The story of Han Solo’s stint in the Empire continues in Star Wars: Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #2. After Han enlists in the Empire to get away from Corellia and before he is demoted to the infantry where he would slog it out on muddy Mimban, this mini-series details Han’s time at the Imperial Flight Academy on Carida. As we watch Han struggle to move up the ladder on the flight leaderboard with his arrogant and autonomous attitude, readers are also treated with glimpses of his past life on Corellia where he learned how to fly in his service to Lady Proxima and her White Worm gang.
If you’ve seen Solo: A Star Wars Story, then you’ll remember how Han and his teenage sweetheart Qi’ra were separated in their attempt to leave Corellia. Qi’ra was detained, but Han managed to slip away by enlisting in the Empire. He coped with his decision to abandon Qi’ra by promising to return for her one day with his own ship. It was this promise that caused Han to get into a heap of trouble in the conclusion to the first issue in this series as he decided to steal a TIE fighter and desert the Academy. However, after an impressive (yet brief) run to freedom, Han was shot down by one of his instructors.
This issue opens with Han lying on a prison cot in a scene reminiscent of our introduction to an adult Jyn Erso in Rogue One. After two weeks in the brig, Han’s day of reckoning has come. There’s only one rule on Carida concerning a cadet’s ability to leave the academy – you either graduate as a highly trained pilot, ready to serve the Empire, or you leave in a body bag. Chalk it up to Han’s lucky dice or the divine intervention of some mystical energy field controlling the young man’s destiny – but good luck, it seems – has a way of finding the young cadet more often than not.
Impressed with Han’s uncanny flying ability, Han’s instructor gives him a second chance, just as he’s about to be terminated. Raw talent like what Han possesses in a cockpit was not something to be casually tossed aside, especially after the instructor, Yurib, saw so much of himself in the young cadet. He could be a real asset to the Empire after all – but one more chance is all the young pilot would get. With a warning to not disappoint him again, Yurib leaves Han to consider his limited options.
Back in the game, Han’s cocky attitude doesn’t really change, but he has a new resolve to be the best of the best at the flight school, striving to knock the leader out of the top spot and gain his own claim to fame. Unknown to Han, his superior already recognizes his immense and perhaps unparalleled skill, but he still has to prove he’s the best to the others. Things are finally looking up when the cadets are paired off on a joint mission to take out an ion cannon, a mission that would require tight cooperation to take down both the shield and the cannon.
Han’s rival (I don’t recall the issue giving him a name, but maybe I just missed it) is all about staying on top, so much so that he literally sacrifices one of the other cadets to make the winning shot. As fellow cadet, Tamu, is careening out of control, Han breaks off to destroy the energy shield and save his classmate. In a daring rescue attempt, Han ejects from his own TIE, boards Tamu’s fighter, and brings the unconscious pilot’s ship down to safety with an assist from his partner Kanina.
Furious with Han for causing the entire group to fail the mission, the flight school bully throws blame at Han, who takes it all in stride, confident that he made the best out of a bad situation. Yurib seems to agree as the events of the day have proven that the young Han Solo has the potential to be the best pilot the Empire has ever seen.
This issue was a fun read, and I enjoy seeing Han’s days at the flight academy, but I’m not going to pretend that the story was anything super original. Han is basically “Maverick” from Top Gun, and his rival is pretty much the Star Wars equivalent of Val Kilmer’s “Iceman” with a touch of Biff from Back to the Future. If this series doesn’t end with Yubin telling Han about how he used to fly with his old man or with Han doing a fly by in his TIE on the flight control tower, I will be pleasantly surprised. Granted, “Goose” survived this time, albeit in a scene that oddly reminded me of one of the more ridiculous moments in the movie Hot Shots! (which is itself a parody of Top Gun).
It’s not a bad story, but I just see where this is going. Hopefully we’ll encounter a few surprises along the way that will really set it apart and distance the comic from these comparisons. While not awful or unenjoyable, this story has the same problem that plagues a lot of prequel tales – we know how it ends. We know Han gets kicked out of the academy for disobeying an order, and we know the rest of the story is all about getting to that point.
Unfortunately, the whole thing appears to be following a familiar path, though I will happily eat my words if writer Robbie Thompson manages to catch me by surprise in the last few issues. So, for now, I’ll withhold my final judgement, but I would be lying if I said this story feels like anything other than a derivative by-the-numbers Star Wars adventure.
Star Wars: Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #2 is available now in a comic shop near you or online at Comixology. Happy reading comic fans!