Comic Book Galaxy: How Star Wars Successfully Went Gothic-Horror in ‘The Screaming Citadel’

Plus, a look at highlights from select Star Wars comics released this month.

Comic Book Galaxy explores Marvel‘s Star Wars comic book releases and provides a discussion point on the culture and climate of the Star Wars comic book universe.

The last few weeks of Star Wars comics have provided plenty of thrills and excitement. In Star Wars #33, Luke and Leia are stranded on a remote ocean planet, and discover an AT-AT doing its best submarine impression. In Darth Maul #5, the titular Sith Lord finds the Jedi he has been hunting could make a good apprentice, and in Darth Vader #3, the former Jedi continues his quest to forge a Sith lightsaber in unconventional fashion. Speaking of unconventional, “The Screaming Citadel” crossover has a number of elements of gothic literature that are unique to the tone of the Star Wars universe, which we’ll discuss at length. Let’s get started.

The Month That Was

The cover of issue 33 of the Star Wars comic book features Luke and Leia on a rocky cliff.

Star Wars #33

  • After being chased by the Empire, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia crash on a remote ocean world. They have to use unconventional means in order to find food. You’ll never look at fishing the same way again.
  • Luke and Leia are stranded for weeks on the planet, and need to rely on survival skills acquired earlier in their lives. The farm boy from Tatooine and the princess from Alderaan both lost their parents to the Empire, and come to the realization that neither of them really has a place to call home. The entire issue is a showcase for their burgeoning friendship.
  • The Empire appears, bringing AT-ATs and shoretroopers to eliminate the rebel heroes. So, if you’re keeping score, it’s a whole mess of Imperials verses two Skywalkers. The Empire doesn’t stand a chance.

The cover of issue 5 of the Darth Maul comic book features Darth Maul wielding his double bladed lightsaber.

Darth Maul #5

  • The Darth Maul mini-series concludes with the moment we have been waiting for: a showdown against the Jedi Padawan, Eldra. Writer Cullen Bunn and artist Luke Ross have been building to this moment, and it’s more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
  • The Twi’lek is the first Jedi that Maul has faced, and she more than lives up to the hype. Eldra is a fierce and talented combatant, and gives Maul so much more than he bargained for.
  • There’s also the matter of Maul neglecting to tell his master about the mission. Generally, engaging in duplicitous behavior towards Darth Sidious is not a stellar idea. However, Sidious is fully aware of his apprentice’s “extra-curricular” activity, and has much to say on the subject. We learn more about both Sith in the process.

Darth Vader battles Kirak Infil'a on the cover of the third issue of the Darth Vader comic book.

Darth Vader #3

  • Vader’s quest for a Sith lightsaber has taken him to to the River Moon of Al’doleem, where Master Infil’a resides. Infil’a is a survivor of Order 66 and has a mission of his own. Plus, he’s not afraid of Vader. At all.
  • Master Infill’a is one cool customer. Despite the warnings of his droid, Infil’a refuses to hide.
  • Once these two mighty Force wielders meet, it’s awesome! Vader needs Infil’a’s lightsaber, so that he can create his Sith blade. He must take on Infil’a without a lightsaber, but Darth Vader has the Force as his ally, as well as his rage. The results of this encounter may surprise you.

Word Balloon: Gothic Literature in “The Screaming Citadel”

Gothic literature utilizes sinister, macabre elements to both thrill and chill audiences. It features many archetypes of the horror genre that bring some of our worst nightmares to life, and the recently completed Star Wars crossover event, “The Screaming Citadel,” incorporated gothic elements to tell a new kind of Star Wars story. Here’s how they did it.

A page from the comic book crossover The Screaming Citadel, with Luke Skywalker, Doctor Aphra, and C-3PO arriving at a sinister castle in the rain.

A mysterious, remote castle

It’s a classic horror staple — the remote castle or house just off the beaten path. This archetype ups the creepy factor, since it means any visitor will be too far from civilization to call for help or run to safety. The Queen of Ktath’atn’s palace is in a fairly unexplored area of the galaxy, which makes Luke Skywalker and Doctor Aphra’s trip there even more precarious. When the two find themselves in danger, it may be a long time before anyone can come to their rescue, or even know where they are. Granted, in gothic literature, most prisoners are not strong in the Force, but throughout most of the crossover event, it does not seem to do Luke much good. If anything, it’s the opposite, making the out of the way locale even more dangerous.

A comic page from The Screaming Citadel depicts the vampiric Queen of Ktath'atn feeding on a victim.

A frightening, irredeemable villain

The Queen of Ktath’atn is a vampiric being that drains the life force of others in order to bring sustenance to her unholy existence. She’s an excellent example of the twisted, hopeless creature showcased in gothic literature. The famous vampire Dracula, for instance, does not change in Bram Stoker’s novel. He is selfish, deadly, and seemingly invincible. His enemies appear powerless to prevent his whims or wishes. Queen Ktath’atn is similar. She has an army of terrors at her disposal, is completely lacking in conscience, and is able to subdue her prey with hardly any effort. There’s nothing quite as frightening as being powerless at the hands of a demonic force of nature, which makes us all the more worried for Luke Skywalker’s plight in the Queen of Ktath’atn’s clutches.

An unconventional hero

Everyone’s favorite morally-suspect archaeologist, Doctor Aphra, is duplicitous, selfish, and not to be trusted. Ironically, it’s one of the things we love about her. In “The Screaming Citadel,” she kidnaps Luke while managing to convince him it’s for his own good. Then, she betrays him, but finds herself questioning her motives once the Rur crystal’s resident, and ancient Jedi Master, gets her to look inside herself and examine her actions. She’s not the prototypical hero at all, which also works within gothic literature. Many of these heroes find themselves in a previously unexplored situation that makes them tap into a part of themselves they never thought possible, often in spite of their natural tendencies. And Aphra’s natural tendencies are pretty unpredictable anyway, which made her extremely fun throughout “The Screaming Citadel.”

What did you think of Star Wars going gothic? Lets us know in the comments below!

Dan Zehr is a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning, and is the Host and Co-creator of Coffee With Kenobi, a Star Wars podcast that analyzes the saga through critical thinking, analysis, interviews, and discussion. He is also the rebel teacher in the Target Rogue One commercial, and is an avid comic book consumer and longtime reader of the medium.

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