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Review: ‘Star Wars Adventures: Return to Vader’s Castle’

Star Wars Adventures: Return To Vader’s Castle
Writer: Cavan Scott
Artists: Francesco Francavilla, Nicoletta Baldari, Kelley Jones and more
IDW Publishing; $14.99

In October of 2018, IDW Publishing’s Star Wars Adventures comics line tried something interesting, a weekly, Halloween-themed series set in a galaxy in which Halloween doesn’t even exist. The series, Tales From Vader’s Castle, was set in and around the headquarters of the Star Wars universe’s greatest villain, and featured members of a spaceship crew telling one another scary stories starring characters from throughout the many movies and TV shows, each featuring a sort of outer space answer to various earthly monsters, like ghosts and vampires.

Creatively, it was a success, and it must have been a financial success as well, as last October IDW released the sequel series Return To Vader’s Castle, which has just now been collected in trade paperback format.

Regular Star Wars Adventures contributor Cavan Scott again writes, while scary comics expert Francesco Francavilla draws the framing sequences in each issue/chapter. The premise of this series is a bit more simplified than the last one. Rebellion thief Thom Hudd, one of the members of the crew that starred in the previous series, is now being held captive in Vader’s castle by Vanee, Vader’s ghoulish pale-skinned, cloaked servant. While Vanee tries to break Hudd’s will and Hudd tries to break out, they exchange scary stories with one another—and the reader—as the action progresses a few pages each issue.

The theme that binds these five stories together is that they all star some of the greatest Star Wars villains from throughout the saga, and most feature monsters or some sort of scary story twist ending. As in the previous series, each of the stories within the story is drawn by a different artists, two of whom return from the first series.

Megan Levens draws a story in which some kids encounter a crazed, post-Episode I Darth Maul, when his lower half has been replaced by a mechanical spider, on a junk planet he haunts. Kelley Jones draws a story in which Grand Moff Tarkin is pursued by a Frankenstein-like monster, created by body parts of various Star Wars aliens sewn together. Nick Brokenshire draws a very loose Little Shop of Horrors parody, in which Clone Wars bad guy-turned-bounty hunter Asajj Ventress must deal with someone’s pet Sarlacc. Nicoletta Baldari draws a story of Jabba The Hutt, his back-stabbing cousin and a heist involving brains in jars. And, finally, Charles Paul Wilson III draws a story in which Darth Vader himself must defend his castle from “lava zombies.”

As befits the anthology nature of the series, there is a great deal of variety in the look and style of all five artists—six, counting Francavilla—as much variety as there is in the various villainous stars and their far-apart settings. One thing that doesn’t vary from story to story, however, is the quality. They are all strong entries into the now growing body of Star Wars Halloween stories, and they should remain of interest to young fans, no matter what time of year they encounter them.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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