Return to Vader’s Castle #4: Vault of the Living Brains—Review

Written by Eric Onkenhout

Deep within the bowels of Jabba’s Palace lies the brains of countless victims, one in which holds the secrets to an ancient Jedi treasure.

This article contains plot points for Return to Vader’s Castle #4: Vault of the Living Brains.

This week (10/23) saw the release of the penultimate Star Wars Return to Vader’s Castle #4: Vault of the Living Brains which continues the harrowing tale of Rebel Lt. Thom Hudd who is being held prisoner inside Vader’s castle. After weeks of torture at the hands of Vader’s servant, Vaneé, Hudd escaped from his binders only to run into a pair of merciless training droids. Only at Vaneé’s command do they spare Hudd his life. And now, while being escorted back to prison, Hudd attempts to delay his eventual demise by telling a story…

Return to Vader’s Castle #4 sees Nicoletta Baldari join as the leading artist along with writer Cavan Scott and intro/outro artists, Francesco Francavilla. Hudd’s story begins on the desert planet Tatooine, Jabba’s the Hutt’s Palace to be specific. While holding court, Jabba is paid a surprise visit by his cousin Crakka. Right away, it’s obvious the similarities between Crakka and another of Jabba’s relatives, Ziro the Hutt, from The Clone Wars. Both Crakka and Zero have that slimy, sneaky, backstabbing smirk they both love to display. It would be interesting to know if Baldari used Zero as a reference when drawing Crakka.

Greetings Mighty Jabba!

Return to Vader's Castle #4

The reason for Cakka’s unexpected arrival is two-faced, as one would expect from a Hutt. Crakka arrives, offering her cousin Jabba a new beast called a huna-netre, a creature large enough and fearsome enough to take on Jabba’s akk dogs. While the two Hutts discuss their little wager, Crakka notices one of the original inhabitants of the palace walk by, the B’omarr Monks.

The huna-netre is a massive beast with blue skin, four legs, and two large canines protruding from its lower jaw, very similar to a saber-toothed tiger. The huna-netre makes quick work of the akk dogs to Jabba’s immense pleasure. And then there was much rejoicing!

Crakka Makes His Move

After a night of drinking and partying hardcore, Crakka’s real reason for his visit commences. While everyone is passed out, Crakka makes his way down to the catacombs of Jabba’s palace, where the B’omarr monks reside, when Crakka begins to tell his own tale of treachery and greed.

Long ago a Defel, (a wolfman-type alien with glowing red eyes seen in the Mos Eisley cantina) named Zaril raided a Jedi vault on Alaris Prime. After stealing the collection of Jedi artifacts and treasure, Zaril fled to Tatooine to meet with the B’omarr Monks. The B’omarr Monks were a sect of cults that removed their own brains to contemplate the mysteries of the universe without the distractions of the physical body. They placed their minds in spider-droids and roamed the halls of Jabba’s palace.

Zaril volunteered for the procedure to avoid capture, expecting his droids to reverse the process once the fuzz are off his trail, but his droids never returned. And now, Zaril’s brain still remains in the catacombs with the rest of the brains in waiting. Crakka hopes to locate Zaril’s still conscious brain to retrieve the location of the Jedi treasure trove. Wow! For a Hutt, Crakka can sure hatch a scheme.

Return to Vader's Castle #4

Salacious Crumb to the Rescue

Crakka and Dagra, the huna-netre handler, locate the encased brain, but in doing so, woke up the rest of the brains. Little do the pair know that all the while, Jabba’s pet kowakian monkey-lizard Salacious Crumb has been trailing them. Baldari’s art is very cartoonish and is geared more towards the age range of this series than some of the prior art has been. Tales from Vader’s Castle #4 comes to mind as having art that was way more creepy. The colors here are bright and inviting—heavy on the purples, lavenders, yellows, and reddish/oranges.

Crakka begs Jabba for forgiveness, telling him about the Jedi treasure and that they could share in the wealth, but Jabba isn’t buying it. Jabba’s majordomo, Bib Fortuna, suggests performing the procedure on Crakka, forcing him to think about his actions for the rest of his life.

Inquisitor Makes an Appearance

Back on Mustafar, Vaneé tires of Hudd’s delay and is about to end his life when he is interrupted by an Inquisitor, much like the ones seen in Star Wars Rebels and the new Star Wars videogame Jedi: Fallen Order. The Inquisitor does not reveal their name but reports that they have orders from the Emperor to escort Hudd to Coruscant. This begs a few questions. Why wouldn’t Vader tell Vaneé this? Why would the Emperor ask an Inquisitor to accompany Hudd back to Coruscant instead of Vader? Perhaps it was a way of connecting Return to Vader’s Castle to Jedi: Fallen Order. Maybe Vader isn’t available right now? Weren’t the Inquisitors given to Vader at his disposal?

Return to Vader's Castle #4

Either way, it’s clear Vaneé is not used to having Inquisitors in Vader’s Castle, for he is obviously shocked by their arrival. Return to Vader’s Castle #4 Vault of the Living Brains was on the same fear factor level as last week’s issue, which is to say not very. But that’s okay; not every issue has to be super intense.

Conclusion

The next issue will be the last issue of Return to Vader’s Castle, and it releases on 10/30, and the cover looks crazy good! It’s a picture of Vader’s mask, which is see-through, and below that are five figures which seem to be Inquisitors. Vader’s mask and the Inquisitors are all grotesque swamp vines, and the issue is called Night of the Lava Zombies. It’ll be sad to see this series end as each issue has been a treat.

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