanchez-Almara, Erick Arciniega and Travis Lanham, on sale now.
Marvel's Darth Vader comics haven't just given us deeper insight into the former Jedi known as Anakin Skywalker; we're learning more about Emperor Palpatine as well. We've seen them as master and apprentice, shifting power to the Dark Side by eliminating the remnants of the Jedi Order. But as strong as the Sith have become in the wake of Order 66 (the purging of the Jedi), cracks have begun to show in the foundation.
In Darth Vader #20, we're seeing a major flaw in what appears to be a civil war brewing between the followers of Palpatine, which could truly hinder the vision he has for the galaxy.
After killing the Jedi Eeth Koth in the last issue, Vader confronts two new additions to the Inquisitors, who don't even have titles yet. Thinking they did a good job on the last hunt, they're shocked when the Sith Lord and their military leader draws his lightsaber and engages them. They wonder if it's a training drill, but soon enough, he begins chasing them, cutting a swath of destruction across Coruscant.
In the melee, Vader drops a spaceship on two political figures Palpatine needs, showing his relentless nature. Eventually, he uses the Force and makes the two stab each other to death. However, the Emperor isn't happy with what transpired because the public saw the fracture with his disciples. More so, Vader's showing insubordination, which he needs to snuff out ASAP.
When reprimanded, Vader tells his master the two were traitors. The Fifth Inquisitor (the senior on the hit against Koth) revealed that on their outing, the female Inquisitor almost allowed Koth's wife and baby to escape, only to take the child after she was spotted showing mercy to their target. This tipped Vader off and so, he studied her and the other rookie, realizing they were actually in love. Ironically, Vader's lying because the female Inquisitor was simply playing games with Koth's wife, offering her a glimmer of hope, and taking it away so as to make her hate women.
Vader merely used this as an excuse as he hated seeing love, as it reminds him of the times he spent with Queen Amidala, his wife when he was a Jedi. He tells Palpatine the Inquisitors, initially placed under his care, may not be as pure as first assumed, and he has heard whispers from his spies they're planning to overthrow the Emperor. Again, this isn't true; Vader just wants control and to be Palpatine's lone war-dog.
The Emperor is suspicious, chiding his protege, and deciding to burn him emotionally by gifting him Amidala's ship from The Phantom Menace. He is grateful for the work he's doing but this reward is just to show Vader, no matter what, Palpatine owns him, mind, body and soul. The potential for civil war is simmering with a quiet intensity, though, due to Vader turning down a request to go and intimidate Alderaan's Bail Organa (Leia's adoptive father). Palpatine's shocked by this newfound stubborn disposition, but becomes intrigued by the fact his right-hand man wants his own world to meditate and hone his anger.
From Rogue One, we know Palpatine gives him this planet to build his obsidian castle, but there are hints he's distancing himself from Coruscant in order to plot against his boss (which would eventually come full-circle when he kills him in Return of the Jedi). This issue may have been the catalyst for Vader turning on Palpatine for good, and it's also a public relations disaster which could make the Inquisitorius think twice about the man who's supposed to lead them. Given Vader's actions, they may even be secretly coming for revenge.