“The Red Horror”
Story: Greg Pak
Art: Raffaele Ienco
Colors: Neeraj Menon
Letterer: VCs Joe Caramagna
What They Say:
THE RED HORROR! After passing the test of THE EYE OF WEBBISH BOGG, DARTH VADER has learned the route to the hidden location of THE EMPEROR’S greatest secrets! But in THE RED NEBULA along the way, can Vader survive the onslaught of the greatest predator in the galaxy? Especially if the monster’s most brutal attack transcends the physical? And what horrors await the Emperor if a transformed Vader makes it to his dark door?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
While the idea of using the comics and books to clean up problems with the film is problematic to say the least, it’s something that has been accepted within this sphere for a long time and offers a lot of interesting opportunities. Greg Pak’s work here in bringing us to Exegol during the time of Empire Strikes Back is interesting and I’m definitely curious to see where it’ll go, as we had hints of it during The Mandalorian as well. Pak’s script works well here in creating a lot of tension while Raffael Ienco again delivers a defiant Vader that struggles against something incredibly oppressive even to him.
With Vader and Ochi making their way to Exegol to discover Palpatine’s secrets that he’s kept from Vader all this time, we see the immediate threat that blocks them in the form of the giant creature within the Red Nebula that’s keeping them from the system. That forces Vader to face off against the Imperial forces on the other side that are threatening him with Umbaran and the Star Destroyers he has with him. It’s in this that we see Vader pushing back as TIE Fighters are thrown at him to destroy him (and Ochi, still in his pod attached to Vader’s ship). Ochi’s panic provide some comedic relief in the midst of the serious material but it fits as he’s stuck and captured in all of this. There isn’t even time to be impressed with Vader taking out eleven ships since the commander has thousands in the Destroyers overall.
The scale of the threat is what forces Vader to simply go through the nebula and face the creature within, a unique being that has altered itself over time to consume its own species. The psychic attack that both face within while the ship flies through is focused on showing them their own deaths in the future. As we’ve seen in past issues, this means a lot of nods to the past and reworked sequences as Vader sees Luke within it now, echoes that are reformed with those that were friends who became enemies, and familiar scenes inverted where, for example, he loses his hand on Cloud City by Luke. But we’ve seen Vader struggle and persevere through these attacks before by others and as bad as it is, he’s able to survive them and push forward, to the point of seemingly mastering this beast, which is horrifying in its own way.
Darth Vader works through some good stuff here even if I’m not thrilled by the creature, something that for the whole sequel trilogy finale just didn’t click with me in what was intended with it. I get how it fits within the galaxy overall with other creatures we’ve seen, from the asteroid worm to the whales in Rebels for example, but something like this just feels like it leans into the Cthulhu style material in a way that doesn’t quite land. But what we get out of Vader is really good stuff as he again is forced to confront his past, his prior self, and his future all at the same time and jumbled at times as well to create fresh new conflict. It’s intriguing and I’m definitely curious to see where Pak is taking this to help bind together the trilogies all the more.