October is here and with it comes Halloween, and IDW Publishing offer us the second instalment of Tales From Vader’s Castle, their five issue mini-series centred around the dark side of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. This week ventures back the Prequel-era, with ‘Count Dooku: Prince Of Darkness’.
Following on from the previous chapter, Lina Graf and her ragtag crew of rebels on the freighter Auric have evaded a patrol of TIE Fighters and landed on the planet Mustafar. With Darth Vader’s fortress stronghold the only building in sight, the gang make their investigative approach by foot, encountering terrifying indigenous insectoids along the way. Lina’s call for calm and trust within the ranks raises the hackles of Lieutenant Hudd, and he recounts a story from the Clone Wars in which two Jedi generals investigate unexplained occurrences on the planet Bray, and rumours of a ‘dark lord’ in residence that no-one has returned to describe…
With the storyline written completely by Cavan Scott, the artwork is once again split between the Original Trilogy-era framing device and its inset feature-piece. As Lina’s crew and mission are now established, this drops the issue’s introductory strip down to three pages before the central tale and two after. Derek Charm provides the opening pencils, inks and colours by way of artistic continuity, his simplified lines and bold shadows bringing the dramatic landscape of Mustafar to life perfectly.
Once Hudd begins telling the wartime parable to his comrades, Kelley Jones takes over on the artwork with Michelle Madsen on colours. The style becomes a lot more detailed but no less dramatic, reminiscent of Jan Duursema’s work on Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Republic series (not least because of the similar timeframe and characters involved). The variant covers by Francesco Francavilla and Kelley Jones are gorgeous in their own right, fully deserving of frames in the gallery room at STT Towers.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is sent to investigate the mystery on Bray, with his partial-armour and brown battle-cape evoking his look in Genndy Tartakovsky’s 2D animated Star Wars Clone Wars series of that same, pre-Revenge Of The Sith, time. Although both that TV series and the Republic comic are now resigned to ‘Legends’ continuity, it’s great to know their spirit lives on with the new wave of Star Wars creators. This segment also features the lesser-known Jedi Master Adi Gallia, who appeared in The Phantom Menace and was pseudo-replaced by Stass Allie until making a more prominent return in the later episodes of The Clone Wars.
But the reason we’re all here of course is for Count Dooku, the character brought to life by Sir Christopher Lee in the films and positively ripe for exploration in a series such as this. Furrowed of brow and swept of cloak, the Serennian nobleman makes a suitably dramatic entrance here, flanked by creatures marked in the script as Mynocks, but which look and act as giant, anthropomorphic vampire bats; most fitting.
Nodding firmly in the direction of Lee’s most iconic screen-role, one bite or scratch from the creatures transforms the victim into a similarly fanged creature, their one purpose to continue to spread the contagion. But this army of furry fiends is not under the Count’s control per se, as he has brokered a deal with the true dark lord of the piece. Poor old Dooku, always on the second-place podium of narrative antagonism.
Jones and Madsen have clearly had the time of their lives on this strip, and one panel of Dooku pays marvellous homage to Lee’s body of work as that other Count D. By the time the theatrical shadows, glowing eyes, lightning and lightsabers have been added, the only downside is that the tale is only 15 pages long. A story like this is aching to be told across four, 22-page issues, to let the atmosphere build more steadily.
As is traditionally the way with a short page-count, things wrap up relatively quickly, and we’re soon returned to the lava shores of Mustafar where Lina Graf’s squad face the next obstacle haring toward them.
With black-armoured Stormtroopers on the horizon and a tale sporting everyone’s favourite Corellian and Wookiee adventurers, next week can’t pounce quickly enough…
Star Wars Adventures: Tales From Vader’s Castle #2 was released on 10 October from IDW Publishing.