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.
As intimidating and awesome as he was on the big screen, Darth Vader did come off a bit one-dimensional, slicing and dicing at Emperor Palpatine's every whim and fancy. It's only when the Star Wars universe fleshed out the prequel trilogy -- not saying that the execution was spot on -- that we got to see Anakin Skywalker's transformation into the Sith Lord and, more so, someone with a bit more depth.
If you want even more character development though, Marvel Comics' Darth Vader is a must-read. With the latest arc "Fortress Vader" filling in the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Issue #20 goes a step further by illustrating, despite his evil exterior, Vader's still in touch with emotions.
And this comes via a very striking easter egg from The Phantom Menace, which leaves Vader shaken to his very core.
After killing a couple Inquisitors, because he's either bored or just taking out the competition, Vader is reprimanded by Palpatine on Coruscant. He feels like he's losing control of his apprentice and wants to rein him in. Vader assures him he's doing the Empire a favor because the Inquisitors aren't to be trusted, but his master's not having any of this insubordination.
He scolds his protege, but attempts to pacify him, albeit while having some fun at his expense. Palpatine presents Vader with a reward for the rest of his good work lately -- the Naboo Royal Starship, a J-type 327 Nubian starship, seen throughout The Phantom Menace.
With its sleek, golden look -- which was so unmistakable in the movie -- it's a reminder of a time Vader wants to forget. This was Queen Padmé Amidala's ship, used when she, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn fled the trade dispute on Naboo and ended up on Tatooine. There, the trio met Anakin, took him away from his mother, and inducted him into the Jedi Order as "the Chosen One" who was supposed to bring balance to the Force.
Of course, things went awry and Anakin fell to the Dark Side, thus making this vessel the last thing Vader wants or needs in his life. It jars him, reminding him of the planet he left behind, the mother he abandoned, how he looked up to Qui-Gon as the father-figure he never had, only to lose him; and most importantly, it's a big connection to Padmé who would eventually become his wife. While it's disguised as a gift, it's really a cruel form of torture to show Vader that no matter what, Palpatine owns his humanity and most importantly, his soul.
Vader remembers a time when he believed in the Light, now viewed as a weakness which the Jedi Order represents and which he must extinguish. And just as Palpatine predicted, there's an emotional swell in his general as he uses the Force to destroy a robot altering and assessing the ship's exterior. Even though he hates the memories it stirs, Vader doesn't want the ship sullied, clearly wanting to preserve it.
The Emperor derives great pleasure from this act, knowing it's reminding his right-hand man of how pure the love of his life was, and how he failed to keep her alive. With an increased rage stirring, Vader adds fuel to his internal fire by requesting a planet of his own to meditate, Mustafar, which is where Obi-Wan beat him and left him for dead. Clearly, he's provoked but ready to channel all of this fury into killing off the Jedi for good, just as his master deviously planned from the very start.