The Galaxy in Comics is a deep dive into the events and themes of one recent Star Wars comic. In this installment, StarWars.com looks at the entire Star Wars Adventures: Tales from Vader’s Castle miniseries.
Spoiler warning: This article discuss details and plot points of Star Wars Adventures: Tales from Vader’s Castle #1-5.
Could anything make you willingly walk into Darth Vader’s castle on Mustafar?
For Commander Lina Graf and her rebel crew, there’s not much of a choice after TIE fighters attack and force them to crash on the lava planet — with an unnerving fortress the only place to go. Each Wednesday in October, Cavan Scott and Derek Charm (along with guest artists Chris Fenoglio, Kelley Jones, Corin Howell, Robert Hack, and Charles Paul Wilson) have taken us on a spooky journey in Star Wars Adventures: Tales from Vader’s Castle. As the rebels make their way across Mustafar and into Vader’s castle, we learn a frightening tale in every issue, each starring some of our favorite characters: Hera and Kanan, Obi-Wan and Dooku, Han and Chewie, and the Ewoks. It all culminates today with issue #5, as Lina and what’s left of her crew come face to face with the Dark Lord of the Sith, with little hope of survival. (This is Darth Vader we’re talking about.)
Aesthetically, there’s plenty to love and appreciate here. Francesco Francavilla is an inspired choice for the “A” covers of this miniseries. While the Italian artist is hardly new to Star Wars (having drawn covers for Marvel’s run of Star Wars comics in the past), his pulpy style and appreciation for the horror genre make him an ideal pick for Tales from Vader’s Castle. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else drawing the cover for issue #2 with Dooku’s red vampire eyes watching Obi-Wan fight a creature, all within the silhouette of Vader’s helmet. Speaking of Dooku, writer Cavan Scott may have considered riffing off of Frankenstein, but was there really any other option but to make him a vampire? Sir Christopher Lee’s Dracula is, after all, iconic. It’s just too perfect.
The guest artists for each scary story within the issues also help set the overall tone for the book. The Hera and Kanan and Han and Chewie stories read as somewhat more light-hearted thanks to Howell and Fenoglio’s more cartoonish and animated cartoon styles. The other tales feature artists with styles that are a bit darker and more lifelike; similar to Francavilla’s covers, they stand in contrast to the usual Star Wars Adventures story, but are still complementary and fit the series’ tone perfectly.
Much like last year’s The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu or even From a Certain Point of View by a wide range of authors in the Star Wars family, the stories told here can be viewed through the lens of being simply that: stories. They might be true. They might not. Was Chopper actually possessed? Did Dooku really temporarily turn into a monster? Did Chewbacca have to overcome his own fear and save Han from a creepy plant witch? Who’s to say? (Okay, that last one sounds incredibly probable when phrased as such, because Chewie saves Han’s bacon more often than not.)
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether or not any of these actually happened, because the power of stories doesn’t lie within their truth, but rather the impact they have upon those who hear them. Or, to borrow words from Lina’s father, “Stories are important. They explain the universe around us, show us the people we ought to be.” These stories matter because of what they inspire in Lina’s rebel crew.
Even though the Star Wars Adventures line is targeted towards a younger audience than the Star Wars comics published by Marvel, Scott isn’t afraid to veer toward slightly more mature themes one might not expect to see in a kids’ comic. Issue #4 was a marked turn for the miniseries as the bodies hit the floor in the framing story and the Ewoks’ tale had a gruesome climax. Yet even amidst the darkness, there is still hope, as these stories are what ultimately save Lina, droid Crater’s head, and technician Skritt from Darth Vader. Without those stories, Lina might not have thought to reprogram the droids and Skritt would have never found the courage to pilot an AT-ST and save her, almost sacrificing himself in the process. It’s a lesson that’s clear enough for kids to follow yet doesn’t condescend to them.
The standout issue for me is, without a doubt, the Ewok story in issue #4, released last week. The easy route for a scary story would have been to lean hard into how the Endor furballs eat people. Instead, it’s the story of three young Ewoks on a rescue mission — as they discover the truth behind their missing woklings is far more sinister than they could’ve expected. It’s definitely obvious that guest artist Robert Hack made it a point to capture how the Ewoks are simultaneously cute and terrifyingly creepy. This is not a species to be underestimated and they are anything but a joke. The colors by Charlie Kirchoff in the latter half of the story give off an ominous vibe as the limited palette of blues and grays contrasts sharply against the red of the sky. It’s an unsettling look for an unsettling moment. We never learn why the shaman tries to sacrifice his own people to the gorax and neither will we ever get the chance, as he becomes the sacrifice. The story might scare Skritt but at its core, it’s a tragedy.
Even though the stories are spooky and sometimes sad, Tales from Vader’s Castle reminds us that it’s okay to have fun with the galaxy far, far away. There’s a little something for everyone, both young and old in this miniseries. Star Wars and Halloween might not seem the most obvious pair, but within these pages, it’s hard not to wonder how we ever lived without it.
Bria LaVorgna is a writer who doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t love Star Wars. She also really loves Alderaan, Doctor Aphra, and Inferno Squad. You can follow her on Twitter @chaosbria.