With all the new High Republic stories it’s easy for me to forget another unexplored part of Star Wars is being explored–the period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The war between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire rages. Each side has been defeat and now we have a game of Loth-cat and mouse. After retrieving an ancient droid from Coruscant, Threepio works to develop a new communication encryption to further evade the Empire. But as Starlight Squadron engage the lethal Commander Zahra, tensions rise between Lando and Kes Dameron, who fight for the safety of those they love. SPOILERS AHEAD….
Lando and Kes are fighting for all the right reasons, except one of them will have to budge. The ancient droid is developing an encryption but must use Lobot’s processors to help, which is killing Lando’s cyborg friend. Kes knows if they don’t create the encryption for Threepio to use his partner Shara Bey, and the rest of Starlight Squadron, are doomed. Lando looks to Leia to intervene but she stands with Kes, citing the survival of the Rebel Alliance as bigger than any of them.
Meanwhile, near Felucia, Shara Bey and Starlight Squadron are not doing well. Their droids have been taken out making it impossible for them to jump to hyperspace as Commander Zahra’s forces overwhelm them. L’ulo suspects the Empire is trying to corral them instead of destroy them and he’s right. Zahra wants prisoners because prisoners have answers. Her strategy is to get them all with in tractor beam range and bring them in, which she executes just as well as she planned it. The Rebels have a plan of their own though – embrace the tractor beam and storm the enemy ship!
Despite Lando’s attempt to stop the process and save Lobot, the droid is successful. Leia has Lando escorted off the bridge and he’s furious. The encryption is successful but Threepio has some choice words. I’ve enjoyed the exploration of droid emotions and perspectives in the last few years. Threepio really does think of himself as a benevolent caretaker of other beings. Speaking of other beings, Lobot has survived but he’s barely hanging on.
One thing I always look forward to in writer Charles Soule’s stories are the unique flying maneuvers he comes up with. We saw a lot of them in his Poe Dameron series and this is another fun trick. Starlight Squadron use the tractor beam to launch themselves into the hangar and start plucking off bucket heads and TIE Fighters. Zahara is ready to start blowing her subordinates out the airlock she’s so mad. What’s the point of them attacking the hangar?
One of the pilots, Freyta, is able to slice into the processors of the astromechs and repurpose them to help Starlight Squadron find their way home. The Imps (I love calling them that) realize what they are doing and start hitting them harder with AT-ST’s. Shara stays behind to draw them out while the rest of Starlight Squadron make a break for it. Again, Shara Bey should have been in the sequel trilogy and I’ll die on that hill…end rant. If you want to know what inspired previous rant, read Poe Dameron: Free Fall.
Lando is seriously reevaluating his choice to join the Rebellion. And he goes a few steps beyond reevaluating, contacting Bib Fortuna on Tatooine to facilitate a sale of the newly minted Rebel Alliance encryption. Obviously, we know how this will end but it’s cool Soule is exploring Lando’s path to becoming a general. A lot of times we just assume these characters fall into their roles so I’m interested to see Lando’s journey from dubious Cloud City administrator to hero of the Rebel Alliance.
Kes is understandably distraught his partner has been left behind but Leia reassures him it was her choice. She knows Shara and she knows Shara has a plan. And I love the homage to Carrie Fisher in this final frame.
Not a bad issue at all. This “Operation Starlight” arc is a little convoluted and dry but I have faith it’s setting up something cool. What that might be? I don’t know. Maybe we’ll get a look at that Bothan spy network? It’s great to be back in the midst of the original trilogy but in a new story. Writer Charles Soule is very deliberate with his arcs so I don’t doubt this will flow seamlessly into Return of the Jedi. Feels like we have a long way to go but I’m happy to be along for the ride. And the next issue looks like we may be headed back to Hoth. Should be interesting.