Image: Marvel Comics. Art by Marco Checchetto and Andres Mossa.
Marvel's Star Wars and Dr. Aphra comics kicked off a new crossover event this week, Screaming Citadel, and it's a realisation of something the comics have been doing for a while, quite unlike any other aspect of Lucasfilm's new Star Wars comic: it's digging into some really weird corners of the galaxy far, far away.
Before it was shuttered in the wake of Disney's acquisition of Star Wars, the Expanded Universe delved into all sorts of crazy concepts puttering about the corners of the Star Wars galaxy. From clones to biotech alien invaders to the true nightmare that is The Courtship of Princess Leia, the EU was never afraid to get downright freaky.
The new canon, less so. Although there's definitely some more outlandish things simmering beneath the surface, and major works like Rebels and The Last Jedi seem to at least be touching on concepts about the Force that exist beyond the rigid Light and Dark the franchise has long abided by, so far the Disney canon has largely stuck to what could be considered "standard" fare for Star Wars, as standard as a universe of laser swords and magic powers can be.
That is, except for the comic books. Marvel's Star Wars line has repeatedly been unafraid to dive into all sorts of weird concepts, from the Poe Dameron series' opening arc circling around a Force-based religious cult guarding a giant monster egg, to the Obi-Wan and Anakin miniseries being set on a weird steampunk world, to even the main Star Wars book featuring a whole arc about Yoda dealing with a giant sentient mountain. Star Wars: Screaming Citadel, by Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa, and Joe Caramagna, the first issue of which released yesterday, continues with that fine tradition of the comics getting their freak on in stylish fashion.
The premise that brings together Dr. Aphra — the sometimes good, sometimes bad archaeologist adventurer that used to hang around with Darth Vader before he tried to kill her — and Luke Skywalker together in Screaming Citadel is definitely up there in weirdness.
Aphra is not only aware of the fact Luke is Force sensitive and training to be a Jedi, but she has found a magical ancient crystal that apparently houses the "archived personality" of a Jedi named Rur. Aphra strikes a deal with Luke: come with her to the planet Ktath'atn to activate the crystal, a once-in-a-year opportunity from the world's Queen in favour of being shown a unique example of organic life.
Aphra, who believes the crystal holds great archaeological interest, thinks Luke's Force sensitivity makes him the ideal offering to the Queen, and in return, Luke would get to learn the ways of the Jedi from Rur.
Access to the Queen is a tough thing, requiring Luke and Aphra to muck it up with fancy alien guests at a banquet — and for Luke to wear some truly hilarious-looking Star Wars formalwear — before queuing up to offer their sampling to the Queen of Ktath'atn for judgement. If this wasn't already strange enough this, by the way, is what the Queen and her retinue look like:
At first, Luke is rapidly passed over by the Queen, because Luke and Aphra are both terrible at pitching themselves. But when one of the guests harasses Aphra, Luke unwittingly lashes out with the Force — revealing his powers and grabbing the attention of the Queen immediately, to the point that she dismisses every other potential winner of her favour. Aphra and Luke both think this is great, but unlike the audience, they don't find out why the Queen is so eager to get her hands on the young Skywalker.
Drawing upon the lifeforce of Ktath'atn's populace — through her own retinue, who mystically (and painfully) seem to draw it out of nearby civilians in the city below the titular citadel in preparation for a "Harvest," the Queen prepares herself to do something she's apparently not done in a long time:
She's kind of a lifeforce sucking, Jedi eating, evil vampire space alien queen. I told you things were getting weird. I'm kind of excited to see where it all goes next.