Kieron Gillen stirs up conflict in a galaxy far, far away!

Though the Empire has already razed the sacred moon of Jedha, they’ve come back for more. In their attempts to raid the Kyber mines for the powerful crystals that fuel the Death Star’s weapons system, Imperial forces will encounter some familiar foes…but will Luke Skywalker be among them?

On January 3, Luke wavers between his allegiance to the Rebellion and his quest to become a Jedi in STAR WARS #41! Writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca present a few unexpected challenges in the fight against the Empire as the story continues.

Gillen stopped by Marvel HQ to speak about where Luke—and the Rebellion at large—find themselves in issue #41. With Luke preoccupied with his Jedi training, who might step up to lead the fight against the Empire?

Kieron Gillen: “What’s the right thing to do?” is just one of the questions that haunt this story. Hell, it haunts all fiction—or at least my own. I think you can chase that through the cast in the arc. Some of the characters go the other way—chasing the martyr journey that Jyn Erso ended up taking. Okay, that might be a bit philosophical for an answer, but to be more specific, Han would be the person I’d keep an eye on for the rest of the arc.

Each of the main three characters have their own arc in “The Ashes of Jedha,” and they rise and fall at different times. Luke’s started earliest and peaks with the training. Han starts lower and builds bigger later. How do Han and Leia react to Luke now that he’s gone off to do his own thing?

Kieron Gillen: I’d say the head-to-head between Leia and Luke says it all. It’s a fair question. What is practical in a situation? Either way, someone will have to make amends. Since the Death Star attack, what strategic value does Jedha hold for the Empire and the Rebellion respectively?

Kieron Gillen: For the Empire, it’s what it always was—a place rich in the resources they want. They’re a gauntlet squeezing the last bit of juice from the orange. The Empire needs all the orange juice it can get. Conversely, for the Rebellion, they don’t think the Empire should be allowed anything with Vitamin C in at all. They want the Empire to get scurvy. Any time the Empire try to buy some fruit juice, they’re arrive, swatting away the grasping gauntlet-y fingers.

Err…I’m not talking about actual orange juice, by the way. Right there with ya! Will we see any familiar faces in this struggle for Jedha?

Kieron Gillen: Well, Chewie has been conspicuously absent. I need to get some Bowcasting action in, surely? Oh yeah. Last question: how does it feel to have the chance to tell these stories between the action fans already know so well?

Kieron Gillen: It’s pretty magical. I’m working on the second arc at the moment, and I feel that I’ve really got the characters under my fingers. It feels like such a wonderful period of growth for the three core members and the Alliance, and getting to delineate the adventures they have along the way is so much fun.

What I’m doing is basically what I did with DARTH VADER—look at the gap in time, work out what’s been implicitly changed in that space, and then try to cook up a compelling reason for all those changes. Well, all the changes that [previous series writer] Jason Aaron hasn’t already touched on. That the book leans more towards the military side of the Rebels really brings Leia forward and Han’s conflicted response to it all. The trick ends up being about balance, so all the cast have their parts to play. For me, it’s an ensemble cast and I want to give everyone something.

Also, it never gets boring working out cool things you can do with a lightsaber.

Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca’s STAR WARS #41 hits on January 3!

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Kieron Gillen sums up what to expect in his initial story arc!

At the end of outgoing STAR WARS writer Jason Aaron’s run—which concluded with issue #37—Luke, Leia, and Han come to a rebel outpost recently burned to the ground leaving no survivors and come to one conclusion: it’s war. On November 22, new series writer Kieron Gillen, alongside artist Salvador Larroca, continue their new story arc with STAR WARS #39. This tale makes a bit of a time jump and we open to find our heroes fighting against the Empire among the wasteland remains of Jedha.

“If Jason’s run is kind of about being after ‘New Hope,’ mines more about being before [‘Empire Strikes Back’],” explains Gillen. “This is about the rise and fall of the rebellion. If you look at the movies it’s a really good time for the rebellion at the end of ‘New Hope’ and it’s a really quite bad time for them at the start of ‘Empire’

“In other words the Empire struck back before ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ starts.”

The Empire has destroyed Jedha, turning it into a post apocalyptic hellhole, but they’re not done. Instead of sending humanitarian aid to those still living on the unstable land, their forces attempt to suck every last usable resource from the planet while it’s still holding together. Luke, Leia and Han come to Jedha to make contact with the Partisans—a resistance group of individuals inspired by, or survivors of, Saw Gerrera’s forces—who attempt to prevent the Empire from leeching anything from this planet they might find beneficial to their cause by most any means necessary.

“I quite like just dropping some people in a cave, putting a gun to one of their heads and seeing what they do, you know what I mean, in that kind of how do Luke, Leia and Han talk their way out of this situation,” posits Gillen. “Because the Partisans are really mean you know, they are from a more ethically troubled place than Luke Skywalker and half the fun in this arc is seeing someone who is a pure innocent snowflake like Luke—to some degree—deal with these people who have a very different approach to the nature of rebellion.”

This issue will see Luke, the slightly damaged snowflake, on a journey that brings him face to face with the results of some real atrocities committed by the Empire. From these encounters, his initial impression of the unnecessarily harsh ways of the Partisans begins to change, realizing that they have a reason for why they do things the way they do, notes Gillen.

On top of this we have Luke’s personal struggle. “Jedha was one of the most spiritual places in the universe,” Gillen reveaks, “This is a place of enormous Force-worshiping temples, this is a place where pilgrims went and literally all that ancient knowledge Luke really wants to know is now a big hole in the ground. It’s in incredible multiple mile across metaphor for how Luke feels his future is in terms of him being a Jedi knight. He wants it so desperately but its just rubble, not just rubble, it’s like an enormous hell hole cut into the planet.”

But while this story definitely deals with some darker issues, Gillen assures us we can bank on a fair few of one-liners and some pretty cool new ways to use that beast of a weapon we fondly call a lightsaber. Not to mention Luke awkwardly apologizing to the natives as he cuts into their homes. Come on, Luke, they have enough problems to deal with—like the lack of breathable air!

Catch all rebellious, lightsaber wielding action on November 22 with Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca in STAR WARS #39!

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Kieron Gillen, Leinil Yu and Salvador Larroca chronicle Darth Vader's adventures.

Each week Star Wars Spotlight combs through the digital archives of Marvel Unlimited to showcase one classic story from that distant galaxy filled with Jedi, Sith, princesses, scoundrels and droids.

Though Darth Vader walked away relatively unscathed from the STAR WARS – DARTH VADER crossover called VADER DOWN, he still had plenty to deal with between a war on the mining planet of Shu-Torun and forces within the Empire secretly working against him.

That story ran from DARTH VADER ANNUAL #1 into DARTH VADER #1619 by Kieron Gillen, Leinil Yu and Salvador Larroca. The first installment saw Vader traveling to the planet in an effort to remind the ore-barons and their leaders that the Empire remained in charge. During the visit, Rebel supporters attacked and the king’s third daughter Trios did her best to lead Vader to his death. However, the Sith Lord saw something useful in her and put her in charge of the planet after everyone’s favorite murder droids 0-0-0 and BT-1 killed the rest of the royal court. 

Darth Vader Annual (2015) #1

Darth Vader Annual (2015) #1

What is Marvel Unlimited?

The main series issues picked up a bit later as the Ore Barons continued to lean towards rebellion even as Queen Trios tried steering them in the right direction. With the potential threat of losing one of their main sources of raw materials, the Emperor sent Vader to quell the uprising, assisted by Cylo and his two pseudo-cyber Jedi wannabes Morit and Aiolin. 

Darth Vader (2015) #16

Darth Vader (2015) #16

What is Marvel Unlimited?

On Shu-Torun, Vader found a queen who, while still relatively new to the throne, had grown into the role quite well. She fought fiercely as her enemies used important and even sacred equipment like Delving Citadels and Laval Leviathans against them. With the fearless agent of the Empire by her side, though, it seemed like the Ore Barons didn’t stand a chance. 

Darth Vader (2015) #17

Darth Vader (2015) #17

What is Marvel Unlimited?

At least not a fair one. Which brings us back to Cylo who made a deal with the Ore Barons to sabotage Vader’s vessel in an attempt to destroy his rival while still remaining somewhat loyal to the Emperor. Darth Vader figured out the plot and, thanks in part to some impressive psychological warfare implemented by Triple-Zero, their opponents surrendered. 

Darth Vader (2015) #18

Darth Vader (2015) #18

What is Marvel Unlimited?

Meanwhile, Queen Trios took control of her own command, killed a traitor in her midst and continued on in her mission to unseat one of her major opponents. Upon finding him, she had the man killed and put his own daughter in charge saying, “I’ve found inexperienced youths not expecting power the most easy to manipulate,” to which Vader agreed. 

Darth Vader (2015) #19

Darth Vader (2015) #19

What is Marvel Unlimited?

 From the Jedi Temple Archives

This story featured an interesting array of relationships in Darth Vader’s life at this time. On one side, you’ve got the stern, yet still somewhat helpful and encouraging mentorship between Vader and Queen Trios. On the other hand, he expressly tells Aiolin that he has nothing to teach her, mostly because of her status as a cyborg created by Cylo to appear Jedi-like. Later on, though, when she and her brother attack him, he does move to end her suffering in molten lava, though it appeared only to get one last bit of information out of her. Still, if anyone knows the pain of searing flesh, it’s the former Anakin Skywalker.

Finally, this run also featured Vader’s attempts to reclaim his one time covert op – and the creator of Triple-Zero and BeeTee – Doctor Aphra. She got captured at the end of VADER DOWN and, as we saw in the Rebel Jail story in STAR WARS, she helped Princess Leia stop an unorthodox prison break that essentially won her her freedom. The Sith Lord put out an anonymous call to bounty hunters to find her. When Beebox came back with a pile of bones, Vader knew it wasn’t Aphra and killed the liar. At the end of the story, Inspector Thanoth claimed to have found her and wanted to talk to Lord Vader about her. For more on that, you’ll just have to wait until we return to this series down the road!

Next week we travel back to the Clone Wars as John Ostrander, Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons showcase a hero in STAR WARS JEDI – SHAAK TI!

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The Darth Vader creative team will take over the title in November!

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away … STAR WARS returned to comic shops world-wide breaking records and garnering praise from fans and critics alike. Initially launched with Jason Aaron and John Cassady at the helm, the series aimed to explore the period of time falling between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back” – an angle that continues to prove popular with comic readers of all ages.

Two years later, Jason Aaron will be stepping aside as long-time Star Wars collaborator Kieron Gillen (DARTH VADER, DOCTOR APHRA) ascends to the dark throne alongside current artist, Salvador Larocca. We spoke with Gillen about this change of the guard and what direction he and Larocca plan to take as the series moves forward. Kieron, how does it feel to be taking over the reins of the main STAR WARS title after Jason Aaron’s 37-issue run?

Kieron Gillen: Generally speaking, I like to think of myself as Palpatine, having successfully arranged a takeover of the once noble Republic and will now turn it to my evil ends. Jason has been reduced to living on a swamp world and speaking in unusual syntax. Gillen triumphant! Hail Gillen!

Er… it feels great. Jason’s run has been amazing, a piece of pop science fiction that speaks to the core wonder of Star Wars, and getting to follow him is an honor. It’s a book I’ve always felt close to, running its sister books in the time period with DARTH VADER and DOCTOR APHRA. That means it’s simultaneously familiar and intimidating, which is a really unusual feeling. You’ll be working with Salvdor Larocca again – a mainstay for Marvel’s STAR WARS comics line. How do you find having him as a collaborator helps you craft a story that rings true for fans of the Star Wars universe?

Kieron Gillen: First of all, Salva loves Star Wars. That’s true of a whole generation of artists, but every panel speaks to his love of the Star Wars universe, the research inherent to that and trying to ensure it feels like a lost frame from the movie. He does great likenesses of both characters and tech… but also is entirely capable of inventing his own things which feel like they must be a piece of design. Aphra’s ship, the Ark Angel, is a wonderful example of that – pure Star Wars, entirely new.

There’s also another aspect to Salva, in that he’s so fast it means that the book doesn’t need to flip between artists to maintain the schedule. That means that the book can have a consistent look and feel, which means you have a consistent Star Wars atmosphere. Unlike DARTH VADER, which gave you and Salvador the opportunity to explore the world of Star Wars from the perspective of the Sith Lord and the Empire, you will now have the opportunity to dig into the untold stories of our favorite Rebellion heroes. What aspects of these characters are you most interested in fleshing out that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Kieron Gillen: With VADER, my first task was sitting down and doing a close reading and deciding what must have happened to them between the two series. They’re the same people, but there’s a host of implied experiences between the two. Jason’s backbone has been Luke’s exploring his Jedi powers, trying to find ways to become the Jedi he knows he has to be… and I think that’s gone almost as far as we can before “Empire Strikes Back.” As such, my run on the book is less about the Jedi, and more about Luke becoming increasingly prominent in the Rebellion.

I kind of see Leia as co-lead of the book, and her own route is in there – one thing which struck me is that while this period is about Luke starting the path to a Jedi, by implication, it’s also about Leia *not* following her force sensitivity. As we see in the “The Force Awakens,” she never went that way. Why? Obviously, all this impacts Han as well – that throwaway line in the opening of “Empire Strikes Back” when Han is leading, about him being a natural leader? Well, no he isn’t that in “A New Hope.” Let’s see that stuff.

So, we’re very much about the rebellion… and the rebellion’s plan in this period. I see you’ll be taking readers to Jedha? What made this a “first stop” on your Star Tour?

Kieron Gillen: In a real way, the arc is based on slamming the cast of “A New Hope” into the War-movie aesthetic of “Rogue One.” What better way of showing that than just doing it? On a character level, there’s so much for all the cast as well. Jedha and Alderaan sit next to each other on the Death Star’s hit list, and that’s core for Leia. Luke’s search for the Force leads him to a huge hole in the planet’s mantle where one of the holiest cities in the universe was. And Luke learning about all the things which led to him taking that shot on the Death Star… all that, without thinking about what happens when you rub someone like Luke against the new-generation Partisans.

Also, it just struck me when watching “Rogue One,” I wondered: “So, what happens to Jedha now?” That I’m the writer of STAR WARS, I get to answer such questions, and lo! Nuclear Winter post-apocalyptic Star Wars is go for an arc. Are there any villains that you haven’t had a chance to work with that we can expect to see at some point in your run?

Kieron Gillen: Hmm. I dare say I’ve hit most of the big ones in the period, which clearly won’t stop me from using them again. This is the period when the Executor launches with Vader at its helm, after it all. There’s a few others I’ve got my eye on, if only for a cameo.

Really, half the thrill is always working out ways to add new, interesting villains to the canon. Clearly defined enough to get instantly, but not too broad to be without nuance. I’ve a new Imperial Commander in the Jedha arc who is a joy to write. I’m also bringing back other villains we’ve introduced elsewhere – it’s very much building on all the work we’ve done in the comics. Queen Trios, from DARTH VADER, will certainly be showing her face, and rolling her eyes disdainfully. As a final question: I noticed you mentioned you’ll be charting the rise and fall of the Rebellion in order to set us up for the events of “Empire Strikes Back.” Just how low do you plan to bring the Rebellion?

Kieron Gillen: Heroism is proved in extremis. Pretty low.

This comes from almost the flip of my reading of the gap between “A New Hope” and “Empire” for doing DARTH VADER. There I saw “A New Hope” ending with the greatest military disaster of all time and the next movie starting with Vader (one of the few survivors) in a much higher position, with the Rebellion on the run, holed up at the edge of the Galaxy.

Here… the Rebels have just defeated the Empire’s 20-year plan. It’s a huge blow against them, and people now know the Empire *can* be resisted… plus they have wasted huge amounts of resources. The Rebels will be resurgent, people will probably be joining them and they almost certainly have plans based upon their experience of the Death Star… but we know that by the start of “Empire,” the Rebels are being pursued hard. Something happened between the two, and that’s the story I’m telling. The Empire *had* Struck Back by the time “The Empire Strikes Back” started. “A New Hope” is, as the title suggests, about this New Hope. My story is about moving from one to the other, and how our heroes and the rebellion navigate them.

Suffice to say, it’s a story of heroism on the galactic scale. I can’t wait to show some of the things we have planned.

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Kieron Gillen shares his favorite Darth Vader moment—written by Jason Aaron!

We all know that the first Star Wars film changed the face of pop culture forever when it hit theaters 40 years ago today—but it’s not just the movie that’s celebrating that milestone in 2017. Star Wars comics arrived with force in 1977, and hundreds of issues later, they’re more popular now than ever.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re looking back at our 40 favorite moments from the history of comics from a galaxy far, far away—one day at a time.

Star Wars: Vader Down (2015) #1

Star Wars: Vader Down (2015) #1

  • Published: November 18, 2015
  • Added to Marvel Unlimited: May 23, 2016
  • Writer: Jason Aaron
  • Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
What is Marvel Unlimited?

As the writer of 25 issues of DARTH VADER, Kieron Gillen knows a thing or two about scripting amazing moments for the iconic Sith Lord. But, when asked to name his personal favorite moment in Star Wars comics, he’s quick to cite the last few pages of STAR WARS: VADER DOWN #1 by Jason Aaron.

“Vader facing an entire rebel army,” recounts Gillen. “One brave soul shouts at him: ‘Lay down your weapons! You’re surrounded!’ Vader raises the red saber and addresses the crowd. ‘All I am surrounded by is fear. And dead men.’

“And the crowd goes wild. Jason Aaron, Mike Deodato and Frank Martin Jr. basically give the single most defining image of Vader in the new Marvel comics. I can only applaud. And seethe with professional jealousy, of course.”

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Kieron Gillen continues the epic crossover featuring Doctor Aphra!

This month, writers Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen find themselves about halfway through their second intergalactic narrative crossing over STAR WARS and DOCTOR APHRA, and fans find themselves in the midst of a dinner party gone horribly wrong with the Queen of the Screaming Citadel deprived of her main course: Luke Skywalker! Not surprisingly, we see Doctor Aphra in the middle of it all as she and Luke attempt to escape the wrath of the planet’s monarch all the while seeking to unlock the mysteries of the Jedi crystal.

As we round the bend towards the mid-point of this event, we sat down with co-writer Kieron Gillen, to discuss what we’ve seen so far and what we can expect around the next corner. When we first spoke about “The Screaming Citadel,” we discussed the similarities to other pulpy horror adventures like “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Given where things left off with the second issue of the story, I’d say that comparison was a pretty good one given the scene at the breakfast table…

Kieron Gillen: Of course, the other comparison would be that Sana and Aphra clearly had some “Bad Dates.” Do you have any other similar surprises in store for readers?

Kieron Gillen: Nope. Nothing happens in the remaining three issues. I’m not sure what we were thinking. We’ve decided to move into a weirder slice of life direction, where Han and Leia sit down with 000 and BeeTee and experiment with crochet. We also discovered that Aphra intended to feed Luke to the Queen. How do you bounce back from that sort of discovery if you’re Luke?

Kieron Gillen: Luke and Aphra’s relationship certainly ricochets around across the story. You have to suspect that the latest experience does put a general downer on it. Luke has tended to idealize Aphra. It’s hard to hang onto that when someone’s tried to feed you to an alien queen.

This is all written from experience. I had a friend who tried to feed me to an alien queen. Our relationship was never the same, but we’re at least polite in public now. On the other hand, how do you suppose Aphra convinces the Queen to unlock the secrets of crystal now that she’s blown her dining room?

Kieron Gillen: With great difficulty.

That said, it’s a big house. The Queen’s probably got a lot of dining rooms. And we’ve seen in the first issue she prefers to eat while standing on a balcony. Kind of Al Fresco.

Doctor Aphra #8 cover by Marco Checchetto Of course, we also have the secondary story you’re developing in the background with Han, Leia, and Sana who are trying to catch up to Luke and Aphra. Why is it that Sana is so reluctant to fill Han in on her past with Aphra?

Kieron Gillen: Because it’s deeply embarrassing, for one. Maybe that’s the main one; Sana and Han have a complicated relationship, and letting Han know the details would make her never live it down.

Of course, Sana is the person who told Aphra where they were. If she hadn’t done that, Aphra would have never been able to convince Luke to go with her. The more that Han knows, the more likely they’ll piece it together. Once the two groups reunite, we’re going to see Sana and Aphra come back together again. While Sana seems to be finding a place for herself in the Rebellion, Aphra doesn’t appear to be slowing down any. Do we get any idea of what happens next for them as the series continues?

Kieron Gillen: Oh, it’s certainly a heart-warming moment when they meet up. Possibly literally, in terms of having a blaster bolt setting Aphra’s heart on fire. Now, let’s pretend there’s a “happy ending” for this Star Wars horror story and Luke gets to learn a little more about being a Jedi after the secrets of the crystal are unlocked. But up to this point, Aphra hasn’t tipped her hand yet. What does she get out of all of this?

Kieron Gillen: The most messed up thing in all of this is Aphra’s been relatively clean on her aims. She wants to reactivate the Rur crystal. Where she hasn’t been honest is her main motivation, which is to sell it for enormous amounts of cash. Last question: What’s the deal with the Wookie allergies on this planet?

Kieron Gillen: It’s less of an allergy, and more of an intolerance. More next issue, shall we say?

“The Screaming Citadel” winds its way into DOCTOR APHRA #7 on May 31, then on to STAR WARS #32 on June 14, and finally back to DOCTOR APHRA #8 on June 28!

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Can Luke Skywalker count on Doctor Aphra? Kieron Gillen weighs in!

By Brittany Vincent

During the upcoming crossover event Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel, Luke Skywalker and none other than Doctor Chelli Loni Aphra herself form a reluctant partnership that can’t be missed. With Aphra holding onto information integral to Luke’s quest to become a Jedi Knight, the push for a symbiotic relationship between the two seems like a no-brainer; but what reason does the heroic Skywalker have to trust this wily con artist?

We spoke to DOCTOR APHRA and STAR WARS: THE SCREAMING CITADEL writer Kieron Gillen to get his opinion on why Luke and company should and shouldn’t trust Darth Vader’s former partner-in-crime. Get his insights on Aphra below!

Kieron Gillen: [Aphra] has come to [Luke] and has offered something he wants. It’s one of those situations of mutual self-interest. The intersection between Luke’s relative naiveté are good angles, like Luke’s desire to be a Jedi Knight. That’s what pushes them to go together. No one else—not Leia, not Han, or especially Sana would fall for that crap. There’s a reason that the two go off together, and when everyone else finds out, they kind of hit the roof.

In this case, Aphra needs Luke because Aphra has realized Luke is Force-sensitive, and Luke has realized he’s not going to be a Jedi Knight. He needs someone to train him. Aphra on her last adventure has stolen an ancient crystal that contains the secrets of the Jedi Knights. It’s like, “You can stay the stupid farm boy Luke Skywalker or you could come with me and be a Jedi Knight.” That’s the motivation.

Of course, Aphra is lying. Anyone who knows about the Kyber Crystal know it is completely homicidal, so turning it on wouldn’t necessarily be a great idea either. For those who haven’t read the first arc of DOCTOR APHRA, my idea was basically that Indiana Jones thing that Aphra always does—not always, but one of the modes we use for Aphra. The ending is the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Instead of safely putting the Ark of the Covenant into better hands, Aphra steals the Ark of the Covenant. Now she wants to sell it. Imagine if Indiana Jones decided to steal and sell the Ark of the Covenant. That’s where Aphra’s arc is coming from. What could possibly go wrong?

Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel #1 cover by Marco Checchetto

Why Luke (and Company) Shouldn’t Trust Doctor Aphra

They’ve Met Her

Kieron Gillen: It’s Doctor Aphra, what’s wrong with you? That’s where The Screaming Citadel starts. It’s like, “What possible reason could Luke have to go along with her?” There isn’t any. If you’ve met Aphra, it’s just really a bad idea to be around her.

She’s Darth Vader’s Ex-Comrade

Kieron Gillen: She used to be best mates with Darth Vader. She has all the clues. She could try to put together what Darth Vader really wanted, but she’s gone a completely different way.

Previous Meetings Prove It’s A Bad Idea

Kieron Gillen: Even if [Luke and crew] had just met Doctor Aphra and got on with her, she can’t be trusted because last time Luke and crew met her, her robot [Triple Zero] painted itself gold and fired at Luke, and the other fired rocket launchers everywhere. There’s no reason from their past experiences that they should.

She Used To Date Sana Starros

Kieron Gillen: I mean, Sana used to date her. Sana really should know better.

Star Wars #31 cover by Marco Checchetto

Why Luke (and Company) Should Trust Doctor Aphra

Friends Can Be Rough Around the Edges

Kieron Gillen: Luke has learned that people who are rough aren’t necessarily bad. Luke never trusted Han Solo to begin with. He’s learned that roguish people aren’t necessarily bad people. Luke’s entire experience with Han has taught them that people can be good.

Luke and Aphra Are More Similar Than They Realize

Kieron Gillen: Luke is nothing if not idealistic. That’s kind of the joy of it. Despite all the tragedy he’s gone through, he has this chirpy energy. That’s the opposite of Aphra. Aphra and Luke have both lost the people who raised them. But they went in very different ways.

For me, that’s the heart of this book. That’s the heart of the relationship between Aphra and Luke, in that they’re two people with similar life stories, and one went one way and the other one went the other. Aphra’s considerably more experienced and very worldly, and Luke is less so.

Aphra Seems Pretty Knowledgeable

Kieron Gillen: She lies about stuff, but is knowledgeable without a doubt. The story takes them to the planet where the eponymous Citadel is. This queen has a consultancy and asks for interesting things to come. She looks at them and exchanges them for favors. Luke is an interesting thing. That’s kind of the basic setup. Aphra is much more knowledgeable in certain areas than most of the cast of STAR WARS. That’s a good reason to listen, of course aside from Aphra.

They Both Need Each Other Right Now

Kieron Gillen: It’s a deal; he gets something, she gets something. That just makes sense.

The epic action gets underway on May 10 in STAR WARS: THE SCREAMING CITADEL #1 by Kieron Gillen and Marco Checchetto!

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Kieron Gillen prepares his portion of the next Star Wars mega event!

In less than two weeks, Kieron Gillen and Kev Walker bring readers back up to lightspeed with issue #6 of DOCTOR APHRA on April 12, as the rogue archeologist and her father stumble upon the remains of not just a sacred Jedi site, but also the current resident—who does not seem pleased to be disturbed.

But before this story hits, we spoke with Gillen about where he’s taken the father-daughter duo so far and where they may go next! We left off with Aphra having lost her academic standing as a result of her father, and now, she looks to regain it. Why is this conventional title important to a character whose professional life is anything but traditional?

Kieron Gillen: Aphra does have a fig leaf to hide behind here—in that she sells artifacts through various official systems, and if she’s not a Doctor, she can’t access them. But that does beg a question why do that rather than one of millions of other jobs. One some level, Aphra is a creature of momentum, spending her life basically running away from a rolling rock that’s about to crush her—which she probably set in motion herself. Perhaps she just hasn’t thought about any other option. Or maybe it’s something else, considerably deeper. That sort of thing lies in the heart of the character. You’ve also set up a rather interesting pairing in this first arc: A more traditional academic father with a more swashbuckling, rule-breaking adult-child who is—more or less—working in the same field of interest. This borrows a bit from the other side of LucasFilm with Indiana Jones, no? I believe we even heard a trace of this in issue #2 with Aphra’s father referring to her as “Junior” once?

Kieron Gillen: There’s a playfulness to APHRA in terms of the references. I’ve got a one sentence description of the first year of APHRA, which I certainly do phrase in familiar terms—though not the one anyone is thinking about—but the relationship between Aphra Junior and Senior was as much trying to make its own specific thing than just a riff. The level which Aphra Senior is a spiritualist is key, for example. Jones Sr. is primarily an academic with serious interest into the spiritual side, while Aphra Sr. is primarily a spiritualist with the academic aspects secondary. And Aphra Sr.’s education is far less traditional, in terms of the monomania. Put it like this: there’s two Doctor Jones and only one Doctor Aphra. And, of course, how it all integrates into the Star Wars mythos certainly changes things up, especially the somewhat torrid background between the characters.

Some of it is a delicious parallel evolution. For DOCTOR APHRA, when planning the arc, I wanted to show how Aphra came to be, and what she was reacting against. We’d talked about her mother during DARTH VADER, but I wanted to dig into that more; which means bringing in the father. And I laugh, as I see exactly what dynamic we’re flirting with. Interestingly, it seems Aphra demonstrates more empathy in issue #3 to her fellow man than her father, who appears so caught up in his work that he fails to note the existence—and destruction—of the Death Star, and only mourns the destruction or potential loss of historical sites.

Are we seeing Aphra inch closer to the light?

Kieron Gillen: If Aphra inches closer to the light you have to presume she’s about to set off some light-activated trap.

Seriously? Yeah, you can certainly take it like that. Or you could take it as Aphra scoring points with her father for her analyzing his moral hypocrisies. Or somewhere between the two; Aphra is highly capable of being petty, but she isn’t someone who actively thinks people should die. Ideally no-one would have to die. In practice, for Aphra, it’s just not that easy.

I’ll say this: there’s so much more in here in The Screaming Citadel [crossover event]. Getting Aphra and Luke on an adventure together and letting them talk really illuminates these different priorities in a fun way. Assuming she were taking a turn for the better, how might her robotic companions respond to this behavior?

Kieron Gillen: A good question. Way back in the solo story in DARTH VADER, Triple-Zero did say “Heaven Help Us If I Get Bored.” Good he wouldn’t care about. Bored? That is the one thing the droids won’t bear. Now, we’ve spoken a bit about some external influences on this story, but I’m curious about why this particular story—the one where we meet Aphra’s father—was the one you wanted to explore for her first solo series?

Kieron Gillen: It’s a book about archeology in the Star Wars universe, but for the reader, it’s marrying the two-fisted archeology the characters are doing with the emotional unearthing of Aphra. One of my big reasons for doing the book was to delineate Aphra in a more complete fashion. This is who she is, this is why she is, and so on. Starting with family made a lot of sense. For a character who exists and behaves outside of the norm, so to speak, does she get a traditional “happy ending” with her father? Or do you expect things to go awry by the end of this arc?

Kieron Gillen: In short, Heh. In less short, Heheheheheheh.

I would say by the end of the story you know exactly who Aphra is. We are preparing to see Aphra and her father ship off to uncharted space in search of the Aspectu Ordu. Might this be a possible set up for the upcoming crossover you and Jason Aaron have planned in The Screaming Citadel?

Kieron Gillen: The Screaming Citadel grows from both our books. The big events we always want to stay self-contained so newcomers can jump on, but it’s integrated entirely into the plot of DOCTOR APHRA. For readers of DOCTOR APHRA, consider it volume two. So, there’s certainly elements of our story which flow directly into it in a natural way.

Yes, I am an oblique tease.

DOCTOR APHRA speeds ever closer to The Screaming Citadel with issue #6 by Kieron Gillen and Kev Walker, available April 12!

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Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen unite for a Star Wars event crossover!

By now, fans know of a new disturbance in the force, and it takes the form of “The Screaming Citadel”—the next crossover taking place in the STAR WARS and DOCTOR APHRA series. This five-issue event sees Luke Skywalker pair off with the unlikeliest of allies: Doctor Aphra!

Beginning in May, the story opens up with STAR WARS: THE SCREAMING CITADEL one-shot from Kieron Gillen and artist Marco Checchetto, and it continues in STAR WARS #31 with Jason Aaron and into Gillen’s DOCTOR APHRA #7.

We spoke with both Aaron and Gillen about their second crossover collaboration and a little of what we can expect to see from them when they take us to The Screaming Citadel! Gentlemen, this May you both will be working together on a new crossover called “The Screaming Citadel,” which will take place between the DOCTOR APHRA and regular STAR WARS series.

Before we dig into the specifics of the story, can you share a little bit about how you both came together for another crossover event? Is this something we can expect on an annual basis akin to the summer events, or was this something that grew out of your respective series?

Jason Aaron: Just like with [previous crossover] “Vader Down,” this grew out of what Kieron and I were doing. It was definitely something that came out of our stories organically. It wasn’t the case where we had to wedge this event into what we were already doing. It was very natural.

I take that all back. We really can’t stand each other and only work together when forced to do so.

Kieron Gillen: I respond best to gunfire and I believe my family is being held by Marvel, so my involvement was guaranteed.

Jason Aaron: They’re doing fine; we’re feeding them well!

Kieron Gillen: What a relief! But really, Jason and I have been doing this for a few years now, and we’ve grown accustomed to sharing the characters and talking about our stories and their shared histories. And sometimes, we figure it’s time for them to get together.

It’s one of the thrills of doing something like this is exploring the characters’ personalities, and discovering who might end up being more antagonistic. So, we see Luke and Doctor Aphra going off together on this adventure, and we get to see some very different interactions here.

Jason Aaron: I think in writing the issues so far reminds me of how much fun it was writing “Vader Down” and mixing up the casts together. And it reminds me how much there still is left on the table. We did that crossover and the whole thing was these two casts fighting against each other, but we really only scratched the surface of what’s out there for stories. It’s been a blast getting back to that. So, let’s talk angry architecture: what exactly is The Screaming Citadel? Is this something new that you came up with?

Kieron Gillen: We bandied about some ideas and wanted to go about telling a very different kind of story. It’s going to end up being a horror story! But it has to be more than just monsters as the world of Star Wars is already filled with them. So, we just tried to take all the parts of the horror genre that we liked, but then went about doing them in different way.

It’s a weird alien world, but we very clearly put the poor villagers at the bottom of an enormous castle! The gothic elements will be there—just different in some regards.

Jason Aaron: I think, story-wise, it’s growing out of what Kieron’s doing in DOCTOR APHRA. You can see the seeds are there. Then when we talked about the best way to mix our casts together again, some of the different gothic elements came up – and that’s what we seized upon and got everyone excited about. Like Kieron said, we haven’t really seen a STAR WARS story like this, at least not in the comics we’ve been writing the past few years. But it makes sense given what Kieron’s set up in DOCTOR APHRA and with the characters whom we’re throwing into the mix. It feels very [natural].

It’s surprised me how easy and fun it’s been to write these characters in this horror-driven setting.

Kieron Gillen: I tend to be one who is self-deprecating and feels guilt when I enjoy something, and I have to be honest, it’s been a real joy writing this. It’s almost as if something [has] gone wrong because I’m really having fun with it! It comes quite freely and there are a lot of ideas coming out of all of this. It has a real “pulpy” energy to it. This storyline will see Luke Skywalker reluctantly team with Doctor Aphra as they investigate The Screaming Citadel, an infamous castle located on the edge of space.

Luke isn’t quite the farm boy fresh off Tatooine anymore, but he’s still a far cry from the space-savvy Aphra. What brings these two unlikely characters together?

Jason Aaron: They need each other. Luke has been on a quest to become a Jedi; to be what he needs to be to win this war, to defeat Darth Vader, and to save his friends. He knows he has to be better and he has to keep working towards becoming who he needs to be. He’s been on that road since STAR WARS #1, and the stakes keep getting raised in that quest. We’ve even recently seen C-3PO taken captive by the Empire, so now Luke is starting to lose his friends and he can’t always save them.

He’s desperate to get whatever he needs to be the person they need. Aphra shows up and shows him a chance to get there.

Kieron Gillen: To be fair, Luke doesn’t instantly trust Aphra. The last time they met, she was working for Darth Vader and she tried to kidnap him. But Luke sees an opportunity with her, and Aphra needs Luke for something, so it feels natural for them to come together. The problem is that Aphra’s also very well aware that no one else will let her do this. Now, there is the Queen of the Screaming Citadel that readers will meet as well when Luke and Aphra arrive on her planet. Why haven’t we heard about her before? What sort of dangers or threats might she pose? Are we looking at some sort of “fringe” dark side force user?

Jason Aaron: It’s a big galaxy and there are lots of characters we haven’t met yet. In Kieron’s first issue, there’s a very good reason given for why this is happening when it is happening. There’s only one day when this adventure could get going.

Kieron Gillen: That’s a good question! She’s a very reclusive figure, semi-legendary, but only within this one, isolated area of the galaxy. And she really doesn’t let people speak about her. That’s how we’ve got the character set up. You see, there’s more than the dark side going on in the galaxy, and that should make you feel creeped out, you know? There’s a lot going on in that area that’s quite unusual. There are some aspects of this—whether right or wrong—that brings to mind the supernatural Nightsisters and Mother Talzin of the animated The Clone Wars series. Are there any direct or indirect connections to this with the Screaming Citadel and it’s terrifying queen?

Kieron Gillen: The Nightsisters were there for us originally, but there is no connection between them and the Queen, even if it was something we were chewing over early on. Would you say that’s fair, Jason?

Jason Aaron: Yeah, that sounds about right.

Kieron Gillen: I’d say by ways of comparison, the Queen occupies a very different sort of space. Many Star Wars fans cite The Empire Strikes Back as the best of the movies—past or present—as it took a much darker bent and was the first to really let the bad guys win. Given that you’ll be taking a turn towards a more supernatural direction, how far into the dark side do you plan to go with this story?

Jason Aaron: That’s a good question! It’s certainly going to have a different tone than “Vader Down,” but it’s not going to be terribly grim. In fact, I think it’ll be a little funnier. Yes, it looks a lot darker and we’re playing with some old horror tropes, but whenever you get the casts of these characters together, it’s going to be funny. We’re certainly trying to mine for whatever laughs we can find!

Kieron Gillen: I’m not even sure it could compare to any of the other Star Wars movies because it has its own set of stakes. It’s like a “high adventure” movie. The fact that they’re going into someplace as creepy as it is makes sense, but there’s the adventure. It’s more like an Indiana Jones adventure film than anything else. That creepy danger with the humor and pulpy adventure. Something more along the lines of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom then?

Kieron Gillen: I’d say that’s a really good comparison! Last question: Once readers are on the other side of this storyline, where do you see both Aphra and Luke? Put another way, how do you see this storyline affecting who they will become down the road as heroes or anti-heroes?

Jason Aaron: I don’t think we can specifically, but we can say that like “Vader Down,” it’s not a detour, it’s a next step. This crossover will have ramifications for both characters.

Kieron Gillen: It’s important for the DOCTOR APHRA readers to know this arc is not something you can skip and go right into the third arc. It’s going to play an important role in character building for her that you’ll need going into that eventual third arc. Luke is the farm boy, of course, but he’s not quite the same as he used to be. And Aphra has been this cynical monster who’s been around the galaxy, but maybe she’s not as bad as she thinks she—even though she can be pretty bad.

At the same time, they both have some similarities. They both lost their families in the war. They get to know each other and they also get under each other’s skin. That’s the real emotion core to this book, you know? I’m sure both will be better—and worse!—for the experience!

Make your way to The Screaming Citadel starting this May!

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