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'Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies' review: The biggest battle we never knew about

Comic Books

‘Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies’ review: The biggest battle we never knew about

Hope dies! And…all the supporting characters in the Rebel Alliance.

Prepare yourself to experience one of the biggest conflicts of the Galactic Civil War, and it’s one that we never knew existed until now. The Empire and the Rebel Alliance are slugging it out in the biggest space battle we’ve seen between the two since the Battle of Endor.

For the first time since its inception, the Rebel Alliance’s dream of defeating the Empire and its dreaded imperial fleet is becoming corporeal. At the Rebels’ secret base on Mako-Ta, dignitaries, ambassadors and benefactors of the Alliance have gathered for the christening of its new fleet. Thanks largely in part to the Mon Calamari, the Alliance has a fleet of brand new battlecruisers, each equipped with a full team of X-Wing fighters.

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In addition to the immense contributions received from the Mon Calamari, the Alliance also benefited from the generosity of Queen Trios of Shu-Torun. Trios’s resource-rich home world provided much of the materials needed for the fleet, and information from her dealings with the Empire resulted in successful sabotage of several Imperial operations. Alongside the other dignitaries, Trios is present on Mako-Ta for the celebrations and it’s during her discussions with Leia that we see writer Kieron Gillen first display his knowledge of the iconic character. In addition to being a superb diplomat, Leia is elegant and selfless. While she could easily take credit for the galaxy-wide effort that was required to bring the new fleet to fruition, she doesn’t. Instead she handles herself with elegance, poise and above all else, humility — involving everyone in the achievement.

'Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies' review: The biggest battle we never knew about

Marvel Comics

Nothing good lasts forever in this galaxy, and unfortunately for the Rebel Alliance, that rule is applied to them often and harshly. The celebrations aboard Mako-Ta have barely gotten started when a duplicitous member of the assembled diplomats triggers a lethal trap which locks down all of the Alliance’s new ships, preventing them from launching fighters, firing weapons and using their engines — effectively rendering them floating targets. As the realization of the scope of the problem sets in, things go from horribly bad to utterly hopeless with the arrival of Darth Vader aboard his super Star Destroyer, with an Imperial fleet in tow.

It’s at this moment that we again witness Gillen’s strong grasp of one of the most important characters at his disposal, this time in the form of Darth Vader. Vader is a forever burning furnace fueled by hate, anger and unending rage. Following the death of Padmé and his fall to the dark side, Vader’s entire existence has become pain and suffering. Thus, it’s not enough for Vader to simply destroy the enemies of the Empire — he wants to make them suffer so they can share in what his daily existence is shrouded in. This is doubly true when it comes to the Rebel Alliance.

Upon the Empire’s arrival, Vader’s prey is completely helpless — he can destroy the Alliance and their new fleet at a whim, but yet he doesn’t. At least not immediately. Why? Vader can sense their fear and he judges it to be insufficient. Vader wants to give them time to understand that the reaper has arrived and there’s no hope of escape.

'Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies' review: The biggest battle we never knew about

Marvel Comics

As previously noted, all the big players have come out to celebrate the launch of the Rebellion’s new fleet. With Princess Leia and Mon Mothma representing the leadership wing, and Wedge Antilles, Luke Skywalker and Admiral Ackbar on site for the military. But there’s also a slew of supporting characters that many fans may not be familiar with that are worth making note of: General Jan Dodonna and General Vanden Willard (A New Hope), General Hera Syndullas (Rebels), and General Davits Draven (Rogue One). Basically every key figure within the Rebellion is here and losing them will utterly destroy any hopes of resistance. As a huge Star Wars fan I was stoked to see so many old and new faces of the Rebellion that were integral to many of its greatest victories. Several of these characters aren’t known by the majority of the Star Wars fandom and it’s nice to see them being used again within another medium in the franchise. That being said, while we all know the story doesn’t end here, it does for a number of these heroes and it’s hard to feel like this arc wasn’t used as one big tie off for a number of characters that people have always asked about and never knew what happened to.

During what becomes one of the most intense battles in the history of the Galactic Civil War, you get to witness a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers engage Mon Calamari cruisers for the first time in the history of the war, X-Wings fly a desperate mission amid clouds of TIE-fighters, the Millennium Falcon going toe-to-toe with Darth Vader in his custom TIE Advanced X1, and Han Solo maybe donning an X-Wing flight suit. Amid all of that, Leia conducts a daring mission to board Darth Vader’s personal super Star Destroyer and steal vital information from the ship’s computers.

So whether it’s the chaotic battle in space, close quarter battles between Rebel commandos and stormtroopers, or conversations between friends amid the pandemonium, artists Salvador Larroca and Giuseppe Camuncoli ensure you have a good view for the show. Larroca handled the vast amount of the artwork for this volume, but that doesn’t withdraw any from Camuncoli’s contribution — his page featuring Vader in a room full of dead guards was delightfully dark. I drew a lot of enjoyment from Larroca’s depiction of the space battle happening throughout most of the story. The Falcon going head-to-head with Vader’s TIE Advanced XI, and Luke flying a handful of X-Wings into clouds of TIE-fighters being the highlights.

Quite simply, Star Wars: Hope Dies is fantastic. You get to witness one of the most daring battles in the Galactic Civil War, that no one even knew about until now. Watching Star Wars canon of this magnitude unfold within the comic book medium at the hands of an author I really admire is just an absolute treat. My big nerd-out moments being Mon Calamari ships and what happened to so many minor characters that were never seen again after their films were over. By the end of this story there won’t be any doubt with any readers that Star Wars is in goods hands with Kieron Gillen. His understanding of the characters and how to expertly plot a bundle of legendary characters is to be admired.

But wait it’s not over just yet. Also included in Vol. 9 is Star Wars Annual #4 — penned by Cullen Bunn, with art by Ario Anindito, Roland Boschi, and Marc Laming. Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and one of the best smugglers in the galaxy, Sana Starros all hunt for somewhat familiar Sith artifacts never before seen in the Star Wars universe. The story may be short, but it’s sweet and there’s plenty of nostalgic callbacks to make any fan with a decent knowledgeable of the franchise smile.

'Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies' review: The biggest battle we never knew about
Star Wars Vol. 9: Hope Dies
Is it good?
The story may be short, but it's sweet and there's plenty of nostalgic callbacks to make any fan with a decent knowledgeable of the franchise smile.
Heart pounding action.
An intense epic struggle that feels like it was made for the big screen.
Filled with characters unseen since the original trilogy, Rogue One, and Rebels.
Annual delivers a trip down memory lane and a touch of Sith lore.
Everything looks great thanks to a group of immensely taleted artists.
It's hard not to feel like the only purpose of this run was to kill off all the supporting characters that vanish in between the original films.
The first issue is a tad slow for my tastes.

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