Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin, a Legends Star Wars comic by Dark Horse, provides a terrifying and toxic source of the Death Star’s power.

The Star Wars The franchise has undergone numerous revisions since the first film’s release in 1977, especially the finer details, such as the original Death Star power source. As the universe has expanded and additional creative voices come into play, questions like how the Empire would power such a weapon becomes a source of good stories. Canyon Star Wars took a different approach to the question, but the Legends content finds a disturbing and tragic alternative answer.

The Death Star was eventually powered by giant kyber crystals, as covered in the canon novel. Tarkin and confirmed by the dialogue in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That applies to both the first and second Death Stars, and Starkiller Base in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens that turned the kyber-rich planet of Ilum into a world-destroying supersoul. But before the movies spelled out the details, a non-canon comic uncovered something far scarier than kyber crystals.

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Dark Horse Comics Published Darth Vader and the ninth assassin in 2013, positing a prolonged encounter between Vader and a cult called Headless Snake. The Serpent possessed a large beam called the Base, which they used to power their city and grow their crops. It also served as protection for their planet, capable of cutting off approaching ships. They announced Vader’s arrival as the sign of a great prophecy, before he took control of the weapon and killed them. Eventually, he handed the Base over to Tarkin to use in a sinister “project.” Multiple visual cues in the comics infer that the Death Star will be his final destination.

On the surface, this differs little from kyber crystals, although their energy is more overtly mystical in origin. More disturbing is the physical and spiritual corruption that seemed to affect the Headless Serpent. Those who spent time around the Base began to show physical deformities, as well as an increased appetite for violence and brutality. Insanity was also strongly inferred, as they were essentially a death cult. One of the hieroglyphs on his temple wall suggested that the Base was nuclear in nature.

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Whatever its true qualities, the Base had a clear and devastating effect on those who remained around it for long periods of time. By extension, that would include all the personnel who built and manned the Death Star who would develop similar symptoms over time. Had the Base turned out to be the source of his power, he would have let the Death Star live up to its name both for his staff and for the planets they destroyed.

The manifest toxicity of the Base meant that the Emperor would happily poison his own strength, physically and spiritually, to wield that kind of power. A Death Star populated by a cult of death worshipers could have drawn the Emperor a lot, especially if they started out as his own loyal officers and stormtroopers. They might even have formed a source of Dark Force power on their own, allowing Palpatine or his apprentices to feed off their rage and madness whenever they visited the station. That would have fulfilled Vader’s words in STar Wars: Episode IV – A new hope in a terrifying way: the ability to destroy a planet is negligible compared to the power of the Force.

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