Review: Thrawn Joins the Empire in Marvel’s Thrawn #1

Written by Jody Houser

Art by Luke Ross

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Star Wars Universe, Grand Admiral Thrawn is back with a six-issue miniseries about how he became one of the most feared military tacticians in a galaxy far, far away.






The legend of Star Wars Legends, Grand Admiral Thrawn, was embraced back into the new canon last season on Star Wars: Rebels. Then, his original creator, Timothy Zahn, graced us with his new interpretation of the character in his New York Times best-selling novel Thrawn. Now, the character gets his comic book debut in Marvel’s six-issue adaptation of Zahn’s book.


For those who have read the novel, this first issue will hold no surprises. While we were promised additional material in the comic, there is none of it in this fist issue. If I have to give it a qualifying word, I would say that the issue was ‘economic’; both visually and narratively it manages to compress the events from the novel from the discovery of Thrawn by the Empire to his and Eli’s graduation from the Imperial Academy and their assignment to the Blood Crow.


The comic also shows how early in the Empire’s history we are; some of the Republic’s laws are still in effect and one of those – Unknown Alien Protocol – is what leads the Strikefast to an unknown planet in Wild Space to study a strange settlement. One of the cadets who comes from Wild Space himself, Eli Vanto, is assigned to translate the strange language found at the location, the language he associates with the myths he heard in his childhood about a mysterious alien race – the Chiss.



The lonely alien resident manages to get the best of the Imperial forces, destroying their ships, killing them and taking pieces of their equipment. When they are unable to apprehend him, they take the found hut and equipment to their ship. Unknown to the Imperials, the alien has used the commotion to sneak into the ship, but he is caught and brought in front of the ship’s captain Parck. The blue alien’s name is revealed as Mitth’raw’nuruodo, or “Thrawn” for short.



Eli Vanto is assigned to be his interpreter and teacher of Basic, the common language within the borders of Palpatine’s Empire. It is clear that Eli isn’t too happy with this job as he was on the fast track to becoming a supply officer after graduation. It is at least clear to Thrawn who has many questions about stories Eli heard about the Chiss. He claims that Eli’s interpreting his words have impact on his immediate survival.



Thrawn is brought to Coruscant and presented to the Emperor. He wants to offer the Emperor his military expertise of the Unknown Regions for Palpatine’s consideration. He warns the Emperor of the plight of his people against dangers that lurk there that would threaten both his people and the Empire. If he serves the Empire, Palpatine would command his loyalty. To vouch for his word, he calls upon one of the Emperor’s servants that he used to know.



The name Anakin Skywalker is sufficient for the Emperor to accept Thrawn’s services and grant him the favor of transferring Eli to his side. Both of them will join the Royal Imperial Academy on Coruscant: Eli to finish his time until graduation and Thrawn to familiarize himself with Imperial protocols and weaponry. At the Academy, Thrawn is immediately given the rank of lieutenant, something he doesn’t recognize as an obvious political trap. Both Thrawn as an alien and Eli as the native of Wild Space are outsiders.



The pair is invited to a card game by Spenc Orbar and Rosita Turuy, fellow cadets, in an obvious attempt to trap Thrawn and Eli in an illegal situation that won’t affect them personally (as Orbar’s family is well connected). Thrawn, however, accepts the invitation and after exchanging some barbs with Orbar springs his own trap in revealing his true rank. However, while they were returning to their quarters, Thrawn and Eli are attacked by masked perpetrators. Eli has some questionable thoughts, but manages to catch himself and assist Thrawn before the arrival of others forces their attackers to flee. Using the obvious clues and Thrawn’s reasoning makes it easy to identify the attackers, but rather than punishment, Thrawn suggests them to be transferred to the flight academy due to their aptitude necessary for fighter pilots he observed. Their absence would worry Orbar, but their training would benefit the Empire.



Upon graduation, Thrawn is assigned as Second Weapons Officer on the ship Blood Crow and Eli, to his dismay and anger, as his aide on the same ship. Thrawn promises to achieve the rank of Admiral as soon as he can so he can help Eli to return on his chosen path, a promise Eli knows the Chiss does not make in vain.



I am of two minds about this issue. On one hand, this is an excellent adaptation. For those who have not read Zahn’s novel, the comic will be a great introduction to his most famous character and, perhaps, would motivate them to pick up the novel itself. On the other hand, as someone who did read it and expected some additional material, this issue was disappointing. But, I have to try to look past that because the comic was not written exclusively for me and there are five more issues to go. I am certainly hoping that Houser will give us expansion on a certain elements of the novel such as the character Nightswan.


As it is, the issue hits all the main plot points of the novel and Ross’s art manages to capture the essence of the characters’ personalities: Thrawn’s cunning and pride and Eli’s naivete. Eli’s disgruntled face might be my favorite. The combination of Luke Ross‘ art and Nolan Woodard‘s colors also works great on the environments. Whether it‘s the wild forest where Thrawn is found, the oppressive-looking Emperor‘s throne room, the pristine Imperial Academy or the metropolitan Coruscant, you have a good sense of each of them.


In the end, how much you will enjoy this issue will depend on whether you’ve read Zahn’s novel or not. For those who didn’t, this will be a treat. Those who have will just have to wait for the following issues.


Until then though, and leaving my personal biases aside, this issue gets 7/10 (blue) stars.



Thrawn #2 (out of 6)



THE RISE OF THE GRAND ADMIRAL CONTINUES! Mitt’hraw’nuruodo, better known as Lieutenant Thrawn of the Galactic Empire, has graduated the Imperial Academy with the highest marks possible, as well as been assigned his own personal assistant, Ensign Eli Vanto, but that doesn’t mean that everyone in the Imperial army wants him to succeed. Tensions run high in the ranks of the Empire as Thrawn continues to defeat new enemies.



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Staff member, comic and book reviewer. Cheers for the Light Side, but would drink with Grand Admirals.

Jelena Bidin (LadyMusashi)

Staff member, comic and book reviewer. Cheers for the Light Side, but would drink with Grand Admirals.

4 thoughts on “Review: Thrawn Joins the Empire in Marvel’s Thrawn #1

  • February 15, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    I’m currently making my second attempt at reading Thrawn, the novel was slowly paced that I wasn’t reading it at my usual speed. Maybe reading the comic alongside the book will get me to the finish line.

  • February 15, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    Can’t wait to swing by and grab this. I enjoyed the novel, especially Eli’s character. It will be interesting to see actual images of the scenes I had in my head.

    • February 16, 2018 at 12:10 am

      The portrayal of Eli was one of the highlights of this issue for me. In the novel his frustrations are mainly in his head, I like how Ross embraced all gamut of Eli’s emotions.

  • February 16, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Will be picking this up tomorrow & as a big fan of the novel have been looking forward to it release since it’s announcement. It will be interesting to see how it has been visualised

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