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Star Wars Returns To Mustafar — Why Is This World So Important To Darth Vader And The Dark Side?

The planet appeared in Lucas's Clone Wars animated series, again in Star Wars: Rebels, and most recently in last year's Rogue One.

Alas, poor Anakin! [Credit: Lucasfilm]

Back in 2005, George Lucas brought his Prequel Trilogy to a close with the best of the bunch: Revenge of the Sith. This dark tale told the story of Anakin Skywalker's final fall to the Dark Side, and saw him locked in a fateful duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi on the volcanic world of Mustafar.

In the years since, though, Star Wars has kept returning to Mustafar. The planet appeared in Lucas's Clone Wars animated series, again in Star Wars: Rebels, and most recently in last year's Rogue One. There, we were shocked to learn that Darth Vader made Mustafar his home, building a sinister Sith fortress. This week's Darth Vader #5 returns us to Mustafar, and there are intriguing rumors that the Sequel Trilogy will revisit the iconic location too.

So why is Mustafar so important to Darth Vader, and to the Sith? Why does the Star Wars saga keep returning to this one ravaged world?

Welcome To Mustafar

Unused concept art by Ralph McQuarrie [Credit: Lucasfilm]

To understand Mustafar, you first have to know a little about the history of Star Wars. The look and feel of the original trilogy was significantly influenced by concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, but not all of his concepts were used. Take this one (shown above), which shows Luke brought before the Emperor in a mysterious underground lava lake. It's sinister and evocative, and a much-loved piece of concept art among Star Wars fans.

The creative team behind Rogue One loved the design, and decided to adapt it into the history of the Star Wars galaxy. As we learned in The Art of Rogue One, they envisioned Mustafar as a locus of dark side power. Nowhere is the dark side more concentrated than in this mysterious, ancient cavern. Once, in times long past, an unknown race actually built a strange sort of structure atop the cavern. It's fallen into disrepair over the millennia, but its power remains.

This retconned history fits really well with the glimpses we've seen of Mustafar in the wider Star Wars canon. In The Clone Wars, Mustafar was the site of a sinister experiment conducted by Palpatine. His agents had scoured the galaxy and captured Force-sensitive children. Seeking to turn them into an elite group of Dark Side operatives, Palpatine had them kidnapped and taken to Mustafar. There, they would be broken and twisted, turned to the Dark Side. Fortunately, his plans were thwarted by the Jedi.

In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine has the Separatist leaders sent to a hidden base on Mustafar. They think he's keeping them safe; in reality, he's gathering them together in one place in order to have them slaughtered by his new apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, now rechristened Darth Vader. The retcon adds another layer to Revenge of the Sith, suggesting that Palpatine is deliberately sending Darth Vader to a locus of Dark Side energy, a place that will only exacerbate his corruption. What Palpatine likely didn't foresee was Obi-Wan Kenobi pursuing Darth Vader to Mustafar and defeating him in combat.

This turns that fateful duel into something even more powerful. Not only was Obi-Wan battling against Anakin, but he was also doing so in a place steeped with the power of the Dark Side. Anakin, for his part, surrendered to the lure of the Dark Side — never more so than when he screamed his hatred, as Obi-Wan left him for dead.

What Could Cause A Locus Of The Dark Side?

This isn't the first time we've heard of a locus of Dark Side energy, of course. In The Empire Strikes Back, Master Yoda sends Luke into a cave to confront his worst fears. Yoda explicitly tells Luke that that cave is "strong with the Dark Side of the Force." He goes so far as to refer to it as "a domain of evil!" What can create this kind of Dark-Side-rich place?

The answer lies in a concept introduced in the old Expanded Universe. There, we learned that specific sites are rich in the Force; these are known as "vergences," and the Jedi have often built their temples in places that are dedicated to the Light Side. Vergences of the Dark Side are typically created when the most powerful Dark Side beings are slain; their rage and anger bleeds into the surrounding area, twisting it and corrupting it. While Lucasfilm may have rebooted the Star Wars canon after they were purchased by Disney, they seem to have kept most of the basic "mechanics" of the galaxy. As a result, this is probably still the case, and we can presume that a powerful Dark Side being was slain on Mustafar.

Darth Vader's Return To Mustafar

It's time to go home. [Credit: Marvel Comics]

That brings us up to Charles Soule's Darth Vader #5. This series is set shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith, and so far has focused in on Darth Vader's attempt to build a Sith lightsaber. At the heart of every lightsaber is a kyber crystal, and the series has revealed that Sith Apprentices must take the crystal from the lightsaber of a Jedi they have defeated in combat. As a result, the first arc has focused on Darth Vader's battle against a Jedi-in-exile who survived Order 66. Emerging triumphant, he must now bend the kyber crystal to his will, a process known as "bleeding," which will turn the crystal red. Palpatine intends this to be done on Mustafar.

All this raises an intriguing question: Did Palpatine actually know that Obi-Wan would seek out Anakin? Had he believed Anakin would defeat his old Master on Mustafar? If he had, then no doubt Palpatine would have commanded his apprentice to bleed the crystal from Obi-Wan's lightsaber then and there, creating his Sith blade before returning to the galaxy as a powerful Sith Apprentice. It's certainly a possibility that we shouldn't discount, given one of Palpatine's greatest gifts was his ability to chart the future through visions. If so, though, he gravely miscalculated, and his plans were disordered by Obi-Wan's triumph.

Whether or not that's the case, though, in Darth Vader #5 we see Palpatine send his recovering Apprentice to Mustafar. There, Darth Vader finds the ruins of an ancient structure, and a cave marked with strange, sinister inscriptions. He meditates in the Force, and the issue shows a battle of wills between the kyber and the Sith Apprentice. Intriguingly, the kyber itself seems to fight Darth Vader, offering visions of his turning to the Light Side, slaying the Emperor, and being reconciled with Obi-Wan. Darth Vader rejects these visions, his indomitable will triumphing, and instead turns the crystal red. By the end of the comic, Darth Vader has committed to the Dark Side as never before.

Mustafar Becomes Darth Vader's Base

Rogue One revealed that Darth Vader returned to Mustafar, and claimed the volcanic world as his home. As we learned in The Art of Rogue One, he had the ancient structure rebuilt, and now resides above the Dark Side cavern where he bled his kyber crystal. Intriguingly, the building was designed to the shape of a tuning fork, suggesting it focused the power of the Dark Side in the way the towers of the Jedha concentrated the power of the Light.

In a wonderful touch, this adds another dimension to a major arc at the end of #StarWarsRebels Season 1 that ended with the Inquisitors taking their prisoner, Kanan, to the planet Mustafar. At the time, it seemed like a strange continuity nod. Now we know they were taking Kanan to Darth Vader himself. Given Vader didn't arrive until the end of the episode, we can assume he simply wasn't at home at the time — fortunately for the Rebels!

On To The Future

Intriguingly, there are rumors that the Star Wars movies are set to return to Mustafar in the Sequel Trilogy. While these should be taken with a pinch of salt — not least since Colin Trevorrow's script for Episode IX is likely to be substantially rewritten — it would certainly make sense. After all, Kylo Ren venerates his grandfather. Why wouldn't he seek out Darth Vader's home? Given Mustafar is a locus of Dark Side energy, though, that will take him to a very dangerous place. It could continue Kylo Ren's fall to the Dark Side.

What's more, this may well happen sooner than we think. Footage released at the D23 Expo included a glimpse of what seemed to be lava, in which case we may well see Mustafar in #TheLastJedi. Many fans believe the movie will see Kylo Ren training in the Dark Side, so it's possible that Supreme Leader Snoke will send him to Mustafar.

Introduced in Revenge of the Sith, Mustafar has gradually become one of the key Star Wars locations. It's no longer just a random planet on which a Sith Apprentice dueled a Jedi Master. Now, it's a unique world, a locus of the dark side that casts a long shadow over our beloved galaxy far, far away. Lucasfilm has put in a lot of time and effort developing this world, and it's sure to crop up again!

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Star Wars Returns To Mustafar — Why Is This World So Important To Darth Vader And The Dark Side?
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