Marvel's flagship Star Wars series hits a major milestone as Vader looks to crush the spirit of the Rebellion.
The Galaxy in Comics is a deep dive into the events and themes of one recent Star Wars comic. In this installment, StarWars.com checks out Star Wars #50, in which the Rebellion feels Vader's wrath in "Hope Dies" part one.
Spoiler warning: This story contains details and plot points from Star Wars #50.
Star Wars #50 is everything one might hope for from a milestone story. Fifty issues is no simple feat for a comic book nowadays, even for a book like Star Wars, and therefore it is only fitting that Marvel marks the occasion by kicking off a game-changing story arc -- ominously dubbed "Hope Dies" -- and also commemorating the story that led us here. Thus far, writer Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron before him, and all of the incredible artists on the series have been telling the adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han in the wake of the Battle of Yavin. This changes the status quo: now we’re on the path to the Battle of Hoth.
Before we get too far, let’s not neglect to mention Travis Charest’s incredible cover for this landmark issue. At first look, it’s simplistic with a limited palette of blues. Upon closer inspection, the stars decorating Leia’s dress form constellations of an X-wing, a TIE fighter, an AT-AT, and a Star Destroyer. The choice in main subject could not be more appropriate for the start of this particular arc. Leia, especially after Rogue One, is a character strongly associated with this core theme of Star Wars. Charest’s cover is gorgeous, yes, but there’s a deeper cut behind the beauty as he effectively makes Leia, a beacon of hope despite the tragedy of her life, into the first face we see for “Hope Dies.”
Despite Leia's presence on the cover, there’s a different space royal at the forefront of the story. When Queen Trios debuted in Darth Vader Annual #1 and the subsequent “Shu-Torun War” arc, it seemed unlikely that we would meet her again anytime soon if ever. Darth Vader had dealt with her planet’s civil war, established her more firmly as the unchallenged queen, and that was that. Readers who’d taken a liking to Trios were pleasantly surprised in Star Wars #38 when the Empire tasked her with assisting with the mining efforts on Jedha and perhaps even a little shocked when she seemingly threw her secret support behind the Rebellion. She was able to earn Princess Leia’s trust especially after assisting with their deception on Mon Cala, only to later betray that faith by alerting Vader to the location of the rebel fleet. Here, the trap is sprung.
Of course, the issue isn’t entirely about Queen Trios even if she is its catalyst. The Rebellion gets its moment to shine before everyone goes wrong. Gaining the support of the Mon Cala changed the tide and it shows at this gathering. Many an X-wing fan will likely smile at the sight of Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles on page together after a successful flight (and maybe wonder if the formation of a certain Rogue group isn't imminent...). Aside from the pilots, there are more than a few familiar faces amongst the fleet including General Hera Syndulla and General Draven, Mon Mothma, and Admiral Ackbar in what's likely the biggest gathering since Yavin. This should be a moment of triumph for the Rebel Alliance, and yet it is poised to be their downfall. It’s rare we see diverse aspects of the fleet gathered together for fear of precisely this. General Dodonna is the only one who seems conscious of the danger though, understanding that their gathering might present a target for the Empire.
By the time the issue ends, the rebels have already lost one ship and it seems inevitable that Vader will destroy more. The only reason more weren’t blown to pieces immediately is because he wanted them to truly fear what was about to happen. The loss of sentient life is significant; after all, these are thousands of beings who hail from hundreds of different worlds and who are united for one cause. However, it’s hard not to wonder what else might fall victim thanks to Queen Trios’s betrayal. Not too long ago, ranking members of the Rebellion were hesitant to believe Bodhi (an Imperial defector) and Jyn (daughter of an Imperial scientist) when they brought them critical intelligence regarding the Death Star. How might someone who actually set out to deceive them change the Rebel Alliance’s perception of defectors for the worse? More specifically, how will it affect Princess Leia? After all, she was the one who trusted Trios. It could more than just the Rebellion’s hope that perishes…
Star Wars #50 is also notable as the backup story feels less supplementary, and instead just as key to the main narrative. Gillen teams up with current Darth Vader artist Giuseppe Camuncoli to reveal why Queen Trios has acted as she has since we first met her again over Jedha. Of course it has to do with Vader. In retrospect, it’s surprising that any of us actually believed that her alliance with the Rebellion was genuine. Gillen played with our expectations both as readers and as Star Wars fans. We want to believe the best of people and we want to believe when people rebel against the Empire. Simply put, that’s not who Trios is. She will do what she must to survive and to ensure the survival of Shu-Torun as a whole, even if that means allowing Vader to slaughter the guards and courtiers around her, or betraying the Rebel Alliance as they reach a pinnacle.
With unresponsive ships and an impressive show of force from the Empire, the outlook is bleak for the Rebel Alliance. It’s difficult to see a way out for our heroes even though Han and Chewbacca are out there with the Falcon. It’s going to be a long few weeks of waiting to get our hands on Star Wars #51.
Bria LaVorgna is a writer who doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t love Star Wars. She also really loves Alderaan, Doctor Aphra, and Inferno Squad. You can follow her on Twitter @chaosbria.