As the spooky Star Wars Adventures: Ghosts of Vaders’s Castle continues on into its third issue, Cavan Scott treats readers to a story about frightening swamp monsters on Dagobah.
As with the previous two issues of this run, we start by catching up with some familiar faces who have previously been involved in adventures to Vader’s castle; this time it’s human thief turned Rebel soldier Thom Hudd, and the insect like Peasle Skritt, who’ve found themselves on a former Imperial facility on Kraken, where they’re trying to get the place up and running to be used by the Republic.
It’s whilst working away on the repairs, dodging the occasional swooping Mynock, that Hudd tells his friend that he’s been having bad dreams; dreams that feel strangely real. He begins to recount how his dreams see him journeying with Luke Skywalker as he searches for missing Jedi artefacts; a journey that takes them to the swamp planet Dagobah, former home to Jedi Master Yoda.
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After trudging through the swamp, an experience that puts Hudd on edge and reminds him of some of the trauma in his past, the two of them come across the ruins of Yoda’s hut, now smashed beyond repair. Finding a small holocam within the ruins they play back the recording to see a group of developers had recently come to the planet, hoping to make it more habitable. The recording is cut short when some kind of creatures suddenly attacks them. Before they’re able to investigate further Hudd and Luke are attacked by the same entity, a large fish-like monster. Separated from Luke, Hudd has to trek through the swamp alone.
Horror is always a popular genre, but one of the parts of the genre I feel we don’t see often enough of is the swamp monsters. There’s The Creature From The Black Lagoon, but nothing really since then; and that was the 1950s. A monster rising up out of the dirty, murky water that surrounds you in a swamp is a popular image, and the fear of never knowing what’s around you is one that makes for great horror. Yet it’s rarely visited, and when it is it tends to be for things other than swamp monsters, such as the film Anaconda, which featured a giant snake. So getting a big fishman tearing out of the water, charging at our heroes feels unique and rarely seen when it happens here. Cavan Scott seems determined to revisit some of the best horror tropes of the 195s, and this is one I wasn’t aware I was missing so much.
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The horror factor for this issue is probably the best of the series so far, and the entirety of Dagobah feels off-putting and wrong, even before the monster shows up. Some of this is down to the horrific visions that Hudd has, seeing the twisted face of Vanee in the trees, or seeing the skeletal bodies of his friends in the water beneath him. But a large part of why the place feels so wrong is down to the art by Robert Hack, who handles the nightmare sequence this issue.
Hack’s art has an almost watercolour feel at times, with the backgrounds of his panels feeling like they’re in constant motion within water, even if they’re just a solid colour. It feels like the twisting, changing waters of the swamp have permeated every part of the book, even the art. The plants and the people sometimes take on odd, elongated angles as the panels of Hudd’s perception begins to warp. This art style is also helped by the thick, heavy line work that Hack uses, which gives certain parts a more angular and harsher aesthetic, which helps to balance out the look of the colours.
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The rest of the issue, as with previous issues, is supplied by Francesco Francavilla. I don’t know what to say here that I haven’t said about his work in the other reviews for this series, other than his artwork is wonderful for establishing the dark and scary tone of the book, and that it helps the horror of the nightmares pervade into the waking world.
With it looking like the crew might all finally be together for the planned rescue of Milo Graf I’m looking forward to seeing what the series does next. Will it continue to feature the nightmare sequences, or will it focus more on the real world? Will there be very real horrors waiting for our heroes on Mustafar? And, what awful things does Vanee have planned?
Star Wars Adventures: Ghosts of Vader’s Castle #3 is out on 6th October from IDW Publishing.