In Review: Star Wars Adventures: Tales from Vader’s Castle #4

A fun callback to a forgotten corner of the Star Wars Universe, but the visuals do not help.

The covers: This penultimate issue features a scary story involving the most lovable characters from the forest moon of Endor. The A is by Francesco Francavilla with his illustration within an outline of Darth Vader. This features an ewok looking upon his brethren staring at him with crimson eyes, while a gigantic hairy creature looks upon this diminutive hero. Very creepy image with the reds increasing the terror. Solid, unsettling image. The B comes from the interior artist and colorist, Robert Hack and Charlie Kirchoff. This has two ewoks walking a steep hill surrounded by dead trees. The sky is overtaken by the terrifying visage of a screaming Gorax. This is no spoiler, as that’s what the text states in the lower left corner. Another creeper of a cover, with the frosty pale blues for the beast really catching the eye. The final cover is the Retailer Incentive frontpiece which features the artwork of the A by Francavilla in its original black and white state. Nice, but I think this is much more effective colored. Overall grades: A A, B A, and Retailer Incentive B

The story: Cavan Scott’s tale begins with a scream within Vader’s castle sending the leads looking for Lieutenant Hudd. He’s missing and this causes little Skritt’s fear to grow. This causes XM-G3 to suggest telling him a story might calm his nerves, though the insectoid says, “Actually, no…I don’t think it would. Not after the last one.” The bodyguard droid proceeds to tell a tale from the forest moon of Endor featuring the ewoks. It opens with Chirpa and Ra-lee trying to catch a borra. The monstrous boar-wolf animal arrives, but isn’t cooperative in allowing itself to be caught. Taking their prey back to their village they discover some individuals missing and one member of the tribe isn’t being helpful in finding them. A group sets out to find them and encounters a familiar face for fans of the old Ewoks cartoon and comic book series. More information is learned, including the location of the missing characters. It’s here that the villain and his enforcer are revealed with all in serious trouble. How danger is avoided, for most of the characters, is very smart and absolutely true to the characters and the spirit of their source material. Back in the present, things get really bad for the crew, with one member killed and another taken down. I don’t know how any will survive their stay in this dwelling. This has plenty of scares for little ones, though the ewoks will continue to be divisive for older fans. I enjoyed this, finding it a fun return to oft forgotten corner of the Star Wars Universe. And those last four pages — Wow! Overall grade: A

The art: Two artists again work on this book, with Derek Charm responsible for Pages 1 – 2 & 17 – 20 and Robert Hack doing 3 – 16. Charm’s art is always on point, no matter what he’s creating. The opening page has a large panel tilted slightly to increase the shock on the characters hearing Hudd’s scream. The bottom panel shows the quartet running in silhouette and it’s a cool way to show how each character relates to the other in size, as this will be important in the final pages. The content of those pages I will purposefully be vague about, saying only that the design of the new character is stellar, the action atop 18 gasp worthy, and the full-paged splash of the final page a jaw dropper. Readers knew this moment would be coming, but it’s still a shock. Hack’s art is fine, capturing the wooded world of the ewoks well. However, the colors make it difficult at times to see the artwork, with characters’ faces coming off as smudgy and settings vague. Granted, it’s clear that the backgrounds aren’t always complete images, as the trees and a valley are loosely constructed. It’s more of an idea of a world than a fully realized one. The full-paged splash on 12 is great, with this familiar baddie being cool looking. Hack’s final image for his tale is okay, though that large creature has got to have some tremendous back muscles to bend so low to do what it’s about to do. I found Charm’s illustrations to be more enjoyable than Hack’s in this issue. Overall grade: B-

The colors: Charm is responsible for coloring his own pages while Charlie Kirchoff colors Hack’s. The colors for Charm’s bookend pieces are bold, with reds dominating, creating a threatening tone on every page. Sounds on these pages are given cold, light blues and greens for a metallic flavor. Kirchoff’s colors are designed to also make the art frightening, but instead blur the details in Hack’s linework. This is first noticeable on Page 5 with the Borra just being a blur of colors. A turn of the page has the browns and tans of the characters and settings being indistinguishable from one another. A wider variety of colors would have helped, but would have defeated for the tone that’s the goal. Worse are the scenes in the valley, with the colors seeming as just being thrown on in a uniform blanket. I’ve seen Kirchoff’s work before in other books and never had this reaction before. This was a huge letdown. Overall grades: C-

The letters: Robbie Robbins is the book’s sole letterer, creating scene settings, screams, dialogue, yells, sounds, and possessed speech. I’m liking all that Robbins does, as I often do, but the rumbles and a KRASH do not look good. They are done in a really odd transparent font that looks as though it was created by Austin Powers. This only happens on two pages, but does stick out, negatively. Overall grade: B+

The final line: This issue’s story is a fun callback to a forgotten corner of the Star Wars Universe, but the visuals do not help it. This is the first major miss for this series and I’m hoping the finale is better. Still work a look-see for those that remember the adventures of the ewoks from the 80’s. Overall grade: B-

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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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