All good things must come to an end, so they say. As must all things which are good in theory but slightly more uneven in practice, which brings us to IDW Publishing’s Star Wars Adventures spinoff mini-series, Tales From Vader’s Castle and its fifth final issue.
Stranded in the Sith fortress on the lava planet Mustafar, Rebellion commander Lina Graf and her insectoid technician Skritt are backed into a corner by the appearance of Darth Vader’s servant and caretaker, Vaneé. With their droid companion CR-8R in no position to assist, the pair are apparently helpless as the Dark Lord himself approaches…
There’s a slight shakeup in the formatting for this closing instalment, as the Rebellion-era framing device takes the lion’s share of the page count and the flashback story is pared down considerably as a result. Cavan Scott writes both sections, while Derek Charm continues his sterling work within the walls of the eponymous stronghold. The increased volume of the central story (previous issues have varied between five and seven pages – here it’s fourteen) gives Charm the opportunity to really get stuck into the climactic action, and the boldness he achieves from a deliberately restricted colour palette is quite outstanding.
As Vader has waited for the best part of four issues of his own comic to really make an appearance, the reader can be sure he’s not wasted here – tonally channelling his stint in the closing moments of Rogue One. The 2016 film is where the idea of the lair on Mustafar was properly introduced of course, and in keeping with that era of storytelling we get an altogether more sinister rendition of Martin Gordon’s Vaneé, very much the Alfred to Darth Vader’s Batman.
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Indeed it’s Vaneé who spins the inspirational yarn this time around, recalling the days when the castle was first constructed by the Empire and the opposition they faced from the Mustafar’s indigenous population. The overall tone of the series, coupled with the fact that these locals didn’t appear to be around at the time of Orson Krennic’s visit shortly before the Battle of Yavin, should suggest in advance how that protest panned out.
Artist Charles Paul Wilson III takes over for the inset tale, providing pencils and inks for Michael Devito’s colours. Wilson’s work is detailed and atmospheric, a perfect fit for the muted colours washed over it. The pair also do a great job of capturing the movement of the riot and the claustrophobia of the castle, with gorgeous lighting once a certain blade-based weapon is activated. The only downside to this is that Vaneé’s interjection is only four pages long, as his distraction of the Rebels didn’t need to be a lengthy one.
And so we cut back to Mustafar as the central thread threatens to come to its end too soon for Lina Graf’s crew. The reasoning behind all of this storytelling resurfaces as one of our heroes draws inspiration from the things they’ve heard in fashioning an escape, as Derek Charm reinterprets tableau of earlier stories into flashback panels. It feels a little contrived, but it’s not un-earned.
Without delving into spoilers not all of the gang make it off-world, which feels slightly surprising given the younger demographic Star Wars Adventures is aimed at. While the final panels don’t dwell on this too heavily, they present a solemn sign-off for a series which has delighted in mixing action with the macabre.
An extra shout-out needs to go to Robbie Robbins here, who’s provided lettering throughout Tales From Vader’s Castle (sometimes in conjunction with series regular Tom B. Long, but on his own for three of the issues). It’s easy to overlook how important lettering is in comics, whether it’s flowing and expressive or regimented and functional. Clarity is the most important thing either way, and Robbins brings it effortlessly.
On the whole, it seems Tales From Vader’s Castle can be judged a success, showing that IDW can present a varied yet consistent array of stories, thematically linked but in a range of differing styles. Arguably far more focused than their regular Star Wars Adventures title, and with far more fun than their counterparts at Marvel. It’s difficult to see how the linked-anthology idea could be expanded out to other areas of the Galaxy Far, Far Away without its effectiveness becoming diluted, but if at some point a More Tales From Vader’s Castle should lurch its way through the autumnal murk, there will be few complaints from STT Towers…
Star Wars Adventures: Tales From Vader’s Castle #5 is available right now from IDW Publishing. Have you enjoyed the title? How do you think it holds up compared to the Forces Of Destiny line and the ongoing Flight Of The Falcon? Be sure to let us know in the comments or on our social media channels!