WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Darth Vader #22 by Charles Soule, Daniele Orlandini, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Terry Pallot, David Curiel and VC’s Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
The Death Star is one of the most iconic devices not just in Star Wars lore, but in the history of cinema. The weapon of mass destruction, which debuted in 1977's A New Hope, defined world-destroying weaponry and would go on to influence the Starkiller Base in 2015's The Force Awakens. But still, the original is considered untouchable among the franchise's connoisseurs.
However, Marvel Comics' Darth Vader #22 brings some new information to light on the in-canon background of the weapon, indicating that it's not something originally conceived under Palpatine's rule. It just so happens that the very first, and even more sinister Death Star, was actually the brainchild of a Sith Lord who existed ages before the Emperor was even born.
This issue dives a bit into the past of the Sith Lord in question, Momin, the ghost who's building Darth Vader's castle on Mustafar. He regales Vader with his backstory in what seems to be a job interview as to why he should get hired to build Vader's base. The dead Sith is communicating through his mask, and while auditioning, he reveals he has a unique connection to the Force. This is why he created art: To please it. And so, to kick things up a notch, he made an engine that was basically the very first Death Star.
It's a huge ship, similar to the Empire's cruisers, and not a planet-sized satellite. But it allowed Momin to traverse the galaxy easier and quickly, killing and transforming the innocent into both physical and spiritual representations of abstract art for the Dark Side. What makes this act so much more disturbing is the twist Momin added in which allowed him to bask in the pain and suffering of the folks the cruiser slaughtered. Whenever its flames began to burn its target cities, as the inhabitants stood on the cusp of being incinerated, Momin would pay homage and channel the Force into the flames, freezing time. It allowed him to soak in their despair and this cruel act provided the anguish of millions for the Dark Side to feed off.
In other words, it's not just about instantaneous death of the mind and body, it's about torture of the soul. When we saw Palaptine's weapon destroying Alderaan in A New Hope and then being brought back in Return of the Jedi, the Death Star was merely a tool, but here, Momin's prototype, if you will, razes planets as part of some deadly symphony he was composing. He treats his genocidal activities like an orchestra, making music for the Dark Side, and in return, it replenishes him with the energy needed to continue spreading evil.
This is quite a reveal; in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we learned how the Death Star was built, but the inspiration for its creation remained a mystery. In the Thrawn comics earlier this year, it was further revealed Palpatine was keeping the Death Star a big secret from everyone, leaving us to assume it was some epic plan he envisioned on his own. But given how he hid Momin's mask after his death in his relic room, it seems he studied up on the villain's past and learnt a lot from him.
In this issue, we also see how Momin killed his master, Lady Shaa, and took her resources to build the engine, which feels very similar to how Palpatine (as Darth Sidious) would go on to kill Darth Plagueis and take over the Sith Order. In essence, the dead Momin was a mentor to Palpatine, who clearly collected his history to become more powerful. Palpatine's new and improved model of the Death Star confirms this, and it leaves us wondering what other tricks he ended up learning from the excommunicated Sith Lord.