– Spoiler Review –
Doctor Aphra and the Star Wars series collide in Marvel’s second crossover event, The Screaming Citadel! In issue #1, Chelli Aphra recruits Luke Skywalker for her own nefarious purposes and the two quickly find themselves in more danger than either realizes. Before the danger looms, be prepared to get drunk on laughter as writer Kieron Gillen provides an effortless set up issue that is over long before you’d want it to be, providing plenty of character and plot to look forward to as the crossover unfolds.
One of the things I enjoyed the most from The Screaming Citadel #1 is how easily Gillen pulled all the characters from both series’ together, and while it’s not the first time they’ve all met (Luke gets into it with the muderbots over their antics from last time in hilarious fashion), it truly feels like they’ve always inhabited the same universe (which might sound silly to say since obviously they do, but they’ve been on such different paths and adventures it’s sometimes hard to imagine they could ever run into each other and it works so damn well when they do) and they don’t really miss a beat about this latest situation. On top of that, the events within are so character focused that when the plot kicks in you almost don’t realize it, helping make the big reveal at the end all the more surprising and therefore worrisome for the characters since it’s hard not to love them at this point. Fans of either series, or both, will have plenty to enjoy as even the supporting actors get their time to shine and shine brightly they certainly do. I hope this crossover has the effect of adding fans to both series, though especially more so for Doctor Aphra, as anyone who’s not been particularly happy with the Star Wars series of late or hadn’t been sure about the good doctor up until now, should be easily swayed to Aphra-fandom in no time.
As hoped (and then some), the combination of Luke’s relative naiveté and Aphra’s worldliness is a wellspring of humorous interactions and a dynamic that just begs for more as the issue and this crossover continues. Aphra plays the older, well-traveled sister to Luke’s farm-boy in the big universe act and it leads to numerous incidents of cuteness and laughs, especially as she keeps teasing him about his innocence or how he keeps realizing this is probably a bad idea but is going along with it anyways. One of the best interactions between the two is how Aphra sells him on helping her, ending on the quite lovely and funny line, “C’mon, are you out, farm boy? Or are you in, Jedi Knight?” She’s a fantastic saleslady and she continues using her charm and wealth of knowledge to get Luke along for the ride. While they both need each other, Aphra needs Luke so she can get a strange Queen on a remote world to reactivate the crystal she ‘acquired’ from an ancient temple (as witnessed in her series’ wonderfully entertaining first arc) and Luke needs Aphra’s crystal to learn the ways of the Force, there’s no mistake it’s a partnership made simply for those purposes, though Aphra is the WAY more likely party to break things up if things go south even if she really needs him. Luke on the other hand, just as you might expect him to, looks for the good in Aphra and just when he seems to get close to something, he comes up short, enjoyably so. This pairing is more than I ever hoped it could be and even if the plot of this crossover would ever end up crashing, TSC will alone be memorable for these two interacting.
As I mentioned before, all the characters get their chance to shine here, and it’ll be a real blast to see them all together once Han, Leia, and Sana attempt to come to Aphra and Luke’s rescue (though with Triple-Zero and BT-1 already with them, I’d not be worried about too much happening to them). However, the biggest moment from a side character here and the eventual interactions I’m absolutely looking forward to the most in TSC revolve around Sana and Aphra. The last time we saw the two women together, Sana was quite literally at Aphra’s throat for how she ended their relationship (yes, Aphra and Sana dated!), but she obviously still holds feelings for Aphra (who wouldn’t? She’s too damn charming) as it’s revealed here that Aphra baited Sana with a message of truce to get her to reveal the rebel’s hideout so Aphra could find and take Luke. Their eventual reunion, which has been something I’ve been anticipating for over a year now, will no doubt be entertaining to watch, but it’ll also be intriguing to see unfold as it’ll be one of the few, but growing LGBTQ+ relationships visible in Star Wars and it all involves an obvious fan-favorite (see below for the great news about Aphra’s action figure victory!).
Considering I instantly had a Dracula-type vibe from the Citadel of Ktath’atn, which fittingly Triple-Zero dubs the Screaming Citadel due to Ktath’atn’s literal translation in Basic being…unpoetic, let’s just say, I was wondering when that shoe might drop regarding just what was going on with the mysterious Queen who only welcomes the most exotic of visitors once a year and pays them handsomely if they entertain her. At Marvel’s Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017 panel, editor Jordan D. White allowed two Aphra cosplayers the chance to read this issue before anyone else, and while I was sure at the time I would agree with their thumbs up reviews (and I most certainly have), they mentioned being angry it stopped at such a good cliffhanger. Said cliffhanger ties into the gothic horror vibe this crossover is wonderfully emulating, and my comparisons to Dracula weren’t terribly off: the Queen’s minions suck the life force out of the hundreds gathered outside the citadel while they sleep, feeding it to the Queen in a Star Wars-ian take on vampires that is deliciously frightening for our heroes and exciting for the potential plot and unique battle ahead against this new form of evil. Curiously enough, we might have already got a glimpse at the silver bullet in said upcoming battle, because despite how odd and slightly funny a citadel’s guard’s insistence no Wookiees being allowed (aka Krrsantan) because the Queen is allergic, there’s no way they wouldn’t have mentioned it here if it didn’t become important later on (there is a potential for this to be a red herring, but I’d bet against it).
Marco Checchetto provides his able hands to the art, brought to vivid, dark, and sometimes subdued life by Andres Mossa’s colors, a pair I’ve come to enjoy from their work together on Shattered Empire and Obi-Wan & Anakin. Checchetto’s style really sets the tone for the gothic horror inspired world Aphra and Luke find themselves on, as it looks and feels like something out of Dracula or Frankenstein but totally at home in a GFFA (I mean, Luke’s Victorian-era suit is the epitome of how well the genre works within Star Wars). Mossa’s palate drives it all home and how the pair brings to life the soul-sucking, vampire-esque final moment is pure gothic horror bliss. I have one minor, personal, quibble however, and it stems again from what seems to be Checchetto’s signature: the dust-like clouds in nearly every panel look too much like explosions they keep throwing me off/making me expect something is about to blow up. But overall Checchetto and Mossa seem perfect for this world and genre and I’m a little disappointed they won’t be back for the rest of the issues (minus for the main covers of each successive issue of the crossover) though I’m curious and interested to see how the other artists handle the great foundations lain here.
Here are a few other things:
- May the 4th aka Star Wars Day went pretty well for Doctor Aphra fans, as it was revealed she won Hasbro’s fan figure vote! This is Aphra’s first action figure and it’ll be part of the highly articulated Vintage Collection line, being brought back by Hasbro! I’ve been dying for her to get a figure, especially since I picked up the Triple-Zero and BT-1 Kotobukiya SWCO exclusives last month (see picture)…someone needs to be a buffer between BB-8 and the murderbots or else Poe Dameron is going to need to find a new BB unit real soon. Can’t wait to see what Hasbro cooks up.
- I love how close to the truth Aphra is about Luke and Vader and she just completely misses it, but she at least gathers Vader wanted Luke to train him.
- One of my favorite lines comes from a moment between Triple-Zero and BT-1 for how it continues their role as the Greek chorus and has a somewhat meta-ness to it regarding this crossover. Triple-Zero: “I have to admit, ‘The Screaming Citadel’ does lean a trifle ominous.” BT-1: “BLEEEP!” Triple-Zero, aside to BT-1: “Yes, let’s pray it’s not false advertising. I do so hate getting my hopes up.” This is the perfect setting for these two.
- Gillen has a fun interview at Marvel’s site where he gives reasons why Luke and the others should and shouldn’t trust Doctor Aphra during the events of TSC.
- There’s a brief little nod to Doctor Cylo, the main antagonist in Gillen’s excellent Darth Vader series.
- TSC will continue in Star Wars #31 (out next week!), Doctor Aphra #7, Star Wars #32, and end in Doctor Aphra #8.
- While I get this crossover is focused on its own plot, the fact that Threepio’s absence is dismissed in one off-handed line, which doesn’t even mention he’s currently captured by the Imperials, continues to belittle said plotline and Scar Squads capture of the protocol droid.
The Screaming Citadel crossover is off to a rousing start, both in terms of its character-driven plot and spooky new world, and proves Aphra continues to be a gift that keeps on giving in terms of utterly enjoyable stories (and naive Luke is still entertaining, especially as a more weathered one will be gracing screens later this year).
+ Naive Luke hanging out with big sis Aphra is adorable, humorous, and pure entertainment
+ Star Wars wears Gothic horror just right
+ Character driven
+ Potential is palpable
STAR WARS CANON COMIC REVIEWS:
The Screaming Citadel
Part 2: Star Wars #31
Vader (#1-6) | Shadows and Secrets (#7-12) | The Shu-Torun War (#16-19) | End of Games (#20-25) | Annual: #1
Vader Down (crossover of Star Wars and Darth Vader on-goings)
Skywalker Strikes (#1-6) | Old Ben’s Journals | Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon (#8-12) | Rebel Jail (#16-19) | The Last Flight of the Harbinger (#21-25) | Yoda’s Secret War (#26-30) | Annual: #1 | #2
The Last Padawan (#1-6) | First Blood (#7-12)
Black Squadron (#1-3) | Lockdown (#4-6) | The Gathering Storm (#7-13)
Darth Maul (mini-series)
Han Solo (mini-series)
Obi-Wan & Anakin (mini-series)
Shattered Empire (mini-series)
Princess Leia (mini-series)
Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir (mini-series)