Eammon Jacobs reviews Star Wars Adventures: Beware Vader’s Castle…
There’s been plenty of criticisms fired at Disney over the direction of Star Wars in the last few years, but Star Wars Adventures: Beware Vader’s Castle just proves the franchise is flourishing in fresh and uniquely riveting ways. This horror anthology just shows how a galaxy far, far away is filled with endless storytelling possibilities all while occasionally catching up with familiar heroes and villains. The 232-page IDW graphic novel written by Cavan Scott combines two miniseries, Tales From Vader’s Castle and Return to Vader’s Castle, and sees a group of Rebels escape to the fiery lava planet, Mustafar, to avoid being shot down by a TIE fighter. But after their landing, they fall peril to threats hidden in Vader’s Castle and learn about other chilling threats hiding in the outer reaches of space.
Although the segues into each terrifying tale occasionally feel a little rushed, the exploration of new corners of the galaxy is fascinating for fans both old and new. And it’s equally impressive how the book ties into all corners of the franchise, from the animated shows like Star Wars Rebels and The Clone Wars, to the live-action movies in the Skywalker Saga. And although Vader’s Castle offers an insight into the edgier, scary side to Star Wars – it never takes it to a gory or mature level. That’s not to say there aren’t gross moments, but its a testament to the group of creatives working on the series that it so brilliantly weaves its way through a number of sub-genres. For those who happen to be horror fans as well as being invested in Star Wars, it’s a thoroughly rewarding read as it flirts with a Sarlacc stalker, delivers a cultist threat to the Ewoks and also plagues the castle itself with Lava Zombies.
A personal favourite story saw a brief return to The Clone Wars, as Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates a threat on the Planet of Eternal Night. Without spoiling anything, a certain vampiric threat feels like the perfect homage to a classic actor. The only downside to the anthology is that, obviously, each tale is confined to the single issue format – which also needs to fit in the main plot of the Rebels on Mustafar. With each chapter there’s definitely scope to further explore the monsters, ghosts and rogues that show up, but thanks to the sprawling nature of the franchise it’s always possible they could show up elsewhere.
It’s also refreshing not to see stories solely focus on the Jedi, as it dedicates plenty of time to new characters as well as those who some fans might not be as familiar with – or haven’t seen in specific settings before. There are two former Sith lords in particular that feature in their own stories in unpredictable ways, both of which flip the dynamic of how they’ve been seen in other mediums… As you might tell, the surprises hidden in the book are part of what makes it so enjoyable.
What makes the book feel so fresh is the way each story using different styles that give it a pulp fiction feel. The creepy designs from Francesco Francavilla (the cover artist) and the intimidating art from Charles Paul Wilson III really cemented the eerie atmosphere that makes up some of our favourite stories in the anthology. And they sit alongside a wealth of talent who conjure up the spooky backbone of the book, like Derek Charm, Chris Fenoglio, Kelley Jones, Corin Howell, Robert Hack, Nicoletta Baldari, Nick Brokenshire, Kelley Jones, and Megan Levens.
Beware Vader’s Castle proves that exploring Star Wars from a horror perspective is a brilliant storytelling opportunity (one that writer Cavan Scott clearly relishes in) and it’s a viciously fun read.