Charles Soule delivers another thriller as he continues the story of the shadow war against the Sith, led by Lady Qi’ra and Crimson Dawn. While I am cautiously optimistic about how this all ends, I am completely enthralled with this previously unknown story set in the criminal underworld. Soule continues to display his unparalleled skill at telling a bold and multilayered story in a completely well-structured manner. While this issue may not have packed the jaw-dropping punch of the first, it absolutely keeps you hungry for more.
If you would like a quick refresher on the first issue before continuing on, feel free to go here for a great review from Kyle Larson.
The story begins yet again with the Archivist setting the stage. We don’t gain clarity on the story of the Archivist here, but based on the title of the third issue, it appears we won’t be waiting long. As Kyle alluded to in his review of the previous issue, we don’t know who has activated these recordings. I would love to think it’s Ben Solo, or heck, even Grogu, because we know they were activated using the light side of the Force.
We are going to be spending most of our time with these two assassins: Ochi of Bestoon and Deathstick. Soule choosing to dive into the psychological makeup of these characters was my favorite part of the issue. Ochi has been a particular interest of mine in the comics since his appearance in The Rise of Skywalker. Qi’ra has hired them both for separate missions, and these two definitely have a history of antagonizing each other.
Qi’ra’s assignment for Deathstick reminds us of another war taking place in the galaxy between the Rebellion and the Empire. Her target from Qi’ra is the heir to multiple syndicates; he is currently hiding out with a band of Rebel freedom fighters.
As Deathstick and Ochi are sent off, we begin to see the command of Qi’ra as a leader and mastermind. This is shown by displaying her insight into the motivations not only behind those who would kill, but especially those of Ochi and Deathstick. Knowing why Ochi chooses to kill allows Qi’ra to manipulate him how she likes. Killing out of fear gives clarity to why Ochi has chosen to align with monsters like Palpatine in the past.
However, Ochi is no fool, and Qi’ra knows this. She plays on his understanding that, at any given moment, Palpatine may decide to turn his attention towards Ochi himself. Preying on this fear of Ochi’s ensures he will be unable to refuse the mission she lays out for him. Here we see his destination: the Imperial Palace. Once I saw the striking image of the former Jedi Temple, I knew the stakes were raised to the highest level.
Qi’ra’s complete understanding of Deathstick allows her to do much the same as she has with Ochi. As she describes the motivations behind why Deathstick kills, I can’t help but wonder if there is some projection of herself going on here. The Archivist describes Qi’ra as the loneliest person they had met; her life has been mired in hardship and tragedy.
Our first glimpse at Deathstick’s target, Cadeliah, is a vicious one. My suspicions of her being no more than a small child are proven correct here, and Deathstick clearly has no qualms about kidnapping or taking out an innocent child. The finger gun pointing directly at Cadeliah’s head tells you everything you need to know.
Ochi’s plan begins to unfold as we see him inquiring about the type of poison he is going to need to complete his high-stakes mission. Although we still don’t know who his target is.
Deathstick promptly arrives at the “small” Rebel hideout and begins to formulate her plan. With a base this large, she knows she can’t just lay waste to the entire band of soldiers. Alerting the Empire to the presence of the Rebel base gives her the distraction she needs to take Cadeliah hostage. At first, I thought she would just kill the child, but Qi’ra wants Cadeliah alive.
The daring nature of Ochi’s mission becomes clear, and I couldn’t be more nervous at this point. His target is none other than Palpatine’s Imperial Guard. A wrong move here could have dire consequences and almost certainly trace back to Crimson Dawn. But there is a reason the name Ochi of Bestoon is so feared.
As we enter into the Emperor’s throne room, a conversation about the ongoing syndicate war happens between him and Grand Vizier Amedda. As he learns the syndicates are all vying for his favor, Palpatine decides to use the might of the Imperial Fleet to “quell their exuberance”.
With your anticipation reaching a breaking point, Soule delivers the final blow. In unison, the entire Imperial Guard drops dead. Although Palpatine doesn’t yet know the who and the why behind this attack, I would expect his retribution to be swift and harsh. This image gives me chills.
With Ochi’s mission complete, the focus shifts back to Deathstick’s delivery of Cadeliah to Qi’ra. We don’t know anything about this child, but it appears Qi’ra has big plans for her. As the heir to multiple syndicates, perhaps she is a bargaining chip? Or possibly Qi’ra has plans to eliminate the other syndicates’ leadership and insert someone that she can control into that position.
This was a wonderful second issue, with Soule delivering and writing Qi’ra in a way befitting a character of her brilliance. I am cautiously optimistic Soule will not use the tired method of killing her off to make the main antagonists in this era appear more vilifying. While this is said to be a tragedy, there are many more befitting ways to end or continue Qi’ra’s story than to have her simply wind up a footnote in someone else’s already well-documented ascent.