Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas by Charles Soule & Giuseppe Camuncoli
The early years of Darth Vader continue in Dark Lord of the Sith Vol. 3: The Burning Seas, in which Charles Soule explores Vader and the Empire in the near-immediate aftermath of The Revenge of the Sith. As the Empire consolidates its rule over the galaxy, Vader is sent on various missions that test his abilities in the Dark Side and allow him to grow more comfortable with his ever more destructive powers.
Most of the action takes place on Mon Cala, which readers will recognize as the home planet of fan-favourite Admiral Akbar. It was also featured heavily in The Clone Wars television series, and King Lee-Char has a significant role to play here — as do Raddus and Akbar, who appear in Rogue One and the original trilogy respectively.
As the Death Star is quietly constructed in secret, the Emperor sends Vader to Mon Cala to investigate rumours that young King Lee-Char is being advised by a Jedi. There’s a catch though: the military operation will be overseen by Governor Tarkin, who is as restrained as Vader is aggressive. With the assassination of the Imperial Ambassador to Mon Cala, Vader and Tarkin clash as to best handle the situation — though Vader seizes the opportunity to search for the Jedi.
There is one of course, his name is Ferren Barr and he’s been hiding with several disciples in the underwater caves of the planet. As they desperately try to outrun Vader and his Inquisitors, we get a brief but poignant look at what brought all these youngsters under Jedi Barr’s protection.
Volume three of DARTH VADER also introduces some shades of grey into the proceedings, with several questionable decisions being made by so-called heroes in service of the greater good, not to mention a return of Order 66 in extremely surprising circumstances (don’t worry, I won’t give it away). The Burning Seas provides plenty of food for thought regarding the ethos of the Jedi, delving into some of the moral ambiguity that the films tend to gloss over.
There are also two more standalone stories here, each involving the odd relationship between Vader and Tarkin. In the first the two pit themselves against one another in a hunter/prey scenario, and in the second they butt heads over “Project Stardust” and what it means to Vader’s standing in the Emperor’s formal hierarchy. This one ties in nicely with Rogue One, with cameos from Orson Krennic and Lyra Erso, with one scene in particular lifted straight from James Luceno’s Catalyst (which was itself a prequel to Rogue One).
As always, The Burning Seas is beautifully illustrated, with rich colours, vivid action and beautiful designs, whether it’s spaceships, landscapes or character designs. I can’t wait to read the next volume!