Review: Thrawn Outsmarts a Band of Pirates in Marvel’s Star Wars: Thrawn #2
This week marks the release of issue #2 of Marvel’s Star Wars: Thrawn, a mini-series from writer Jody Houser (with artists Luke Ross and Nolan Woodard) depicting the story of Timothy Zahn’s 2017 novel of the same name. To be honest, this is a difficult book for me review, and hopefully you’ll see why as I go along. Spoilers ahead…
Okay, where to begin? I guess I should preface this review by showering praise on Zahn’s original novel, the source material that this series is pulling from. In short, the book is great. If you enjoy character driven stories with a clever plot, or if you’re just a fan of the blue guy, I strongly recommend you checking out the novel first. The characters are interesting, the plot (although not on a scale of extreme galactic importance) is inventive and serves the characters well. The story focuses on Thrawn’s ascent to admiralty while also following the budding careers of his aide Eli Vanto (a new character) and the future Governor of Lothal, Arihnda Pryce (from Star Wars: Rebels).
Zahn did a lot of really cool things in the book, like introducing Thrawn to Palpatine for the first time and revealing that the Chiss Lieutenant already had a connection to the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (whom he had witnessed in battle during the Clone Wars), which no doubt is the set up behind Zahn’s upcoming sequel Thrawn: Alliances (coming in July) which will feature a team up between the Grand Admiral and the Sith Lord.
So, now that you know a little bit about what I thought about the book, how does the new comic mini-series stack up against such a great novel? Well to be honest, I’m torn about it. Before I give you what I liked and didn’t like (perhaps that’s not the right phrasing), I’ll give you a brief summary of what portion of the novel is included in this issue.
The issue picks up with Thrawn and Eli on their new assignment aboard the starship Blood Crow, a ship that is now under new management with Captain Rossi stepping in for the former captain. Thrawn and Eli struggle to prove their worth in a navy and a larger society that is ingrained with prejudice against non-humans like Thrawn and even wild-spacers like his human aide. As Eli helps Thrawn navigate the treacherous political climate, the lieutenant proves his tactical prowess by utilizing old refurbished Separatist tech to rescue a group of people from a band of pirates.
By the end of this issue, Thrawn has succeeded in outsmarting the pirates, allowing himself to be captured on purpose in order to gain a strategic position of advantage against the enemy. Rossi chastises Thrawn and Vanto for their unorthodox tactics, pointing out that although they succeeded in their rescue mission, they allowed the invaluable Tibanna gas cylinders onboard the pirated vessel to be stolen, a treasure that far outweighed the value of the lives they saved and the Imperial soldiers they put at risk to do so.
Rossi dismisses Thrawn and Vanto to a tribunal, in attempt to get Thrawn demoted for his actions. However, to everyone’s surprise (though perhaps not to the reader), Thrawn is promoted to the rank of Captain instead. When Eli is approaced by a moff’s aide with an offer for a prestigious position, he quickly deduces that the offer is not based on his own merit, but rather an attempt to draw him away from Thrawn. Thrawn’s quick ascent up the Imperial ladder is drawing some hateful attention from other Imperial officers that are intent on bringing the captain to his knees in failure.
Despite Eli’s desire to get out from under Thrawn’s shadow, he chooses instead to accompany the captain on his new assignment, even if the decision is more out of pride than loyalty. Going into the next issue, Thrawn and Eli now have a lead on the location of the pirate leader responsible for the stolen gas, and as the Chiss captain is not one to walk away from temporary defeat, he will no doubt continue to play the long game against the pirates and his Imperial rivals.
This series has a lot of good things going for it – a wealth of source material in Zahn’s original novel, a fan-favorite character in Thrawn, and some pretty strong artwork from Ross and Woodard. So, judging the book on its own, apart from the novel, I would say this is a really good comic. I strongly recommend any Star Wars fan check it out, especially fans of Thrawn as a character, fans of Star Wars: Rebels, or those who just want the backstory of Thrawn without committing to reading the more lengthy novel. I also recommend this comic to fans of the original book who might be interested in seeing the story they already enjoy come to life through the artwork of Ross and Woodard.
However, here is where I have to throw in my disclaimer and assert my disappointment with the series. Objectively, this is a great comic (especially if you’ve never read the novel), and it is very faithful to the book (a necessity when the story is part of the official Star Wars canon). But for fans of the book who couldn’t care less about seeing this story in pictures, there is literally nothing for you here. Granted, there are still a few issues left in this series, but so far, the comic has added nothing new to the story from the novel and even reads more like an abridged version of the story with illustrations. Don’t get me wrong – it’s good – but Zahn does it better.
I understand that the comic medium will necessarily convey a story in a different way. You just can’t capture the same essence with two different media, and that’s not a bad thing. Each one has its own merit. But as a fan of both Star Wars novels and comics, I was hoping for something more than what I’ve been getting from the Thrawn mini-series. However, I have faith in Jody Houser, as she was able to give us a great comic adaptation of Rogue One, a version of the story that added its own voice to the story we new from the film and the novelization, giving us additional scenes and alternate perspectives on some of the movies key events. I’m hoping that Houser will be able to achieve something like this with Thrawn moving forward, but so far, it reads more like Wendig’s The Force Awakens adaptation, a note for note retelling of the movie itself (or the book in this case) with no real added value.
Hopefully, you understand where my gripe is coming from on this. The comic is really good, but for the Star Wars fan who’s already read the book, so far there has been no added value to drive that fan to want to get their hands on this series in my opinion. It’s still a good book, and I’ll probably be picking up the trade paperback myself when it comes out in collected format, but there’s no need to rush to the comic shop on this one unless you haven’t read Zahn’s novel and don’t plan to – in which case I would strongly recommend that you check it out.
Star Wars: Thrawn #2 is available in a comic shop near you or online at Comixology. Happy reading comic fans.
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.