Published February 9, 2017

Star Wars: Enter the Screaming Citadel

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

Image for Star Wars: Enter the Screaming Citadel

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!