I remember a time, not that long ago, when I was excited by the prospect of comic book day…unfortunately, knowing that this week brought the next installment of The Screaming Citadel had both my excitement and expectation levels at a pretty much all-time low…in truth, I haven’t enjoyed the ongoing Star Wars run since the arc with the stolen Star Destroyer and SCAR Squad (that ended on the HUGE cliffhanger of them capturing C-3PO and R2 going off to rescue him BUT NOBODY SEEMS CONCERNED ABOUT THAT!)…ugh…anyway, enough of my lamentations, here’s Part 4 of (thankfully) 5 of The Screaming Citadel:
Star Wars #32
I’m going to start by saying something nice: I really like the design of the Queen’s guardsmen. It was a cool idea, since she’s a Queen, to have them resemble traditional knights with a touch of Star Wars, and I think they pulled it off well – they remind me of medieval Mandolorians. So, we begin with symbiote-crazed Krrsantan easily handling the Queen’s big deal minion that been having his way with him pre-symbiote, and then beating his chest like King Kong. You think, briefly, that he might then turn on Leia, Sana, and the droids, but they convince him to go after more worthy prey in the Citadel. So the ladies and the droids head back in to save Han & Luke. Back inside with Aphra, we see that she has her magically (literally, I guess?) restored Rur crystal, and is about to be on her way, but she first asks what’s to become of Luke…who we see strapped to a chair and hooked up to some kind of machine of many tubes that ends in a gas mask type thing on Luke’s face…then we see the Queen appear to draw from Luke as if he’s a living hookah – yes, let me say that again: somehow this apparatus hooked up to Luke’s face allows the Queen to draw out Luke’s, uh, essence? Soul? Living Force? Who knows what, honestly, and distill it, maybe? Or concentrate it…well, do something to it so that she can drink it from what looks like the end of a hookah. So I’m going to call it the Jedi hookah. Anyway, Luke begs Aphra for help, she bails, the Queen tells her ancient-looking minion not to let her make it out of orbit. I guess turnabout is fair play times a thousand when Aphra is involved…anyway, the Queen then gets the news that a Wookiee has been infected and is running amok. We find out that last time this happened half the village was slaughtered and that’s why Wookiees are quarantined. The Queen debates destroying the symbiote hive, but decides instead to send her new apprentice to handle things…oh that’s right, it’s a symbiote-controlled Han Solo that’s given some of the Jedi hookah juice for good measure (also, this last panel reminds me of Rick & Morty because Han has the hookah juice on his face like Rick’s constant green drool). Back with the ladies and droids, they’re trying to figure out a way to find Luke & Han, and Leia tells the droids to plug in and see what they can find out. Well, 000 says, “we’re not really that sort of droid,” and goes to torture someone to find out instead, but is interrupted by being shot in the back shoulder by Han, who’s now in full Citadel Knight armor…but with no helmet, you know, because we have to know who he is…they couldn’t just, oh I don’t know, recognize his voice? Nah, we’ll have have him awkwardly stand out by having no helmet, it’s cool…so now the ladies are running from infected Han and his legion of baddies, it appears Sana is shot, and Leia is cornered and about to be brought into the fold, so to speak, since suddenly Han has a large jar with a symbiote in it…while this is happening the droids decide to bail, and we’re back with Aphra, who’s trying to procure a ship so she can continuing bailing herself. This is when Rur decides to make an appearance and read Aphra’s thoughts, telling her that she regrets what she’s done, that she’s frustrated with herself, and that regardless of what she does, she is “unlikely to leave this planet alive.” They also seem to make a joke here as Aphra says, “I’ve got no friends left, except for a talking rock that likes to state the obvious. I am one damn lucky doctor,” and Rur replies, “this is also untrue.” I think he’s saying that he’s not her friend and she’s not a lucky doctor, obviously not getting sarcasm, or he’s reading her mind and knows of other friends she does have, or that she considers Luke a friend, maybe? I don’t know. I think I’m going to assume it’s an oddly-placed joke. Back inside, Han is about to put his symbiote friend on Leia, but Sana is back and talks the droids into not bailing by saying that when they’re done here she’ll help them kill Aphra (which I guess they want to do? I mean, sure, they want to kill everyone, but I thought they were on good terms with Aphra, unless her recent leaving them behind was the last straw) so BT blows stuff up and Sana steps in and punches Han before he can infect Leia. Back with Luke and the Queen, I guess Luke’s just hand enough, so he just breaks free like it’s no big deal (why didn’t he do this before?), grabs his lightsaber that’s conveniently just sitting on a table, and starts slicing up dudes…then he goes for the Queen…and she turns into pixels, slashes through his arm, and then starts licking up the blood so not to “spill any drops” (honestly, I would have much preferred that the Queen and her cohorts be more like “traditional” vampires and just suck blood all the time rather than sucking out peoples’ “essence” or having to use the Jedi hookah). At this point I’m really throwing in the towel on this story line. Every time the Queen is in the smallest amount of trouble, she seems to break out a new ability – she’s like that kid at the playground that has “everything proof” armor and always has a weapon to counter whatever you’re doing. It’s cheese. I hope she turns into a mynock and flies away rather than dying to end the arc. That would completely make it worth it. (Not really.) Anyway, as she’s re-pixelating and licking Luke’s blood, there’s a big explosion that turns out to be Aphra having a change of heart. She and the Queen have a discussion about how the symbiote hive mind pledges fealty to the strongest among them…which now happens to be Luke because, during the explosive distraction, Aphra put a symbiote on Luke…Luke, with red eyes (not Sith/darkside eyes, mind you, just red), says, “Bow…before your king.” And the issue is, thankfully, over…
I just, I’m sorry, but I can’t like this. It’s too eye-rolly, even for comics, which I do give more leniency than any other medium. But I asked myself this: would you like it if it were another IP and not Star Wars, and you’re being too hard on it because it’s your beloved Star Wars? And the answer was “no.” It’s just not that compelling of a story, especially since, as is the case with all stories involving the “big three” from the original trilogy, we know it ends up fine for everyone. To really get more engaging, odd, outside the box stories like this to work, I think you need less involvement from the main characters and more from the new characters. If this was part of the Aphra story alone, for example, without making it a crossover, I think it could have been much more successful. As it is, I’m asking myself why Leia never cracks a joke about having to rescue Han from a symbiote again when they head for Bespin or something…really, though, the story is just too much – the weird was already cranked to 11 when the story started, and they just keep turning it up. Anyway, what do you think? I know some people are enjoying it, so I’d love to hear from them. Do you think the Queen’s powers are awesome and not over the top? Is the Jedi hookah one of the coolest machines ever? Do you wish you had an army of symbiote-crazed minions? Give the book a thorough second read (again, if you can stomach it) and let me know what you think in the comments…or I’ll make myself pixelated and appear magically behind you while you’re drinking something so you get surprised and scared and spill your drink all over yourself…until next time, TWS out.