Marvel’s Star Wars: Han Solo Imperial Cadet trade paperback edition comes out in stores this week. It is a collection of a five-part miniseries that came out between November 2018 and March 2019 chronicling Han Solo’s brief yet memorable career as a cadet in the Imperial Navy. It is written by Robbie Thompson with artwork by Leonard Kirk and coloring by Arif Prianto. Also included in this collection is the one-off issue Star Wars: Beckett which contains three short stories written by Gerry Duggan with artwork by Marc Laming, Edgar Salazar, and Will Sliney.
The series starts out with a brief recap of events from the first act of Solo: a Star Wars Story as Han and Qi’ra plot their escape from Corellia and the clutches of Lady Proxima. After Qi’ra is captured by Moloch at the security checkpoint and Han is forced to enlist in the Imperial Navy as a means of escape, he is shipped off to the Imperial Naval Academy on Carida for training. It is here that Han is given the designation “Cadet 124-329” and quickly made to realize that his smart mouth and shenanigans will not be tolerated. Time and time again Han finds himself in more and more trouble as he attempts to defect, stealing a TIE Fighter to escape back to Corellia only to be shot down and thrown in the brig. After he is returned to his fellow cadets, his refusal to follow orders and inability to work as a team player causes him and his fellow cadets to fail miserably at a major group training exercise, resulting in the four of them being demoted to cargo transport duty.
As Solo, cadet Kanina Nico, and the twin cadets Lyttan and Tamu Dree complete their cargo mission and make their return back to Carida, Han even talks them into using a stolen day pass to spend a day on a pleasure cruiser gambling while searches for information about Qi’ra. Time and time again Han manages to escape by the skin of his teeth, presumably with the help of his lucky dice until the cadets inevitably find themselves face to face with a real life battle situations as they are shipped off to fight on Qhvlosk. In the heat of the intense battle Han Solo shows great skill and cunning as a pilot and finally exhibits a willingness to work as a team, when tragically one of his fellow cadets Valance’s TIE Fighter is shot down behind enemy lines. Left for dead by the Empire, Han and the others are told that there will be no rescue attempt as the TIE Bombers prepare their run to obliterate the city below. Defiant as always, Han, along with Kanina and the twins, take off on speeder bikes to rescue Valance. The series ends with a spectacular and climactic battle as Han and the team find their friend and fly for their lives as they are pursued by enemy forces and bombed by their own bombers.
The writing on this series is good, but it is not of the caliber that one would expect from the likes of Robbie Thomas. The way that Solo is written is rather buffoonish at times, making him seem very one-dimensional. There is an arc of growth in character as the story progresses, but it never really pushes past his shenanigans and defiance of authority enough to actually go somewhere. The twins are portrayed as simpletons which seems like it may be intended for comic relief, but just gets in the way more than anything else. The only really developed likable or interesting character is Kanina Nico. At times she even seems more like the hero of this story than Solo does. There are some compelling moments such as Han’s relentless motivation to get back to Corellia and reunite with his beloved Qi’ra. There’s also a great connection between Han and Kanina as they bond over their shared desire to return to the ones they love. Han even puts Kanina’s needs ahead of his own in the end by helping her fake her own death and escape service to the Empire to rescue and be with the one she loves, resulting in Solo’s punishment and incarceration yet again.
Where this series really shines is in its amazing and vibrant artwork. Leonard Kirk does a wonderful job of capturing the look and feel of the Star Wars universe as well as the reckless swagger of young Han Solo. His wonderfully detailed visuals are only enhanced even further by Arif Prianto’s bright and beautiful use of color. The scene on the pleasure cruiser in the casino is brilliantly done with all the different aliens and excitement going one making it feel like a scene right out of the films. The action, particularly the TIE Fighter battles, are amazing and dazzling, feeling like they could fly right off the page in a blaze of laser fire. One of the most visually stunning and exciting parts is at the end as the cadet’s race across the battlefield on speeder bikes to rescue their friend with bombs exploding all around them and enemies shooting at them around every turn.
Overall this is not a bad series and where it falls a little short in its story and character development, it more than makes up for with its action and amazing visuals. Although I would not consider this a must-have necessarily, it is a great addition to any Star Wars collection, particularly for fans of Solo: a Star Wars Story. The inclusion of the Beckett standalone issue is also a very nice touch. All three short stories by Gerry Duggan are masterfully crafted and add even more dimension to the complex and mysterious character of Tobias Beckett. Each story is drawn by a different artist, all three of which do a wonderful job bringing each story to life and sucking the reader into that universe brilliantly.
Is it good?
Star Wars: Han Solo – Imperial Cadet trade paperback collection is a good attempt at telling the story of Han Solo’s service in the Imperial Navy that falls a little flat in its story but makes up for it with its breathtakingly action-packed visuals.
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