REVIEW: ‘Star Wars Adventures: Return to Vader’s Castle #5 – Night of the Lava Zombies’

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Return to Vader’s Castle #5 is published by IDW Publishing and concludes the 2019 Spooky Wars run of horror-inspired Star Wars stories. The series is written by Cavan Scott and features art by various artists, with Francesco Francvilla as the main artist and colorer. In Return to Vader’s Castle #5 Francvilla is joined by artist Charles Paul Wilson III and colorer David Garcia Cruz.  Andworld Design rounds out the team as the series’ letterer.

Return to Vader’s Castle #4 (review here) ended with an appearance of an Imperial Inquisitor just as Vader’s servant Vaneé was ready to execute Lieutenant Thom Hudd. The Inquisitor insists that Hudd is to be taken to the Emperor at the Dark Lord’s own request. Vaneé doesn’t want to give his plaything over so easily. While the two tussle, Hudd tries once again to free himself from the binders on his wrists. Just before it seems as if Hudd will be able to escape, Vaneé laments about another Imperial who once came to Vader’s castle and did not show proper respect.

Much in the same way that Tales from Vader’s Castle (review here) wrapped, the final story in Return to Vader’s Castle #5 gives readers a heavy dose of Darth Vader. In this spooky tale, Vader is entertaining an emissary of the Emperor. Despite Vaneé’s warnings, the emissary demands information from Darth Vader and appears unafraid of the rumored power the Sith Lord possesses. Right as it seems Vader’s patience may be at its end, a disturbance in the Force breaks his concentration.

A raid of Mustafarians burst through the castle’s defenses. The insectoid beings immediately begin to attack the castle’s guards, leaving them zombified after contact. The lava zombie storm troopers and royal guards turn on Vader as Vaneé and the Emperor’s emissary cower in fear. Bad goes to worse as even the mighty Darth Vader is overwhelmed by the Mustafarians and is bitten on the arm. Now, the infected Sith Lord starts to turn into a zombie himself….

I have often said throughout both Tales from Vader’s Castle and Return to Vader’s Castle that I would love to see these stories brought to life onscreen. Return to Vader’s Castle #5 might be the issue that I want to see on screen the most. Darth Vader is a scary character without the embellishment that is notorious for this series. Lava zombie Darth Vader is on another level of scary. The art provided by Francavilla, Wilson III, and Cruz brings a version of Vader that needs to be seen to be believed.

Overall, Return to Vader’s Castle was a delightfully fun, spooky ride. Writer Scott has the amazing ability to provide stories that hit on many different levels. The series honors horror staples, consistently bridging that gap between horror fans and Star Wars fans. Furthermore, the series is littered with callbacks to his own work and the work of mediums of Star Wars storytelling. While some of the stories may not be 100% authentic, they still provide canonical legends that characters in-universe believe. This adds an extra layer of intrigue when it comes to how different characters are portrayed in the Star Wars universe. Scott accomplishes all of this in a series aimed at a younger audience, making the feats even more impressive.

Return to Vader’s Castle does not end on the same cliffhanger that Tales from Vader’s Castle does. However, I do hope that Spooky Wars continues in 2020. There are still a lot of characters for Scott and the team at IDW Publishing to work with and even more horror stories to draw from. Even if Scott shifted the focus to heroes rather than villains, I would still be on board for another five issues. That being said, who does not want to see Scott tackle a horror story with Thrawn, Boba Fett, or even General Hux at the center?

Star Wars Adventures: Return to Vader’s Castle #5
5

TL;DR

Return to Vader’s Castle was a delightfully fun, spooky ride. Writer Scott has the amazing ability to provide stories that hit on many different levels.