Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel 1, originally released May 10th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel 1 kicks off Marvel’s latest Star Wars crossover starring Luke Skywalker and Doctor Aphra. The extra-long one-shot issue has an ominous ending that definitely earns its horror genre-inspired title. In short, Kieron Gillen and Marco Checchetto seem to be prepping us for what could arguably be called “The Star Wars Vampire Diaries.” Maybe not — I’ve never watched that show — but it has vampires in it, right?
The “vampire reveal” doesn’t come until the end of the issue, however. The bulk of Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel 1 is Luke and Aphra’s journey toward the citadel itself. Doctor Aphra approaches Luke with an ancient Jedi artifact called The Ordu Aspectu: “the archived personality of a Jedi called Rur.” As a curious archaeologist, Aphra wants to see this thing work and Luke is her ticket to that objective. They travel to The Screaming Citadel on the planet Ktath’atn, whose Queen offers favors to interesting people but once a year. Given Darth Vader’s obsession with Skywalker and his remarkable shot that tanked the Death Star, Aphra believes Luke is such an interesting person. Once the Queen realizes that Luke is a semi-Jedi, she agrees.
Kieron Gillen makes good use of Luke Skywalker, who is still in the naïve farmboy portion of his career where we found him in A New Hope. Luke’s wholesome optimism is a good foil for the more jaded, snarky Doctor Aphra. It’s a really fun dynamic to watch unfold: Aphra plays on Luke’s insecurities but is also equally enamored by his earnestness. It reminds me of an episode of The New Batman Adventures where Catwoman has a similar dynamic with Nightwing. Both have this elusive, brilliant criminal female criminal toying around with a young male hero. I think Aphra is more into Luke than Catwoman was into Nightwing, however. That is, unless I’m being conned by Aphra’s performance too — which is highly likely.
Their relationship works so well that it almost makes me forget how crazy this team-up is; almost. It’s been a while since the events of “Vader Down” and that prison planet storyline, but I don’t think Aphra was too well-liked by our Rebels. She’s lied, stolen and killed on behalf of Darth Vader, but Luke’s quest to become a Jedi still compels him to join her. That, and the aforementioned charms of Doctor Aphra, I suppose.
Much of the issue’s humor is a byproduct of the odd couple nature of Luke and Aphra. Aphra laughs at Luke’s wide-eyed optimism while Luke tries to see the good in Aphra, who instantly shows him that his faith is misplaced. My favorite of these moments comes when Luke asks why Aphra is friends with the Wookie mercenary Black Krrsantan:
What a great comedic moment. In one panel Luke is thinking “Maybe she’s not so bad after all” and in the next she finishes her thought, reminding Luke — and us — that she’s not exactly a do-gooder. Marco Chechetto shows genuine concern in Aphra’s face, emphasizing how Aphra’s life as a criminal adventurer is all about trying to stay ahead of both her enemies and her debts.
Colorist Andres Mossa takes an interesting color journey throughout the pages of Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel 1. The book is split into variations of the three primary colors: yellow, blue and red. We open the book on one of Star Wars’ classic sand planets that is painted with a yellow, brown tinge. The middle section of the book — the part with Han, Leia, and Sana notwithstanding — is mostly highlighted by the blue hums of computer screens and downpour of rain, with an occasional green glowing artifact here and there. Finally Mossa caps off the book with a purplish-red mix that goes blood-red when we learn of the Queen’s devious plans.
I can’t be the only one who thought that Harley Quinn snuck her way into a Star Wars book here, can I? Just give her a mallet and you’re good to go. It’s not explicitly stated what Queenie is doing at the end of the book — absorbing energy, midichlorians, or happy thoughts — but it’s clear that she is feeding on people. Gillen isn’t going the traditional blood-sucking route but he’s definitely introducing the vampire set to the Star Wars universe. I’m not entirely against this, but we’ll just have to see exactly how this all plays out.
Taylor, what did you think? Is the Queen allergic to Wookies or could they possibly be the stake to the Star Wars vampire’s heart? How come Leia needs a translator to understand that astromech droid? I thought everyone automatically understood those guys. Do you think that Aphra’s being sincere or is she playing Luke on a deeper level?
Taylor: I think there’s no question Aphra is playing Luke here. Aphra always has ulterior motives, and it requires quite a stretch of the imagination to think she’s suddenly shooting straight with Luke. This isn’t to say that Aphra is completely full of shit. I think she does genuinely like Luke, as you said Michael, but her failure to tell Luke that the Queen of the Citadel is a vampire is a clear indication she doesn’t have his best interests at heart. And before anyone objects that she may not of known the queen is a vampire, remember we’re dealing with someone who is not only underhanded, but an expert on cultures across the galaxy.
All of this being said, it’s interesting to consider how this vampire queen fits in with the rest of the Star Wars universe. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing weird things in any Star Wars story, but I’ve never come across a straight up Gothic vampire. That aesthetic jibes oddly with the already established lived-in space age thing that Star Wars is known so well for. Just look at the panel below and tell me if it looks like a scene from Star Wars.
Minus a few signature Star Wars aliens and droids, there is little here that informs us this is taking place in the same universe as, say, the Death Star. Previous artists have stretched the limit of what looks like a Star Wars setting in other comic books. Here though, Mossa break through that limit and places Luke and Aphra in an environment that’s more reminiscent of a Dracula adaptation than anything else. Whether this works or not probably depends on personal taste. If you’re a Star Wars purist, then this is may be an abomination. If you like your Star Wars weird and original, this is probably more your bag.
What’s surprising is that this vampire setting and storyline work at all in this context. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but I think the most important one is that it’s apparent Gillen, Checchetto, and Mossa are having fun with this story. How else do you explain the getup they put Luke in?
Again, this is very much unlike any Star Wars costuming we’ve seen before, but that might be the point. Just like the Gothic setting, Luke is now wearing the duds a count from 18th century Europe might sport. Such a brazen costume choice suggests that the creative team aren’t taking this whole vampire thing all that seriously. It’s easy to imagine the team sitting in a room pitching ideas about this story and coming up with a Star Wars x Vampire Diaries idea and it suddenly coming together. What this suggests is that once again, this mini-event isn’t really intended for the Star Wars purist, but rather those who can find the humor in poking fun at the absurdities of the Star Wars universe. Basically, if you can find the humor in an Star Wars Holiday Special, you’ll probably like this issue.
Moving away from the vampires in this issue, Gillen does some nice work developing the main characters in this issue. Luke, in particular, is an interesting case as it becomes more clear what motivates him. The natural question most people have about this issue is why Aphra and Luke would team up, and the answer is basically desperation on Luke’s part. His sole motivation in joining Aphra is trying to learn the ways of the force from a long dead Jedi master whose consciousness is encased in a crystal.
That Luke would stoop to such low levels shows just how desperate he is to become a Jedi. It’s not only his teaming up with Aphra that is alarming, but the fact that he thinks her scheme will actually work. But putting this issue in context, Luke’s desperation makes sense. Obi-Wan is dead and hasn’t appeared to Luke, so it must feel like he’s truly alone in his search for the Force. Taken in that light, it’s easy to understand why Luke would skip town with Aphra. This issue does a wonderful job of characterizing Luke this way and makes you wonder just how far he’ll debase himself in his quest for the force.
So do Star Wars and vampires mix well together? The jury is still out on that. I’m sure as hell, though, that Black Krrsantan is the space version of Van Helsing.
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