Return to Vader’s Castle #1: The Horned Devil—Review

What evil lurks in the dark shadows waiting for its next offering to cross his path? Revenge ruling his thoughts. The Horned Devil!

This article contains plot points for Star Wars Return to Vader’s Castle #1: The Horned Devil

It’s October once again, and we all know what that means. Halloween is right around the corner, and with that comes the Return to Vader’s Castle, the sequel series to last year’s Tales from Vader’s Castle. It also sees the return of writer Cavan Scott and artists Francesco Francavilla (pgs. 1-2, 19-20) and Megan Levens (pgs. 3-18). Published by IDW, the rest of the creative team consists of Letters by Andworld Design, Assistant editor Elizabeth Brie, and Editor Denton J. Tipton. Return to Vader’s Castle #1 (10/2) returns with a familiar face lurking in the shadows awaiting its next victim.

Vaneé

Vader’s castle, a foreboding structure filled with darkness and evil, looms over the Mustafarian landscape. Inside, Vader’s attendant Vaneé tortures an unknown prisoner with what appears to be a torch or a yellow lightsaber. Francavilla’s art style is ideally suited for Halloween-themed stories because of his use of shadows and color. The way Vaneé is illustrated is understandably more animated than his real-life counterpart, but it works so well! Vaneé is the equivalent of Igor in Dracula, reveling in inflicting punishment on Vader’s prisoners, hoping to gain information and his master’s praise.

Return to Vader's Castle

Vaneé speaks about the ill-will he receives from stormtroopers and Mustafarians but insists he enjoys serving his master. He also says he has stories, “stories to chill the blood and stir the soul. Stories of nightmares past and terrors yet to come.” Vaneé recalls a story about a devil located on a stormy planet, “a devil in darkness, crazed and alone.” Francavilla conveys such madness and horror on page two, it might be a little too much for younger readers.

Lotho Minor

The story starts on page three; this is also where Levens takes over the illustrations. Levens art is much softer with muted colors and thinner lines. This is not to say that Levens’s art is of lesser quality. Not at all. It perfectly contrasts Francavilla’s art and appropriately suits this particular part of the story.

A small cargo ship flies low above the terrain of Lotho Minor, a distant junk world. The droid pilot, Captain Spikewheel, tests his new crew by tossing them out of the ship, and if they’re able to survive one night in the dark without losing their minds, they will earn a place on Salvage-1. Said crew consists of a Nikto named Gritz, a human male named Brennar, and two more unknown aliens, Riki and Seles.

A Night to Remember

Gritz, the Nikto is a bully who picks on Seles any chance he gets, while Riki and Brennar come to his aid. After a fight breaks out between them, the ground of junk gives way, and the four fall through to an underground cave. It doesn’t take long for things to go downhill. Riki’s glow rod stops working, and before the other three realize he’s gone, Seles is grabbed from above by some sort of appendage.

Tensions rise when the three remaining members decide to split up to look for Seles. Shortly thereafter, Brennar hears a faint voice in the distance. As he gets closer to the sound, Brennar sees Seles hanging from the ceiling of the cave. Seles says to Brennar, “I couldn’t stop him.” Stop who?

A Familiar Face

Return to Vader's Castle

Maul! Spider-legged Maul to be exact. Because he still has his spider legs, this story must occur before Maul’s appearance on The Clone Wars. At this point, Maul is still deranged, having been stranded alone, contemplating his revenge on Kenobi. No sign of Morley however, the Anacondan who showed where Savage Opress could find his brother.

Maul is absolutely terrifying! And the way his word bubbles are—black with white lettering shows his madness. To save his companion, Brennar throws a rock at Maul only for Maul to block it away. Brennar and Seles run away as Maul gives chase, and just as Maul is about to capture them, an electronet falls on Maul deactivating his mechanical legs. Surprisingly enough, it was Gritz who saved the day, but not out of bravery or heroism. It turns out Gritz was working for Captain Spikewheel, and Maul was a bounty “some idiot willing to pay top credits for.”

Legendary

One noteworthy mention is a reference to the 1994 Star Wars novel, Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton. Maul’s capture was his own plan. He wanted to get transport off Lotho Minor and be taken to Mother Talzin on Mount Gethzerion. In Legends, Gethzerion is the founder and leader of the nightsisters on Dathomir in Courtship of Princess Leia. For longtime Legends fans, it’s always fun to notice these references. It’s like a small reward for being old.

Return to Vader's Castle

After another skirmish breaks out, Maul destroys Captain Spikewheel, then Maul and Gritz get ejected out of the ship and fall to the surface. Leaving Gritz stranded with Maul, now the tables are turned. Levens brings out the fear on Gritz’s face so well, one could almost feel sorry for him. The story returns to Vaneé, where it shows him watching a video recording of Gritz being attacked by Maul, “That’s the trouble with greed. It never ends well.” Francavilla finishes the issue with Vaneé facing his prisoner, Thom Hudd, a member of Lina Graf’s crew, who got captured in Tales From Vader’s Castle.

Conclusion

What will happen next to the rebel? Will he survive long enough for his friends to rescue him? The wait won’t be long, the weekly series returns on 10/9 with The Curse of Tarkin. It’ll be exciting to see how Francavilla illustrates another veteran of Hammer Studios, Peter Cushing. Last year Christopher Lee’s likeness as Count Dooku was heavily inspired by his most famous role, Count Dracula. Stay tuned, or else!

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