SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Darth Vader Annual #2, by Chuck Wendig, Leonard Kirk, Walden Wong, Scott Hanna, Nolan Woodard and Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
One of the benefits of the serialized storytelling format of Marvel’s Star Wars comic books is that it allows writers and artists to expand upon the material presented to us on the big screen. In some cases, such as adaptations, that means fleshing out moments from the films and filling in the blanks from when characters are off-camera.
In the case of Darth Vader Annual #2, it means establishing crucial character motivations that lead directly into the events of 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
As the issue begins, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin arrives at the Citadel Tower on Scarif. There, he finds Darth Vader seeking more information on the mysterious Project Stardust, which – as we learned in Rogue One – is the codename Galen Erso assigned to the Death Star plans.
Of course, the true nature of Project Stardust is unbeknownst to Vader at this time, and to keep it that way, Emperor Palpatine sends his loyal apprentice to Geonosis to find and eliminate those who have been attempting to sabotage said project. However, in doing so, the former Anakin Skywalker is able to piece together the secrets of what he previously believed was nothing more than a massive battle station the Empire planned to use to extend its tyrannical reach.
Thanks to one of the loyalty officers on Geonosis, Vader is made aware of a third party involved in Project Stardust, outside of Tarkin and Director Orson Krennic – the aforementioned Galen Erso.
Upon learning of Galen’s role in the project, Vader decides to pay a visit to the Erso family patriarch’s office on Coruscant. It’s there that the Sith Lord discovers that the “crystals” the loyalty officer told him Galen’s wife Lyra had been researching on Alpinn were no mere trinkets; they were kyber crystals, which are used by Jedi and Sith alike in the construction of lightsabers. That’s not all they can be used for, though.
“The true scope of your pet project remains hidden for now,” Vader tells Tarkin after successfully weeding out the saboteurs on Geonosis. “But I know. It is not merely a gun platform or battle station. It is a planet-killer.”
When Tarkin asks how he came to this conclusion, Vader explains that it was the discovery of the kyber crystals that gave it away.
“They are no mere energy source,” he says. “Their energy can be directed. Made aggressive.”
However, Darth Vader isn’t the only one who learns that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Project Stardust.
In the closing pages of the issue, we journey over to Alpinn where we find Lyra harvesting kyber crystals. Suddenly, though, the proximity alarm on her defender droid begins to sound off as a protocol droid approaches her from a distance.
“I am here to alert you that you and your husband are working on a superweapon of unparalleled magnitude.”
The droid then self-destructs, but nevertheless, its message reaches Lyra loud and clear.
“I have to get Jyn and get to my husband,” Lyra shouts into her comm. device. “And I think we have to run.”
This revelation, of course, is what Lyra passes on to Galen in the events just prior to Rogue One, and upon learning that his knowledge is being weaponized by the Empire, he and his family flee to the remote planet of Lah'mu, which is where the film begins.
However, thanks to Darth Vader Annual #2, we now know even more about what truly helped set those wheels in motion.