In Review: Star Wars Adventures: Return to Vader’s Castle #2

The story places Tarkin in the role of Doctor Frankenstein and his creation wants payback.

The covers: A trio of covers to collect that feature the horror created by Governor Tarkin. The A cover by Francesco Francavilla has Tarkin holding a syringe up in his right hand looking down wide eyed at a monstrous creature standing among some flames. This illustration is set within a silhouette of Vader that’s atop a star field. Nice, but the colors are pretty blasé in orange and yellow. Much better is the B cover by Kelley Jones and Michelle Madsen. Tarkin looks on indifferently, though raises his right hand, as a character bound to a table receives a massive jolt of electricity which causes his arm to shake. Great colors on this, with the red behind Tarkin making him absolutely evil and the blue highlights on his face ghostly. The Retailer Incentive cover by Francavilla is an uncolored version of the A cover. I like this a little better, but I’m not a fan of Francavilla’s art. Overall grades: A C+, B A, and Retailer Incentive B-

The story: Cavan Scott has Vaneé continue to torture thief Thom Hudd for daring to break into Vader’s castle on Mustafar. As he zaps the bound man with electricity he tells a tale featuring Governor Tarkin. The evil Imperial arrives on the I.S.D. Optima and meets with Commander Cremp to tell her he’s unhappy that she and her team haven’t exceeded their targeted goals. Before he can expand on his disappointment, a transport speeds at the Optima. Shields can’t be raised because it is emitting neutrino radiation that renders shields useless. It slams into the Star Destroyer and its sole occupant survives to seek vengeance on Tarkin. This is all that’s needed for this hulking character to wreck havoc with any hapless Imperial that gets in his way. The origin of this antagonist reveals how Tarkin effected the beast and justifies the violence it brings. Page 13 had a neat surprise that’s absolutely befitting of Tarkin’s treachery and the change on 15 and 16 is neat. I liked the fate of the character shown at the top of 18. This story is fun, yet quick and simple, with too much time spent on the monster, rather than the man, who’s the real beast of the book. The final two pages return to the castle where Vaneé has turned away from his prisoner for too long, allowing Hudd to escape. I’m interested to see how Scott will continue the storytelling bookends of this series since the insane man’s audience is on the run. Overall grade: B-

The art: Francesco Francavilla is responsible for Pages 1-2 & 19-20 and Kelley Jones creates Pages 3-18. Francavilla’s art is too loose for me, looking as if it was created in a few hours the day before a deadline. I just don’t like it. Much better are Jones’s pages, with Tarkin looking like an all-knowing bug-eyed monster. It also helps that he resembles Peter Cushing. The creature that boards the Optima is an awesome Frankenstein-like creation that’s upset with its creator. Its first appearance on Page 5 is awesome with the smoke that’s come with its arrival. This is a great build to the large panel reveal on 6 with the creature fully seen. It’s made of several species and looks like a horror brought to life. I especially like the lobster claw for the left hand, which is frequently shown with some poor victim’s head being squeezed. Look at the intensity of Tarkin in the close-up in the third panel on 7 — that is killer! As the book proceeds, take note how Tarkin is as fierce a creature as the monster that seeks him out. The reflection at the bottom of 14 is great, and I really like how one character lurks on the right. The look of shock in the third panel on 16 is the perfect final image of this character. The explosion that occurs on 17 is a full-paged splash and it is a monstrous one. To transition from the visuals by Jones to Francavilla’s final two pages is jarring. It only serves to make the latter pages look lesser. Overall grade: B+

The colors: Francavilla colors his own pages and Michelle Madsen colors Kelley’s. The first two pages and the last two pages are very stark in reds, yellows, and oranges. This combination does make the jolts that Hudd receives intense. I like how greens are used when the thief is focused on. I prefer the more realistic colors by Madsen with the oranges on 4 and 5 are like hell on Earth, though this is set in space. The close-up on 7 is darkly colored that makes the character look like death. The transmissions from the creature are in an eerie blue that increases its monstrosity. I love the multicolored lights on 13 that gives the settings an excellent 1970’s sci-fi feel. I do wish the explosion on 17 had been in brighter colors, rather than faded oranges and yellows which diminishes the impact of the artwork. Overall grade: B+

The letters: Dialogue, transmissions, sounds, and the beast’s speech is created by Andworld Design. The dialogue is easy on the eyes, the transmissions done in a classic italic font to make it sound metallic, and the sounds are big and fun. The beast’s speech is the highlight of the issue with it being a monstrous uneven scrawl that is the perfect match for the creature’s appearance. The first page’s sound and the tease for next issue on the final page look to have been created by Francavilla. They are messy and look horrible. That lessens my grade for this element of the book. Overall grade: C+ 

The final line: The story places Tarkin in the role of Doctor Frankenstein and his creation wants payback. There aren’t any surprises to this tale, though it’s still fun to read. The visuals by Jones and Madsen are the reason to pick this up, and they make the monster look tremendous. I’m really not liking Francavilla’s contributions, which look rushed. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you should enjoy this. Overall grade: B

To order a print copy go to https://www.idwpublishing.com/product/star-wars-adventures-return-to-vaders-castle-2/

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Star-Wars-Adventures-Return-to-Vader-s-Castle-2-of-5/digital-comic/796196?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

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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