This contains spoilers for the most recent issue of Darth Vader.

The final issue of Marvel’s Darth Vader comicis out, and it has a lot to say about who might be the father of Anakin Skywalker. Could Palpatine have really manipulated the Force into creating his strongest apprentice?

“There was no Father,” Shmi Skywalker confesses to Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace of her son, Anakin Skywalker. This leads the venerable Jedi Master to believe that Anakin is the one foretold to be the Chosen One as part of an ancient Jedi prophecy. When he reports this to the Jedi Council, they remain skeptical that the young boy was conceived of the midi-chlorians, which were the source of all life in the galaxy and a pathway to hear the will of the Force for those in tune with them.

But the fact remains that Anakin Skywalker has a higher midi-chlorian count than anyone they’ve ever encountered. Was he a product of the Force’s will? Or were the midi-chlorians tampered with by someone strong in the dark side of the Force? In the final issue of writer Charles Soule’s run on Darth Vader that came out last week, Darth Vader has a vision that may well lead him to believe the latter is true. But what are we left to believe?

Did Darth Sidious influence the midi-chlorians to create life and Anakin Skywalker specifically? Or could it have been both? Could Sidious have messed with the midi-chlorians to create Anakin because it was the will of the Force? Or is this a vision that plays on Vader’s fears and anxieties to keep him fueled by the dark side?

Unfortunately, for those who like cut and dried answers, the comic book is inconclusive and any of these could be true.

Any debate about the will of the Force is going to take you into gray areas and, I believe, that’s the way stories surrounding the Force are designed.

Fortress Vader

This intimation that Palpatine had a hand in the conception of Anakin Skywalker comes in the final installment of the story arc called “Fortress Vader.” This story found Darth Vader establishing his base on Mustafar and building the castle we first saw in Rogue One. Palpatine gave him a number of gifts. One being a world of his own, and Vader chose Mustafar, the place he last saw his wife. The second was the helmet of a dark side user named Mommin.

Over the months, Mommin’s presence in the helmet possessed various entities until Vader was able to focus the castle into a doorway that took him into a nexus of the Force that showed him visions from the past, the present, and the future.

This is where he saw a vision of his conception, as well as haunted and twisted memories of his past. In one panel, the art team behind the book offers a canon look at an image of young Anakin Skywalker with the shadow of Vader behind him, a meta-nod to the first teaser poster of The Phantom Menace. In other scenes, Vader witnesses twisted, dark versions of events we know happened in other ways.

As far as his conception, we’re shown an image of Palpatine, in his post-Revenge of the Sith deformity, hovering over Anakin’s loving mother.

In this vision, he also slays a version of Yoda.

Later, the broken spirit of Anakin Skywalker hears the voice of Darth Vader utter his iconic line, “I am your father,” as he looks up a staircase and sees both Sheev Palpatine and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Could either of these been his father? Could both of them been? Each certainly fulfilled different paternal roles for the young boy.

Each vision Vader has, from his wedding to quiet moments of love with his wife, is tainted by the dark side with one exception: the glow of a blue lightsaber and the silhouette of a person he doesn’t even yet know exists yet: his son.

The entire sequence is a twisted vision, rendered beautifully, hoping we seek deeper meaning into the images we see. But are any of them definitive? Doubtful. Save for Luke, every other memory or flash of the future Vader has is contorted by the dark.

George Lucas’s Intentions

Vader’s castle is something that was in the mind of George Lucas for years. The designs of the castle are based on a Ralph McQuarrie sketch from The Empire Strikes Back when it was supposed to feature prominently. Ultimately, those sequences were scrapped when Lawrence Kasdan took over script duties.

But what of Anakin’s parentage?

The first place we can go to look is in Revenge of the Sith. At the opera, as Palpatine explains the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. He was “a Dark Lord of the Sith so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life,” Palpatine tells the impressionable young Skywalker. No doubt, this was meant to plant a seed that Anakin could be destined for things greater than the life of an ordinary Jedi. Perhaps dark things.

But Palpatine never claimed to hold this power himself. He claimed that he could help Anakin gain it, together they could discover that secret. Darth Plagueis was the expert in such matters, not Palpatine.

We can go back even deeper into the intentions of George Lucas and look at scenes cut from the original scripts to see what else he might have meant. In George Lucas’s original rough draft of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine blatantly takes credit for the conception. “I have waited all these years for you to fulfill your destiny… I arranged for your conception. I used the power of the Force to will the midichlorians to start the cell divisions that created you.”

“I don’t believe you,” Anakin tells him. Probably smartly so.

“Ahhh, but you know it’s true. When you clear your mind, you will sense the truth. you could almost think of me as your father,” Palpatine responds.

These lines were cut.

Was Palaptine telling the truth, even in these cut passages? Or was he lying to manipulate Anakin further? There’s nothing we have to indicate certainty one way or the other. That must be maddening for a character like Darth Vader.

Whoa, If True

What would this mean if this revelation were the truth?

For one, it would mean that Palpatine’s grand plan, his scheme to eliminate the Jedi, was more prescient than anyone could have guessed. It would also mean that the Skywalker legacy has always been cast beneath a shadow, destined for dark things from the beginning of the line. If Palpatine did, indeed, influence the midi-chlorians to create Anakin Skywalker, what does that say about Luke and Ben Solo?

Was Luke the most powerful of the three Skywalkers in this line because he was able to resist the call to darkness most easily? He certainly had his brushes with it, both against his own father and with his own nephew, but he never succumbed. Palpatine conceiving of this line of Skywalkers would make Luke’s goodness something all the more remarkable.

On the other hand, what if it is true, from a certain point of view? What if Palaptine did wish really hard that the Force would create a perfect apprentice for him and the Force did just that. But maybe the Force did that not for any action Palpatine took, but because it had a will of its own. Palpatine’s need and the will of the Force coincided and maybe Palpatine was merely trying to take credit for it.

It’s an interesting exercise in thought no matter where your expectation lies.

Ultimate Meanings

With the release of Darth Vader Vol. 2 #25, are we finally granted the certainty that we’ve wondered about all of these years? Did Darth Plagueis will the midi-chlorians to create Anakin Skywalker and bring about the downfall of the Jedi? Did Palpatine?

Personally, I don’t think so. Reading the comic in context and trying to remember the lessons from The Last Jedi that we can all see something and all come up with a different answer, it seems apparent that this is Vader’s anxiety and uncertainty of his own past coming to haunt him. This fever dream in the Force is driven by his hatred and insecurity and desire, each image as twisted with the darkness as Vader himself was. Why would we view this particular image as anything different?

Anxiety, hatred, and fear forces us to look at the world through a different lens, and that’s the lens through which Vader sees everything.

So I think we can go back to the word of his mother. Shmi Skywalker, staring at an innocent young boy who only wanted to help people and say that his nature wasn’t dark. Sure, he had father figures that nurtured a split in his soul, but he can’t escape Shmi’s words and find them definitive, a shining echo of light in all the darkness of his tortured soul.

“There was no father,” she says of Anakin and his future.

But Vader answers back, taking control of his destiny for himself, “No, I am your father.”

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