Jedi can move things with their minds. Humans can understand Wookiee growls and robot beeps as language. Princesses can fall in love with no-rank criminals. The world of Star Wars has some pretty far out premises and storylines; they’ve kept us interested as fans for decades now. The films keep those stories rather realistic after we’ve suspended disbelief and accepted the rules of the universe. The comics, on the other hand, really push the envelope with crazy stories and very unlikely premises because, well, why not?
In Star Wars: Screaming Citadel #1 (out of a five-part miniseries), we have one of those crazy stories unfolding in the spaces between Episode IV (A New Hope) and Episode V (The Empire Strikes Back).
Writer Kieron Gillen takes up the cause of Doctor Aphra as she convinces Luke to join her on a unique mission—to impress a queen with his Jedi-ness. Uncertain about his connection to the Force, and even less so about his lure as a Jedi, Aphra is able to lure Luke in with the promise of access to a computer file that contains the full consciousness of an ancient Jedi. Curious about what he could learn, Luke reluctantly agrees to accompany Aphra, despite his past with Aphra (sussed out in the Darth Vader comic series), and a checkered past it is. Aphra kidnapped Luke at the bidding of Darth Daddy. As Aphra and Luke seek about to garner the attention of the Queen of Ktath’Atn (“…don’t try to pronounce that.”) they quickly find that what they want from the queen, and what she expects in return are far from compatible.
Aphra’s usual sidekicks are present in the story—her murderous droids and Wookiee—as is the expected, faithful recreation of our favorite space heroes. Artist Marco Checchetto does a fantastic job drawing young versions of Han, Luke and Leia. In so doing, he connects them in our mind’s eye with the aesthetic that is part of our shared history as Star Wars nerds. Where his panels really come alive are when the heroes arrive on the world of Ktath’Atn, especially when we meet the Queen. Her Majesty and her court look like something out of a “Hellraiser Meets The Crow” mashup, which is to say dark and dangerous. I won’t spoil anything more, but there is no way the Queen can have good intentions for our poor little farm-boy.
Gillen is having a very good run at Marvel with their new Star Wars comic. He wrote the very well-received Vader series 1-25, created Aphra and then ushered her into her own comic title. Screaming Citadel marks his third title in the SW universe, and with it, he seems to be trying something very new with the franchise. After just this first issue, the story feels like a Choose Your Own Adventure story gone very bad…bad for the characters, not bad as in poorly executed. It’s weird, it’s dark, and could end up pushing the T/Teen rating on the cover of the issue.
Something that I wish were different, after spending several pages with Luke, Aphra, Leia, Sana and Han vocalizing reasons why Luke should not go with Aphra, he still goes with her. His reasons are clear — to learn more about becoming a Jedi—but they don’t seem to justify walking into the grasp of a previous kidnapper and assassin. Between the Force, talking robots and unorthodox brother/sister love stories, that seems to be more far out that I’m prepared to accept.
That said, I’ll be reading the next four titles in the series. If anything, we’ll see Luke become better acquainted with the Force.