In Review: Star Wars Adventures: Tales from Vader’s Castle #2

Absolutely awesome reading for all Star Wars fans and those of classic Hammer Films.

The covers: A terrifying trio to pick up for this second spooky issue. Francesco Francavilla has created the A cover, continuing the motif he began on the first issue, placing his illustration within a silhouette of Darth Vader. Obi-Wan Kenobi is on desolate world, dead trees stand in the background as he swings his lightsaber at a pair of mynocks that are attacking. High above a large image of Count Dooku looks down upon him. Neat image that teases what the story is about without giving anything away. I like that the Sith’s eyes are the same color as the mynocks’ skin, giving him an alien aura. The B is by Kelley Jones and it’s a stunner with General Kenobi of the Clone Wars pulling back his lightsaber to deliver a blow at two massive furry hands that are emerging from the right to grasp him. Behind the Jedi, descending some stairs, is Lord Dooku, Force energy pouring out of his hands. Great illustration with great colors. The Retailer Incentive cover is Francavilla’s A without the colors. It’s good, but as with the first issue he did, I prefer it colored than in black and white. Overall grades: A A, B A+, and Retailer Incentive B+

The story: Cavan Scott’s tale opens on Mustafar as the crew of the Auric try to figure out how to get into the castle before them while safely avoiding a lava pit. Two massive sized larva appear on Hudd who rip the creatures off of him that unfortunately draw the ire of her parents, house sized fanged insects. They are able to avoid certain death, but their going forward causes Hudd some consternation, who states “…nothing good will come of this, mark my words. It’ll be like Bray, all over again.” Lina doesn’t know any story about Bray, so Hudd tells the tale. This fifteen page story goes back to the Clone Wars, when General Kenobi and General Adi Gallia went to the planet Bray to help them with the appearance of a Dark Lord on their world. A monstrous creature, that’s somewhat similar to a mynock, is revealed, but it’s not the truth threat on the world. Following the creature back to a citadel, something shocking occurs with a clone trooper, showing the Jedi that the threat is greater than they assumed. Count Dooku joins the story as a threat, but there’s something more evil thrown into the mix, with some shocking surprises, such as on Page 15. The conclusion of this tale is right out of a classic Universal monster movie from 1935. The tale told, the heroes still have to get around the lava. Unfortunately little Skritt discovers there’s more to fear than the fiery matter. Great spooky tale that will please every reader as the hapless heroes on Mustafar continue to be left in the worst possible situations. Overall grade: A+

The art: Derek Charm (Pages 1-3 & 19-20) and Kelley Jones (Pages 4-18) are the book’s artists and they are fantastic. Both of these artists are two of my favorites and having them in the same book is like Christmas come early, even if this is being put out before Halloween. Charm’s art is more typical of the cartoons, with Hudd looking as if he’s stepped out of Dexter’s Laboratory. The slugs that latch onto him are definitely gross, but their parents are absolute frights. I love the emotion that CR communicates in the final panel on the penultimate page–he can’t move his face since he’s droid, but his fear is obvious. The action of the characters on the final page, which is a full-paged splash, is terrific and will have readers on the edge of their seats until next week’s issue. Kelley Jones is an incredible artist whose work can be seen in DC Comics’ current Batman: Kings of Fear. His work is equally impressive in this work. The opening shot of space on his first page is foreboding. The aliens that inhabit Bray have such huge eyes they look as though they are always frightened of something. The creature that the Jedi follow is creepy and when it flies it’s a terror. The change that comes over a clone trooper is horrific. Obi-Wan’s close-up on 9 is excellent, with him looking incredibly deep in thought. Dooku’s reveal on 10 is outstanding, with the close-up at the bottom of the page looking like a role Christopher Lee made famous for Hammer Films. The actual antagonist of this tale is awesome. The highlight of Kelley’s work is Dooku’s face on Pages 14 and 15 — they are beautiful and horrific. Who would have thought that Charm and Jones would work on the same book and they would mesh so well together? Overall grade: A+

The colors: Derek Charm colors his own pages, while Michelle Madsen colors Jones’s. Charm’s pages are dominated by reds and oranges due to the fiery substance around the heroes, though sickly greens come into play on 2 and 3 for ghastly gross reasons. I was expecting the colors to be dark on Jones’s tale, as it’s like a classic monster movie, but Madsen inserts some really bright colors that make panels shine, such as the blues behind the inhabitants of Bray, the oranges during the battle with the first creature, and the reds for Dooku’s eyes and the real villain’s dialogue. Blues are also exceptionally well done for the energy that’s unleashed on these pages. Charm and Madsen also gel well. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Robbie Robbins and Tom B. Long are credited for this issue’s text, though there’s no notation in the credits as to who did what. The text of this issue employs scene settings, dialogue, sounds, whispered dialogue, screams, the villain’s unique speech font, and the tease for next issue. The opening sound effect is wonderful for what it says and how it looks. The electronic sound on 2 is excellent and the gross sound that follows on 3 is perfect. The outburst in the second panel on 8 is stellar. The villain’s speech looks as monstrous as it does. Robbins and Long are also an excellent pair. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This issue gets my highest possible recommendation for this pair of scary stories intended for younger readers, but sure to please those fond of classic vampire films. There’s some good laughs and solid scares in this issue, whose art is out of this world. Who would have thought that Kelley Jones would illustrate a book intended for younger readers? And he didn’t need to hold anything back! Absolutely awesome reading for all Star Wars fans and those of Hammer Films. 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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