Marvel’s adaptation of Timothy Zahn’s excellent novel, Thrawn, continues this week with its third issue dedicated to Arihnda Pryce of Lothal. Most of us know her as Governor Pryce from Rebels, but the governor has a complicated history with the Empire – the least of which is how she rose to power. Pryce’s story was a big part of Thrawn, so I was pretty impressed with how well writer Jody Houser distilled that arc into this issue. SPOILERS AHEAD….
The word tragedy gets tossed around in Star Wars and storytelling quite frequently. When I sat down to write this I almost put it into this review, but I don’t think it would be fair to call the story of Arihnda Pryce a tragedy. Maybe ‘unfortunate circumstances coupled with poor choices’ is a better way to say it. Her story is a good example of how moral compromise can be a very slippery slope, and before you know it you are helping out the totalitarian government suppress the freedom fighters of your home world. Arihnda Pryce did not come to the Empire through the Imperial Academy or recruitment – she initially came to the Empire as a means to protect her family and their business.
After everything we know so far between the events of Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, pretty much any grab of resources by the Empire was to be poured into the Death Star. The doonium was precious to the Empire, and the Pryce family sat on a lot of it on Lothal. Arihnda Pryce’s family’s mine is under siege by those who want to exploit the doonium. Because Arihnda refuses to turn it over to corporations that would flip it to the Empire for profit, her mother is set-up and arrested. Arihnda turns to local Senator Renking for help and he suggests she sign her family mine over to the Empire directly. She decides to do that but also get herself something out of the deal – an administrative job on Coruscant, as Arihnda Pryce has had her eye on the stars for quite some time.
We return to present day Coruscant – two years after the incidents which drove Pryce into the service of the Empire, working in Renking’s offices. She’s now living comfortably amidst the high society of politicians and bureaucrats, but she’s about to make a new contact that will have a profound impact on her career. Senator Renking is still a close contact of hers, but she’s drawn to Thrawn, as he stands out amongst the crowd of usual suspects. Thrawn is fresh off his rescue of the tibanna gas heist and getting the compliments of Colonel Yularen, ISB intelligence spook. The two of them – Thrawn and Pryce – don’t really interact, as Pryce is sent away by Renking to deliver a data card to a moff named Ghadi. This simple errand will be a turning point for Pryce’s career in the Empire.
Pryce’s errand is simple enough: deliver a data card to Moff Ghadi. She waits while Ghadi examines it in his office, but when he returns it to her she notice he’s swapped it out. When Pryce questions the moff, he douses her with polstine spice – a narcotic – and says that he will have her arrested and locked up for life. It’s a dirty dose of blackmail, but he gets Pryce to deliver the card, which is going to cause a lot of trouble for Renking. The next day, due to whatever is on the data card, his office falls under investigation and he’s forced to close his offices while he returns to Lothal to clean up the mess he’s in. Renking knows it was Pryce that delivered the data card and he confronts her.
Renking scolds Pryce, but she gives it right back to him. The duplicity of Renking to feign that he was doing good work seems outrageous to Pryce since whatever he was doing got him into trouble. He calls her naive and says his trust was misplaced, while she counters that her’s was as well and if he’d let her in on whatever he was doing they could have worked together. This incident really pulls the rug out from under Pryce, as her employment and housing all run through Renking, now she’s left unemployed and homeless on Coruscant.
What we don’t see in this adaptation is Pryce going to work for a sort of social services of Coruscant. She goes from the upper echelons of Coruscant society down to the tedious work of crunching numbers for little pay. One day, her old friends from the Renking days show up and invite her to dinner. They’ve managed to get her a job at an advocacy group in need of a mining expert. Pryce jumps at the chance to work in proximity to the Empire again, even if it’s not working for the Empire.
That person just behind Pryce near the storefront look familiar? Though I doubt it’s old Sheev, I’d like to imagine he took nightly strolls amongst the populace of Coruscant, masking himself from them. In a montage of frames, we see Pryce build her own life on Coruscant, free from the political manipulations of those who would use her as a courier for their own schemes. She has her own job, shares an apartment with a friend, and is taking martial arts. Arihnda Pryce is finding her best self on Coruscant. During one of her martial arts classes, Colonel Yularen and Thrawn show up in search of records the dojo master, H’Sishi, might have on bodyguards that may have been trained there. Thrawn and Pryce are reacquainted, each of them complimenting the other. Thrawn takes the opportunity to study another form of combat at the dojo.
The art in this issue is stellar. Vibrant, dynamic, and a lot to look at in every frame. Thrawn taking on the dojo master is just one small piece. Artist Luke Ross and colorist Nolan Woodward have done a great job with bringing the pages of Thrawn to life in ink. Each page is rich in detail and you’ll find a few Easter eggs here and there. Thrawn bests the dojo master and goes on his way, mentioning that he hopes to see Pryce again soon and he’s sure they will eventually be working together. A fellow pupil in Pryce’s class invites her to his office for a private sparring session and when she arrives there she encounters someone from her recent past.
Moff Ghadi has lured Pryce to this secret meeting because he believes the advocacy group she works for is after him. The advocacy group is called Higher Skies and Ghadi is convinced they had something to do with exposing his finances – as well as a mine he owns that was raided – so he’s freaking out. He also not-so-casually mentions he thinks Tarkin is out to get him and has something to do with it. Once again, he blackmails Pryce into being his spy within the Higher Skies organization, using his power to say he’ll indict her of some high crime he fabricates. Little does Ghadi know, he gave up his hand, and Pryce has plans and allies of her own.
Pryce arranges a clandestine meeting with Thrawn. When Ghadi mentioned he owned a mine, Pryce went looking for it. She found it and discovered that it’s rich in doonium and the moff has not been forthcoming about how much he can provide to the Empire – selling a substantial part of it on the black market. Thrawn advises her to keep playing the game and he will relay the information to Colonel Yularn and the ISB when he feels the time is right. Pryce, not wanting to wait, offers to help Thrawn elevate Vanto and get his ship moved up in the repair queue of the Empire. Essentially, Pryce offers her political prowess in exchange for his help in setting up Ghadi. Thrawn’s only question: Who is an enemy of Ghadi?
The short exchange between Pryce and Tarkin was my favorite of the issue. They quickly map out a bargain. Pryce exposes Higher Skies for what they really are – a group that has been stealing data from Imperial officials and selling it by giving them electronic brochures which leech off their databanks. Pryce suggests the advocacy group are rebels. She plays audio of a conversation she recorded where she and Ghadi discuss leaking sensitive information about Tarkin, just to give him a taste of everything she has to offer. Pryce demands Vanto be promoted, Thrawn’s ship be repaired, and she be given the governorship of Lothal. When Tarkin says that’s a good start to their bargain, but she needs more, Pryce offers up everything she knows about Lothal. Arihnda Pryce literally sells out her home planet so that she can become an Imperial Governor, giving her the power to take down the politicians that abused their power against her family’s company in the beginning of the story. Pryce gets what she wants and her last order of business is to settle her affairs with Higher Skies – the advocacy group that’s been training bodyguards to spy on and steal Imperial secrets while pretending to protect them.
Introducing Governor Pryce! Here she is, sending her friend off to a doomed life of imprisonment or a short one of execution. Either way, Pryce has come out on top, and she’s on her way to taking control of Lothal. I loved these last two frames. The darkness in her eyes and her cold demeanor as her friend is escorted away. I don’t think it’s fair to paint Pryce as some sort of protege of Thrawn’s as she claimed power on her own. It is interesting to see their connection fleshed out and how much the relationship deteriorates over the course of Rebels.
I have to say writer Jody Houser did a great job condensing Pryce’s story. Thrawn is a very dense novel (I mean that in a complimentary sense) – and Pryce’s story in the novel is no exception. It must have been quite and undertaking to fit the entirety of it into these pages. There was one scene missing where Pryce gets lost in the lower levels of Coruscant and encounters the criminality of the underworld there. I would have loved to see that in these pages, but I feel very satisfied with this adaptation.