Review – The Empire Gets A New Recruit In Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #1
I like to think there is still a bundle of related content Lucasfilm has tucked away to follow-up on the characters and stories Solo set up. You don’t need to hear me gush about that film anymore but one of the reasons I loved it so much is because of the depth it added to the character of Han Solo and the Star Wars canon. One of my only complaints is that we never got a proper look at Han’s time at the Imperial Academy. Thankfully, this series provides that. SPOILERS AHEAD….
The debut issue of Imperial Cadet opens in similar fashion to the film – with an explosive chase through the bowels of Corellia. Oh yes, and Qi’ra is along for the ride. We see the two of them in a heist gone wrong as they scrape by in life, doing the dirty work of Lady Proxima and her thugs. Unfortunately, Han is not able to talk his way out of it and the two of them are sent into the lowest, darkest cells of Proxima’s fortress. From there, we see Han and Qi’ra start to talk about how they’ll be free someday and are treated to a montage of the events in the opening of Solo. Predictably, the montage ends right as Han enlists in the Empire to escape capture after being torn away from Qi’ra, and our story begins.
Han is shipped off to the Imperial Academy on Carida, hopeful he’ll be flying in no time. Upon arrival, it’s made very clear to Han that he will NOT be landing in the cockpit of a TIE Fighter in the near future. Han’s arrived at basic training under the command and watch of Training Officer Triosa Broog. Broog implies that Imperial training involves nothing simulated and that they aren’t afraid of recruits not making the cut by meeting their death. The brutality directed at Imperial trainees is not something new to the canon. It’s the Empire’s method of weeding the weak out of their ranks, though apparently being a good shot isn’t part of the curriculum, at least for stormtroopers.
The intake session is pretty interesting. Han’s given the designation 124-329 and he doesn’t exactly take to being a drone cadet in the crowd. The young rogue is singularly focused on getting up into the air. As we know, Han’s Imperial career is headed in another direction – the infantry. We see a montage of several battle scenes, equally reminiscent of the Solo Mimban battle scene. The basic training is what one would expect: exhaustive physical conditioning in the most challenging environments. If you’ve seen Full Metal Jacket, I get the sense that’s what writer Robbie Thompson was going for. There’s not a lot of exposition here, but it’s a lot more of a glimpse than what we got in Solo. And this is just the first issue!
As the discipline becomes more of an issue for Han’s superiors, Training Officer Broog uses another tactic and makes the regimen responsible for Han’s misbehavior. Simply, if Han gets in trouble, all of them get in trouble. After a particularly harsh sounding punishment, the team unleashes a beat down on Han. They also ridicule his name, implying that ‘solo’ is a designation the Empire gives to derelicts with no affiliation to people or a culture. It’s a cheap shot and this is clearly something that bothers Han. I’d pay attention to this, as Han’s melancholy isolation was something Mur Lafferty highlighted in her adaptation of the film. At this point in his life, Han clearly wants to belong to something – more specifically, someone. It will be cool to see where that goes.
So what should you do when your fellow cadets kick the crap out of you and the Empire puts you on notice? I guess Han steals a TIE Fighter and desert the Empire. I was reminded of Poe’s early dialogue about how he’d always wanted to fly a TIE Fighter when Han was admiring the Imperial crafts. Han’s stunt is short-lived, as a swarm of TIE’s pursue him and ultimately shoot him down. I’d like to think Han was more or less trying to make a statement. This demonstrated ambition and skill, but independence as well, which is something we all know the Empire hates. We know Han ends up in a pilot program anyways, so I wonder what his training officer has to say.
What, Han worry? I thought this issue was a lot of fun. Though there wasn’t a ton of substance to it, I think it’s a great introduction to the series. Writer Robbie Thompson seems to have a good hold on the character and I get the sense he recognizes this story will help serve the film. The art by Leonard Kirk is definitely different than what we’ve seen in the book. I like the scale of it, as he handles all the action very well. His interpretation of Han mostly leans toward Alden Ehrenreich, but you catch little glimpses of Harrison Ford in there. I think this series has a lot of promise and there’s a lot of ground to cover, so if this limited series is a hit they could always do more. If you enjoyed Solo, Lando: Double or Nothing, and Mur Lafferty’s adaptation, this book is definitely for you. Sure, it’s no Solo 2, but it’s a lot of fun and worth your time.