With Marvel naturally cornering the market on Star Wars comic book material, I was surprised when IDW announced its own group of Star Wars comics. And having read a few of these now, I’m glad too.
While the Marvel stuff is mostly more of a serious, almost cinematic, nature (particularly the main Star Wars and Darth Vader titles), what IDW is doing – at least from what I’ve seen so far – is much more lighthearted, much more child-friendly in style… and a lot of fun.
There’s clearly a place for both styles of books and, actually, having been reading the brooding Darth Vader title for months, having something much more fun and cheerful like these IDW comics is really a welcome change in tone.
Star Wars Adventures: Tales from Darth Vader’s Castle gives us fun, cartoonish capers essentially centred on ghost stories: as if we’re literally sitting round a campfire.
You maybe have to be in the right mood to read these: but I love that IDW’s approach is so completely different to Marvel’s, so that they’re not in any sort of competition – there’s plenty of Star Wars to go around.
In ‘The Haunting of the Ghost’ by Cavan Scott, we join a previously unheard-of Rebel Alliance squad on a previously unknown little ship (The Auric), who find themselves setting down on Mustafar. What this really seems to be about is different members of the crew telling ‘ghost stories’ or scary tales from past adventures.
In this first instance, the tale happens to be one involving Hera, Kanan and Chopper (Star Wars: Rebels) aboard the Ghost – a little story from the past, set I’m-not-sure-when. The scary tale here is of a ghost of disembodied spirit that haunts them aboard the ship, eventually somehow putting its consciousness into Chopper the droid and wreaking havoc.
It is explained that this spirit was somehow trapped in this place by the Jedi at some time in the past – it isn’t clear if it’s some kind of Dark Jedi or former Force-user, but we assume it was a bad sort of guy.
It’s a fun little caper.
The next story, in Tales From Darth Vader’s Castle #2, is told by a different member of the crew and is set during the Clone Wars and on a ‘planet of eternal night’.
This is actually a genuinely creepy little tale, following Obi-Wan Kenobi and Adi Gallia as they land on this world to find its inhabitants complaining about a ‘Dark Lord’ who has taken over a castle and brought darkness to the land, where a horde of what looks like blood-sucking vampire-like creatures is on the rampage.
Obi-Wan and Adi Gallia discover said dark lord is in fact Count Dooku.
Worse, Dooku has made a pact with ‘Ravna, Lord of Darkness’ – the apparent master of these demonic lifeforms. There’s something both freaky and obviously fitting about having Dooku hook up with vampiric creatures – given that Christopher Lee was once so known for Dracula.
There’s actually an image of Dooku, in creepy lighting, that looks like it’s been copied directly from Christopher Lee’s iconic Dracula persona. For a book that’s primarily aimed at kids, this actually did creep me out. Dooku thinks he is in control of this little pact with ‘Ravna’, but in fact the hideous creature turns on him, infecting him and turning him into one of his enslaved vessels.
It’s only when Obi-Wan, recognising what’s going on, snaps Dooku out of it by insulting him that the Sith Lord breaks free of Ravna’s control. Dooku and the Jedi work together to entomb Ravna and his hordes beneath the castle.
Tales From Darth Vader’s Castle #3 gives an adventure with everyone’s favorite Corellian smuggler, Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca.
The set-up: Han has to deliver a mysterious statuette to a haunted planet. What could possibly go wrong? This actually plays out like an episode of Scooby Doo – with Chewie as the jittery Scooby, terrified of the ‘cursed planet’ and the ‘Emerald Witch of Rendel’, while a cocksure Han tries to dismiss the Wookie’s anxieties.
Tales From Darth Vader’s Castle #4 gives us a tale of the Ewoks (!).
I got a nostalgia overdose by reading this one; just being in the Ewok village on Endor and having all this Ewoky stuff going on. It’s like a scarier version of an old Ewoks cartoon episode from the 80s. The cover on its own is a little unsettling – seeing all these evil/red-eyed Ewoks staring at me isn’t something I’d ever thought I would have to deal with.
What’s really clever in all of these books is the narrative structure: every time, you have a story going on in the present real-time with Lina Graff and her rebel crew, and a ghost story being told from the random past (recounted every time by one of the crew members): with the two often cutting back and forth.
This book also ends with Darth Vader arriving (in real time) – promising more to come.
I enjoyed these first four issues so much that I’m looking forward to – and hoping for – more. It kind of made me feel like a little kid again, reading these: but that’s sometimes the charm of comic books.
What really struck me about these books – as well as the Rey-centered Destroyer Down books, which I also had a look at – is how great it would be for there to be an animated kids’ series done with these stories, this narrative structure and in this style.
It would be a lot of fun.