The Galaxy in Comics: Thrawn #6 and Choices That Ripple Across the Stars

Thrawn's tactical brilliance is on display in the explosive conclusion to the comic book series adaptation of the best-selling novel by Timothy Zahn.

The Galaxy in Comics is a deep dive into the events and themes of one recent Star Wars comic. In this installment, checks out Thrawn#6, the final issue in the miniseries.

Spoiler warning: This story contains details and plot points from Thrawn #6.

Cover art for the Thrawn comic, issue #6. It features Thrawn, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine.

When years of maneuvering and sparring from afar finally come to a head, they can only do so explosively. And unfortunately for more than a few people, not everyone at the Battle of Batonn makes it out Thrawn #6 alive. For those who do survive, their choices here set them on their paths for years to come, for better or for worse.

Ever since we first met Eli Vanto as a cadet, he has often had his ability to make decisions regarding his own life taken away. As many of us know, good work often begets more work which is how he found himself permanently assigned alongside Thrawn. It is a relationship that has ultimately worked to his advantage but was not without its trials especially during the early years. Without a doubt, his choice to join the Chiss Ascendency in Thrawn #6’s final page is the biggest decision he makes throughout the story and yet we never actually see it. We don’t even see Thrawn presenting the possibility to him. One moment, Eli’s standing silently in a meeting after the Battle of Batonn and the next, at some unspecified point in time, he brings Mitth’raw’nuruodo’s greetings to a Chiss Admiral. In a way, this begs the question: was leaving the Empire and going to the Chiss actually Eli’s decision or did Thrawn make it for him and merely present it as a possibility? While there is undoubtedly a strong bond between the two men after so many years of working together, a person doesn’t just leave behind everything they know on a whim. We are left wondering why.

Panels from issue #6 of the Thrawn comic, featuring a conversation between Thrawn and Nightswan.

In contrast, we do see Thrawn offering Nightswan, a man he’s tangled with from a distance for years, a place within the Chiss Ascendency. Twice, everyone’s favorite blue admiral offers him the chance to walk away and twice, Nightswan declines it. For much of their conversation, artist Luke Ross (who has just gotten better and better with each new Star Wars project he’s given the opportunity to work on) keeps Thrawn’s face shrouded in shadows, projecting an ominous ambiance. It’s hard not to feel unsettled when the only one of his features that we can see distinctly are his red eyes. In contrast, Nightswan’s face is well-lit right up until their last few moments conversing. He refuses first to surrender and save his people’s lives in the short term and then again refuses to join Thrawn in investigating what we know to be the Death Star project. The shadows are an omen as his decision to stay and fight with his people has also helped doom them. Who knows how many might still live if he’d agreed to order them to stand down?

Finally, we come to Governor Arihnda Pryce, who cares far less about the lives of Batonn insurgents. If there was a crown for the most driven person in the Empire, she’d probably win it due to both merit and her sheer determination to come out on top. There’s a startling disparity between how intent Pryce is upon saving her parents and also how willing she is to be the cause of mass civilian casualties (and Imperial stormtroopers) just to cover for her own crimes. On the one hand, going through such an effort to save people that she cares about does help humanize a villainous character. On the other, the number of civilian deaths is high enough for Colonel Yularen to rank it amongst some of the most “horrendous things” he saw during the Clone Wars and she didn’t hesitate to hit the trigger. Pryce’s entire reasoning for putting herself in danger on Batonn manages to be selfless and self-serving at the same time. Too often, we want the “bad guys” to wear black hats and be evil without any room for nuance. Pryce simply knows how the game is played and doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice pawns by the score to get ahead. When Thrawn approaches to confront her, she simply shuts him down and reminds him that he needs her, regardless of their differing views on collateral civilian damage. Ultimately, she wins twice here: she saves her parents and she helps win a victory that pleases the Emperor.

Interestingly enough, one of the key choices from the novel remains within its pages and doesn’t make the jump in this adaptation. In the comic, Nightswan walks away from Thrawn and the scene ends there. In the novel, Colonel Yularen witnesses the entire exchange and confronts Thrawn and has him explain what could easily be seen as a treasonous meeting. The shift from Timothy Zahn’s original book, in a story told here by writer Jody Houser, casts these events — not to mention Yularen and Thrawn’s relationship in Star Wars Rebels — in an entirely different light.

Panels from issue #6 of the Thrawn comic, featuring Thrawn and various officers on the Star Destroyer Chimaera.

Thrawn, however, never really has a choice to make here. All of his were already made a long time ago when he put the pieces in play. Instead, he serves as a catalyst for some people’s decisions and serves as a stark contrast for others. Each of the choices made by the key players surrounding him reflects a defining characteristic of their relationship. With Eli, it’s likely loyalty. With Nightswan, it’s respect. And with Pryce, it’s a symbiotic need. Ultimately, he reaps the benefits from all of these and for now, he wins and has the Grand Admiral rank bar to prove it.

The thing about Star Wars is that it ultimately comes down to the choices that we make. Obi-Wan choosing to train Anakin. Bail choosing to adopt Leia. Luke choosing to believe that there was still good in Vader. Both big and small, those decisions set the galaxy on its course. No one’s fate is set in stone thanks to one all-controlling power. For Nightswan, his story is now over but for the other three, there are always consequences. Pryce was likely never going to get a happy ending but by bringing Thrawn into the conflict on Lothal, she helped set into motion a series of events that ultimately result in her death. There’s a certain irony to being left wondering how these choices surrounding the Battle of Batonn will effect a man who always thought several moves ahead. By sending Eli to the Unknown Regions, has Thrawn stripped himself of a loyal officer and friend who should’ve been at his side over Lothal instead of back with his people? The choices of one often having rippling effects upon the galaxy. It’s just a matter of time until we see how the ones made in Thrawn finish playing out.

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.

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