Alan Moore's Star Wars Episode III: 'Dark Lord's Conscience'
In our first installment, we revealed that Alan Moore was responsible for five stories taking place in the world of "Star Wars," starting with "The Pandora Effect"...!
Last time, we wrote about the tale that is Alan Moore's Star Wars Episode II: "Tilotny Throws A Shape"...!
And so we arrive at the halfway point of Alan Moore’s uncharted contribution to the Star Wars universe, "Dark Lord's Conscience." Focusing on none other than Darth Vader, the story first saw print inside Marvel UK's Empire Strikes Back Monthly #155 in April 1982. Veteran artist John Stokes provided pencils for the second straight story, later to be colored (in Dark Horse's U.S. reprint) by Laura Allred.
We're on the planet Cheelit, where Dhol, the world's ruler, has invited the Sith Lord to a good ol' fashioned game of Firepath. It's kinda like chess for snooty extraterrestrials while utilizing life-sized pawns that burst into flames. Soon after this battle of skewed brains gets underway, Vader reveals that the Guild of Vindicators has also proposed a game of wits, albeit one with decidedly higher stakes: These guys want him dead.
Two stormtroopers stand outside Dhol's palace, guarding the strategic duel. Unfortunately for them, Clat the Shamer makes an appearance, tasked with the vanquishing of Lord Vader. His weapon of choice? Empathy! A sentient being with the ability to manipulate human thought, Clat disposes of Vader's guards by reaching inside their minds and excavating painstaking memories of their darkest, most diabolical deeds. These hellish flashbacks are too brutal to bear, prompting STORMTROOPER SUICIDE—one of them commits an act of samurai-like Seppuku via his lightsaber (!).
Clat the Shamer: He knows what you did last summer...
Vader's game is interrupted by the mind-mangling sentient, his lust for retribution not yet satisfied. Edging his way onto the game board, Clat infiltrates the Dark Lord’s memory and unfurls a tapestry of vicious wrongdoings. Or so he thinks! The Guild of Vindicators' psychic assassin has walked right into a trap—Vader doesn't have a conscience (remember, this story was published before Return of the Jedi hit movie theaters), so Clat's powers meet with less success than Jabba the Hutt's personal trainer. Acknowledging this grave error, the sentient is devoured by flames and incinerated.
His would-be killer now a smoldering pile of ash, Darth Vader switches attention to Dhol. Suffice to say, the ruler of planet Cheelit is absolutely bricking it—the Sith Lord knew he was assisting the Vindicators all along. Vader makes his "checkmate" move (that would be turning Dhol into a shrieking fireball) and casually departs.
Unsurprisingly, the writing is exceptional. Using captions to unleash his barbed, penetrating prose, Moore absolutely nails Vader's twisted ingenuity. John Stokes' scratchy pencils are spot on, too, heightening the story's mood and brutality.
"Dark Lord's Conscience" is a unique dissection of the mind belonging to cinema's greatest (or at least, most infamous) villain.
Next time: Alan Moore's Star Wars Episode IV: Blind Fury! (Spoiler alert: This Blind Fury fails to accommodate Rutger Hauer.)