WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Darth Vader #24 by Charles Soule, Daniele Orlandini, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Dono Sanchez-Almara David Curiel and VC’s Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
The Star Wars movies have always painted Darth Vader as an emotional brick wall. But as Marvel Comics peels the layers back, we've learned that under the black mask and breathing apparatus, there were fragments of his humanity, lingering and reminding him of his time as the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker.
Darth Vader #24 takes these revelations a step further as Vader deals with the betrayal of the architect and Sith Lord known as Momin, right after the creation of his obsidian castle at Mustafar. As the two feud, we finally see exactly what Vader's worst nightmares are, as the sinister Momin helps bring them to life.
Previously, the spirit of Momin, the artist who built the very first Death Star, lied and tricked Vader into opening a breach into the afterlife so he could see his beloved Padme Amidala again, a setup so Momin could retrieve his own body, resulting in him throwing Vader down into the fiery pits of the planet.
This issue picks up with Vader fighting off Mustafar's natives, people who aren't happy with him disturbing the order of things and upsetting the balance of the planet by trying to exploit the energies the Dark Side placed in its core. Their armies include mammoth creatures from the lava lakes, and as Vader's forces struggle to repel them, Momin -- already tapped into Vader's mind -- gives the battle a little nudge as he knows what Vader fears on Mustafar. As Momin continues manipulating the rift to the afterlife, he also uses the Dark Side of the Force to secretly help Vader's attackers. He influences the fight below, just so Vader can be dropped into the molten hot lava beneath his feet.
It's a nightmare Vader doesn't want to relive; as you'll recall from Revenge of the Sith, it mirrors his biggest and most brutal defeat. There, Obi-Wan Kenobi, thanks to having the higher ground, sliced up Anakin, leaving him near-death on the searing hot terrain. He was badly burnt, which led to Emperor Palpatine rescuing him and turning him into the half-man, half-machine Darth Vader. It's a nightmare for Vader because it showed him the Jedi would always find a way to top the Sith, no matter how much power he thinks he'll have as the Chosen One.
On a more basic level, being decimated by molten hot lava is a painful thing, so we can fully understand why the Sith general fears this happening again. This time, though, Vader is prepared and uses the Force to create a bubble to minimize the burns and overall damage. As he catches fire, his rage motivates him to blow the flames away, proving to Momin he can move past these fears.
When Vader's forces eventually conquer their opposition on the ground, he returns to the castle to take Momin on, and there the architect decides to remind Vader of another hellish moment in his past. As they enter into a lightsaber duel, Momin exclaims he's unlike the other Sith Vader's faced before... and slices off Vader's right hand.
It's not just his lightsaber-wielding hand, it's also the same one Count Dooku cut off of Anakin in Attack of the Clones. That blow hurt Anakin's ego so much, he'd always try to inflict it against worthy opposition, as seen years later when he cut Luke Skywalker's hand off in The Empire Strikes Back, bringing their father-son story full-circle.
Vader eventually triumphs as Momin underestimates him (it is his story, after all), but we've never seen him shaken like this before. He relieves the moments of failure he tried to forget about, which seem to taunt at his decision to choose the Sith over the Jedi. What makes Momin's mental and physical attack even worse is it's all a sign that Vader could end up failing as a Sith Lord.