Written by Eric Onkenhout
Lava zombies attack! Vader defends his castle against an infectious hoard in, Night of the Lava Zombies.
This article contains plot points from Return to Vader’s Castle #5: Night of the Lava Zombies.
The end is nigh! Star Wars Return to Vader’s Castle #5 Night of the Lava Zombies is here, and with it are some frightfully good twists sure to make anyone with a pulse chill with anticipation. Lt. Hudd, a captive inside Vader’s castle, is caught between Vader’s servant Vaneé, and an Inquisitor who was sent to escort Hudd to Coruscant per the orders of Darth Sidious himself. Utter the loyal employee, Vaneé refuses to give up his master’s prize no matter who demands it.
Return to Vader’s Castle #5 features artists Charles Paul Wilson III, along with series writer Cavan Scott and artist Francesco Francavilla. And as this is the last issue of the series, it’s always worth mentioning the entire cast of contributors at IDW. Letters were by Andworld Design, the assistant editor is Elizabeth Brei, and the editor is Denton J. Tipton.
A Duel of Fates
The action, which is fast and furious, starts on page one with Vaneé and the Inquisitor trading blows. Each is brandishing a weapon, Vaneé—a vibrosword while the Inquisitor wields an energy weapon similar to a lightsaber but less dignified. The Inquisitor lands a hit to the back of Vaneé, knocking him to the floor. Meanwhile, Hudd attempts to free himself from the binders.
The Inquisitor claims, “I haven’t time to argue. The Emperor awaits.” To which Vaneé replies, “You sound like another Imperial envoy who came to Mustafar long ago.” And so the tale begins…
Something Wicked This Way Comes
While two stormtroopers are on patrol duty outside Vader’s castle, they hear a distant moan. Cut to the next page, still on Mustafar, is one of the Emperor’s advisors (similar to the ones seen in the Emperor’s Throne Room in Return of the Jedi). Advisor Rersey and Vaneé don’t exactly get along as they serve two different masters. In the middle of squabbling, another moan is heard in the distance.
The moan is now accompanied by a loud bang coming from outside the castle. Vader and a pair of red Imperial guards investigate the commotion when the door gives way to a hoard of Lava Zombies! Vader immediately orders the guards to defend the fortress. In the ensuing battle, one of the stormtroopers suffers an attack from a lava zombie and becomes infected. Very similar to the stormtrooper zombies, which made an appearance in Joe Schreiber’s 2009 novel Death Troopers (if you like Star Wars and zombies that book is highly recommended).
Duel a Dark Lord
At this point, Vader realizes it’s a plague and that someone nearby is controlling the zombies. Soon after, Vader himself gets bitten and appears to be infected as well. Advisor Rersey and Vaneé fear for their lives as there seems to be no way out. Out from the chaos comes a mysterious figure cloaked in ceremonial red robes with an ornamental crest of bone atop their head. A similar ornament also brandishes its staff. It announces, “He (Vader) serves me.”
Advisor Rersey is not impressed by this newcomer and demands to know who they are. “I am Mother Sssl of Rrrt. And this is our world. A world with secrets that I have vowed to protect at all costs.” It’s interesting to note how Mother Sssl calls Vader the masked invader. Scott probably only meant this as a double entendre considering Vader is German and Dutch for father and is not named for being an invader of planets. A neat coincidence, regardless.
Mother Sssl orders Vader to kill Rersey and Vaneé and insists that Vader is nothing more than a puppet. For someone who was once considered the Chosen One, Vader, for all his brutality, serves. Whether it’s the Emperor, Mother Sssl, or his own demons. On a dime, Vader turns on Mother Sssl and says, “Only flesh and blood can be infected.” When the dark lord was bitten, it was on his right forearm, which is mechanical.
They Dragged Her In
Vader then uses the Force to play a mind trick on Mother Sssl, using her mastery of the lava zombies against herself. Then Vader tricks Mother Sssl by having her order her own zombies to drag her into the lava. Rersey is visibly disturbed by Vader’s ruthlessness. This ends the tale of who serves who.
Returning to the present, Vaneé gains his feet and attacks the Inquisitor, who was attempting to free Hudd. In the fall, the Inquisitor’s helmet comes off and reveals precisely what Vaneé suspects—this wasn’t an Inquisitor after all. It’s Commander Lina Graff of the Rebel Alliance returning to save her friend. While the two engage in a fearsome duel, Hudd, now free, displays a set of illusions to distract Vaneé while Hudd and Graff escape. Vaneé is left to explain his misfortune to Vader, which is never a good thing (right, Captain Needa?)
So as the last page says, “THE END…FOR NOW.” So it seems the Vader’s Castle series will be an annual weekly event that occurs every October. That’s great news since this series has been a fan favorite since its inception. Until next year, watch out for tentacles creeping out from under your bed, zombies looking to drag you away, Frankenstein-type monsters seeking revenge, or multi-legged Sith Lords bent on power.