New Star Wars comic series are few and far between. For many reasons that’s a good thing, as it shows Marvel takes the canon very seriously and won’t put out a half-hearted story just to make a few bucks. I’ve loved nearly everything that has come out so far (especially Charles Soule’s Lando, which was excellent), but their latest endeavor may be the riskiest title I’ve tried yet. Why is that? Because I have no idea who this Thrawn guy is, but I hope Jody Houser can make it not matter for newbie readers like me.
So what’s it about?
Read the preview!
Why does this matter?
If you do a little research on this character you’ll soon learn this is one of the most impressive characters to never appear in a Star Wars film. The fact that this series takes place before A New Hope but after Revenge of the Sith also makes it fairly unique as far as Marvel Star Wars comics go.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Those red eyes give you away brah!
Based on the novel Thrawn out last April by Timothy Zahn, this issue establishes the unique nature of Thrawn’s personality. He’s from an alien race that is tactical and very in tune with getting what they want. You can tell this comic was adapted from a novel as it’s very heavy on dialogue and character development. Houser does a good job pacing the book and keeping your interest in this somewhat strange character who never ceases to command a sense of attention.
Going into this comic with no knowledge of the novel or Thrawn’s presence in the Star Wars: Rebels television show is an interesting experience. It’s in no way required to have seen the show to understand it, but part of me wonders if a lot of the hype and drive of turning these pages is to learn more about a character that will become hugely important in the bigger story of Star Wars. I barely know any of that, but I can say for certain this is an interesting read, as it explores the military side of the Empire. It’s a story of an outcast character’s humble beginnings as an exile who, through cunning and Sith-like behavior, rises up.
Along the way, Thrawn befriends a humble supply officer trainee who ends up being forced to translate for Thrawn. He’s the only soldier in the ranks who can speak his language and thus he is forced to shadow him. It’s interesting how Houser explores this character’s good nature and inability to do wrong. You get the sense that Thrawn respects that, but it’s hard to understand him deep enough to know if he’s manipulating this poor kid’s nice nature of if he really does like him. It’s a dynamic worth exploring further and should draw many into the narrative.
This issue is drawn by Luke Ross with colors by Nolan Woodard and letters from Clayton Cowles. The team opens the issue with nine panel layouts, shifts to six panel layouts, and then mixes things up from there. This gives the opening a slower, more methodical presence that suits Thrawn’s traps and cunning and speeds up as Thrawn moves up the ranks. The rendering of the Emperor is quite good and captures the early-days look of his wrinkled self. Thrawn is typically non-emotive, but Ross does a good enough job capturing the character thinking things through which helps sell his tactical mind.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Thrawn is a rather simple character who plays his cards close to the vest. That makes him a hard character to understand or really even care about. I suspect that’s why the translator is in this story at all, but it still makes the title character somewhat of a bore. This makes him hard to care about, especially if you don’t already know his place in canon. This issue doesn’t go into very much detail on how Anakin Skywalker knew the character, though it is alluded to. That said, without knowing the backstory it’s difficult to understand why the Emperor would allow this character to join his ranks. Maybe we’ll learn more later, or maybe readers are supposed to have watched the Rebels TV show, but it still makes this read light on Thrawn’s purpose. At face value, he’s a castaway who may or may not know things about uncharted planets.
Is It Good?
I liked this issue and I certainly see its value among the Marvel Comics series as it explores the Empire in a whole new light. Thrawn is an interesting character because he’s an enigma, but that also makes him hard to like or understand. Be that as it may, it’s exciting to be reading a story in canon that reveals secrets of the Empire.