Review: Star Wars Issue 50: Hope Dies Part 1

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It is hard to believe that it has already been 50 issues since Marvel Comics began publishing Star Wars comics again. Issue 50 is the first flashpoint of Kieron Gillen’s run, which started with issue 38. Gillan’s intent was to put a focus on the military side of the Alliance, after Jason Aaron’s run had focused mostly on Luke trying to discover the history of the Jedi, as well as partaking mostly in missions with just the crew of the Falcon. 

Gillen has done a great job of really showing the scope of the Alliance’s numbers, while simultaneously highlighting  just how lacking they are in terms of armament. The first arc of the run being set on a ruined Jedha really drives home that this is the Alliance attempting to step away from the hit and run based campaign they have been forced to run, and moving onto more outright warfare thanks to those like Saw and Raddus who laid the groundwork.

After honoring the legacy of Saw and then Raddus, the Alliance has been able to outfit the Mon Cala merchant fleet with the help of Queen Trios of Shu-Torun. Issue 49 ended with the revelation that Trios’s friendship with Leia and assistance to the Alliance had all been a plan by her and Darth Vader.

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This issue opens with a large number of Rebel high command present with the newly finished Mon Cala fleet at the Mako-Ta Space Docks. We get a nice look at how everyone in the Alliance is growing more and more comfortable and confident. Case in point Han escaping some bounty hunters Jabba sent after him on the Ring of Kafrene, instead of being spooked like he later would when a bounty hunter confronts him on Ord Mantell as he says in ESB.

Luke is approaching Dak levels of optimism about their chances against the Empire.

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An optimism Dodonna (as one of the old guard of the Rebellion) cautiously warns Luke to be wary of.

Tying all these signs of a more stable Alliance together is a party being hosted by Mothma and Leia overlooking the fleet as it prepares to take off into hyperspace. The subgroups of the fleet contain a nice little look at how much the Rebellion has grown, with a mix of different races present, as well as Hera making a cameo. However the Mon Calamari vessels’ hyperdrives are not working, Leia cannot get the comms working, and Trios has disappeared. The Empire is ready to strike back.  

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In a nice reversal Luke tells Wedge “I haven’t seen anything that big since the Death Star”. I greatly appreciate the way the Executor is used here; something I wanted in Legends and had worried was not going to occur in canon  was a big moment of the Rebels seeing their first Super Star Destroyer.

I often dislike Larroca’s art due to his reliance on tracing, however I will say when he draws ships he is usually on point and this issue is no exception. Although the tracing on faces is still pretty darn distracting, the coloring and inking meshed with that better than I feel they did in prior issues. Though after that backup feature (more on that later) I really want Camuncoli and Smith to be the new team for this book.

Vader decides that the Alliance is not terrified enough so he has his ships fire on only one of the helpless Mon Cala cruisers. Death Squadron destroys General Willard’s ship as the rest of the rebels must watch unable to even leave the hangars’ due to the doors being forcibly locked down.

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This is pure terrifying Vader and it is fantastic. Gillan obviously knows how to write the Dark Lord well as he showed in his Vader run, and this gives us and the Rebellion a sobering reminder of just how scary Vader is.

The backup feature reveals how this scheme between Vader and Trios started. We have an amazing scene in which Vader, Ozzel, and Veers discuss the usage of Vader’s newly formed Death Squadron while at Vader’s castle on Mustafar.

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Having Veers back in canon was an unexpected treat and one that has been long overdue. Their conversation feels almost like the post Death Star destruction version of the iconic conference room scene. Ozzel grovels as always, while Veers gives actual input and has Vader’s ear. Also getting to really dive into Death Squadron is a great change of pace. Thus far Vader has been mostly using normal Imperials, and the occasional elites; having Death Squadron be acknowledge drives home Vader's change in strategy by the time of ESB.

Vader goes to Queen Trios and reminds her of the rock from what’s left of Alderaan that he had given her as a reminder of what would happen if he was opposed.  Vader plans to make the Alliance into a tree as Veers had lamented; Vader will give them an ally, supplies, and hope all so that he can more readily destroy them. We also see just how determined Trios is to her planet’s safety as well as her remaining in power.

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This ending drives home a point Leia had made to Trios earlier about the Empire.

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I loved this issue. Not only did it gives us a load of amazing looks at both sides’ fleets, but it also contained several Rogue One references with Draven getting something to do, The Ring of Kafrene appearing, and Vader’s castle showing up.

Getting away from the stuff that made me geek out as a fan. The issue really portrays just how outmatched the Alliance really is. We have seen the Alliance be on the run as well as have losses post the Battle Of Yavin, but none of them felt as hopeless and terrifying as this despite only one ship being downed thus far. Gillen does an amazing job highlighting how much the Alliance has went through: Hera and Draven being present and Mon telling Leia that her father would be proud of her. We get to both feel accomplished at how much of the Rebellion’s history we have seen over the past few years.

Yet issue 50 also gives us a clear reminder that those hard time of the past are far far from over so long as Vader attempts to make sure hope dies and the Rebellion along with it. Though what Vader clearly is missing is that by taking away their means, all he leaves them with is to rely on their hope.