After decades of speculation and theories, a Star Wars comic has finally revealed Darth Vader's reasoning for keeping Chewbacca alive in a famous scene from The Empire Strikes Back. In the scene, Han Solo is undergoing the process of being frozen in a carbonite chamber on Cloud City.
During this process, Chewbacca roars in protest, and Boba Fett raises his gun with the intention of killing the crying Wookie. However, before Boba Fett can finish the job, Darth Vader lifts his arm to prevent the bounty hunter from killing Chewbacca. It would have made logical sense for Boba Fett to kill the rebellious Wookie, but Darth Vader prevented it, which has always been an odd choice for the film. Thankfully, now we have some answers as to why he did it.
In the comic Star Wars: Darth Vader #12, it details the same scene from Darth Vader's perspective. As Boba Fett raises the gun, Vader stops it as he thinks to himself, "Good... Keep on believing it... Believe that your friends have survived this long through strength or fortune... instead of my design." By saying this, Darth Vader reveals that he did not spare the Wookie out of the kindness of his heart or by some hidden weakness. Rather, his intention was much more sinister as he wanted the Rebels to think their survival was their own doing as opposed to his. He wanted the Rebels to underestimate him.
This scene has long been a subject of controversy and debate amongst Star Wars fans. It was easy to believe that Darth Vader had kind intentions or a simple code of honor for the Sith, but his plans were much more strategic. Instead, Darth Vader wanted to keep Chewbacca alive because he wanted the Rebels to collectively suffer even more. He wanted them to be weak. The comic confirms how masterful of a strategist Darth Vader has always been, and it's incredibly cool to see the comic series explore this side of classic stories.
The Star Wars comics have attempted similar retcons and explanations in the past, but most are difficult to pull off or just plain silly. There have been many moments in the comic series, including the Darth Vader series, that have tried to explain certain scenes or moments by providing additional context. Oftentimes, it feels like the comic is just trying to cover up a plot hole with a ridiculous answer. This one, however, certainly feels like a smooth explanation of a seemingly insignificant scene. It fits perfectly with Vader's character and the original film itself, and it's always refreshing to see comics stay true to source material.
The most interesting part about the whole scene is how Darth Vader was in fact the one doing the underestimating. His intent was that the Rebels would believe they escaped by their own volition, leading them to underestimate Darth Vader in the future. However, because he kept Chewbacca alive, Darth Vader inadvertently caused the downfall of the Empire himself. Chewbacca would go on to seek revenge and eventually help rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt - and the Wookie would then help in the destruction of the second Death Star. Darth Vader's pride and vanity aided the Rebels at every turn, and this comic only cements it.