In Review: Star Wars Adventures: Return to Vader’s Castle #3

Asajj Ventress encounters a foe that even she cannot defeat.

The covers: A trio to find that feature the Sith’s most famous female. The A cover by Francesco Francavilla features the outline of Darth Vader on a space background. Within his iconic profile is Asajj Ventess with both her lightsabers lit, running toward the reader, but away from some gigantic creature with an enormous spiky maw and several tentacles. Hmm…sound familiar? This illustration is okay, but I’m rediscovering that I’m not a fan of Francavilla’s Star Wars art. This looks sketchy and incomplete. The colors are really bland, too. Better is the B cover by Nick Brokenshire which has Asajj standing before the reader with both her arms crossed and her sabers held high. She says, “There’s no need to be shy. I won’t hurt you. Probably.” Behind her are several writhing tentacles. The background looks like an industrial setting given the straight lines and the use of greens to color it. I like the darkness of her face, making her look absolutely evil. The Retailer Incentive cover by Francavilla is the A cover, but without any colors. It doesn’t improve it. Overall grades: A C, B A-, and Retailer Incentive C

The story: This is a great story from Cavan Scott. The book opens with Thom Hudd telling the reader who he is and how he escaped being held by “Vader’s creepy servant” Vaneé. He’s trying to hide from the crazy man, but Vaneé is reminded of the tale of an assassin who became a bounty hunter. “She was the same. She never ran from danger.” The story moves to the Coruscant Underworld, Level 1313, where a police officer is trying to apprehend a Snivvian, but the perp has a tentacle wrap around his arm and pulls him screaming into a building. As the officer calls in to the station that he’s lost his prey, another tentacle shoots out of an alley and pulls him back screaming. Crime lord Lacezzi Macran hires Asajj Ventress to find out what’s going on to stop the rumors that are creating trouble in his area. Asajj goes into the area where the Snivvian and officer disappear and finds trouble, but not of the tentacle variety. I liked the hazard she encounters at the end of Page 8 which teases the story’s ending. I also liked the surprise on 9 which caught me off guard as much as it did Asajj. The true threat is revealed on 12 and it’s awesome. Granted, this creature has made more appearances in the last year in comic books than most others, but it was still cool to see here. I liked the fate of a character on 13 and this creature’s trouble goes much farther than expected. Page 18 is a brilliant ending. It suits both characters perfectly and it was fantastic. I love tales that end with a supporting character yelling the lead’s name in anger and it’s marvelous here. The bookend returns to Thom who pushes a button that he shouldn’t have. This is a good cliffhanger that has me again wondering how Scott will get to have Vareé continue his tales. Overall grade: A

The art and colors: Two artists employing the same format as previous issues, Francesco Francavilla (1-2 & 19-20) and Nick Brokenshire (3-18). The first page is a good example of why I don’t care for Francavilla’s Star Wars art: it looks simplistic and/or rushed. I really don’t like the way Thom looks. The colors on these pages are also done by the artist and they are just too dark in several panels, making the visuals useless. I prefer Brokenshire’s work, who also colors his own pages. I love the gritty world of this level with everything covered in splotches and dotted with debris. It reminded me of good art from Judge Dredd comics. The close-up of the officer as he’s pulled away is terrific. And I have to give a slow clap for the device that’s left in his wake because I have one with my Star Wars toys that allowed certain figures from Episode I to talk. The design of the crime lord and his son are great; I’ve not seen their kind before and both look scuzzy, with the latter looking wonderfully arrogant. The close-up of Asajj at the end of 8 is cool and the tentacles that are sneaking up on her are terrific. The clue that’s on 9 is perfection. The panic of the character on 10 and 11 is excellent and I love the large action that ends 11. The next page is a full-paged splash and the creature was instantly recognizable to me. I love the panic on Asajj’s face, which is an emotion she rarely shows. It wasn’t until the action on 14 that realized what the title was of this tale. Again, perfection. The montage on 15 is outstanding; there could have been more time devoted to these creative deaths and I would have been happy. The exit at the top of 17 is terrific, looking like something out of a classic issue of Heavy Metal. My only grouse on Brokenshire’s work are the colors, which are too limited. There’s often only three colors on a page, and the colors are pale. Brighter colors would have made this a much more startling tale. I need to see Brokenshire doing more Star Wars work. Overall grade: B+

The letters: Andworld Design creates the narration and dialogue (the same font), sounds, scene settings, yells, and transmissions. I wish that the narration and dialogue had been a different font, as they are two different forms of communication. They’re differed by the shape and color of their balloons and boxes. The scene settings are zippy in a thin, tilted to the right, futuristic font. The yells are in large font so that there’s no mistaking how they should be heard. The sounds are the highlight of the issue with the SCREEEs being my favorites. Overall grade: A

The final line: Asajj Ventress encounters a foe that even she cannot defeat. Great story for readers of any age and fun art that shows the horror of the situation without being too much for the youngest reader. I just wanted the colors to be stronger. Still, a solid pick up for any Star Wars fan. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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