WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Darth Vader #18, by Charles Soule, Guiseppe Camuncoli, and Daniele Orlandini on sale now.
Darth Vader has had a strange history in the annals of Star Wars film canon. Dating all the way back to 1980, when Vader appeared in The Empire Strikes Back as a rebel-hunting badass, stalking Luke Skywalker across the galaxy, some fans wondered how he was suddenly the big guy in charge considering three years prior he was the guy who let the Death Star get blasted out of space by some no-name farm boy. After all, one would think this would merit a demotion instead of giving Vader a slew of troops under his control.
The progression of Darth Vader during the nineteen years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope are even more confounding. How the hell did an arrogant, emotionally unstable kid become one of the most iconic movie villains of all time?
Well, thankfully, Marvel Comics has been answering those questions wonderfully. Vader’s climb back into the Emperor’s good graces as the Death Star debacle were well-documented in Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca’s amazing 25 issue run on Star Wars: Darth Vader (2015). We see the rift it caused between him and his master, and also learn how and why he decided to find Skywalker, personally. (Spoiler: it has to do with lineage... in case you were wondering.)
For the past year and a half, Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli have been filling in the second biggest blank in Star Wars film canon -- the period between the prequels and the OG Trilogy (the first being between Episodes VI and VII, of course). So far, they have not only focused on turning Vader from whiny man-boy to a predatory monster, they've officially made the galaxy's most famous Sith Lord the slasher of The Star Wars Universe in Darth Vader #18 (2017).
Darth Vader is no stranger to being on the hunt in Soule and Camuncoli’s run. He tracked down rogue Jedi Master Kirak Infil'a in their first arc, a task that exemplified the lengths Vader would go to corner his quarry. The situation that unfolds in the pages of Darth Vader #18, however, is a different matter altogether. Wilhuf Tarkin owed Vader a favor - -but instead of property or wealth (a Sith craves not these things apparently), Vader asks Tarkin to hunt him down and, if at all possible, kill him. Despite the strange request, Tarkin obliges and bringing a hunting party to track down Lord Vader.
And things go about as well as you’d expect.
For twenty-plus pages, we watch Darth Vader stalk and systematically take down every member of Tarkin’s hunting party with the savagery of Jason Voorhees chopping through throngs of copulating teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake. During his hunt, Vader uses a cloaking device reminiscent of the alien hunter in Predator, and the manner in which he slowly stalks Takin toward the proverbial “finish line” of the issue is not unlike the pace used by other famous lumbering slashers like Michael Myers or Victor Crowley from the Hatchet films. His brutal reactions to his prey’s defenses are horrifying; Vader asked for this, yet everyone involved must die by his hand (or saber, or Force choke, etc.).
This version of Darth Vader lives up to the promise made by the original trilogy: this guy is the bogeyman. He’s the monster in the galaxy’s closet. Sure we’ve seen Vader hack through a corridor of rebels in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but this incarnation is animalistic and blood-thirsty in a way that defies reason or understanding. Vader hunts and he kills, not because he feels it's necessary to purge the galaxy of injustice. He does it…because he likes it. That's right, a telekinetic, cyborg with a laser sword loves to spend his free time chopping down folks. So yeah, Darth Vader is not just the scariest villain of all time, he's the most efficient slasher we've ever seen.