Commander Zahra has been taunting the Rebels for some time. Whether it’s torturing Shara Bey or her brazen attacks on their bases and ships, Zahra wants to toy with the Rebels before smashing them. Leia Organa knows this all too well and finally turns those torments on the tormentor in the twenty-fourth issue of Marvel’s Star Wars.
No, not Jakku, but a more recent battle as Leia and crew survey the scorched earth of Zahra’s latest attack. Tarkin’s Will, Zahra’s proud ship, lays in waste but the fearless commander still challenges the Rebel contingent. She’s sent up a smoke signal, challenging Leia to capture her. Leia’s not the only one who has a lightsaber to grind with Zahra.
Shara Bey and Starlight Squadron head for Zahra, wary of a trap. The smoke signal leads them to a cave, where they await the go ahead from Leia to proceed. Shara, Kes, and Starlight Squadron helped bring down the Tarkin’s Will and carried much of this arc, so I was surprised writer Charles Soule used them as little as he did in this issue. We really don’t see much more of them in this final issue of the arc.
Zahra’s hidden inside a cave, complete with a flammable gas and some strange bat-like creatures going about their lives. Shara and Kes detect the volatile gas, but the orders to refrain from blasters come too late.
Zahra picked a good place to hide when outnumbered. This accidental blast takes out most of the Rebel party, while cutting off Leia, Kes, and Chewbacca from anyone else. The trio focus on their mission and try to move deeper into the cave. There isn’t much further they can go, the blast forced them to the edge of a cliff. And someone waits for them.
Don’t get too excited, it’s not a lightsaber. It’s a sword, illuminated by an unseen, red light source. It’s a little misleading. I’m not sure why artists Ramon Rosanas, Madibek Musabekov, and Rachelle Rosenberg chose this misdirection. It’s cool to look at, but that’s about it. Zahra’s surprise attack knocks Leia from the cliff, into the water below. Zahra taunts Chewbacca, threatening his family back on Kashyyyk, and the Wookiee pushes her off the cliff.
It’s just Leia and Zahra now. Zahra doesn’t take her time getting to Leia, slashing the bat-like creatures in her way without concern. Her fixation on Leia comes from her belief the Rebel Alliance will fold without the general. It’s a backhanded compliment to Leia’s leadership and persistent hope, which Zahra and the Empire know only fuels the rebellion. While this appears to be the end for Leia, Zahra didn’t consider her surroundings and who else she cut down to get here.
A much larger and very angry bat comes out of the darkness, spitting a sticky at Zahra, pinning the commander down. As Zahra’s disarmed, Kes and Chewbacca catch up with Leia, temporarily scaring the cave creature away so they can all have a moment alone with the Imperial who’s caused them all so much harm.
Leia takes a moment to recognize the killing she’s had to do. Though she doesn’t equivocate the destruction of the Death Star at the hands of the Rebels with what Zahra and the Empire have done. Zahra kills for revenge and she enjoys it. Leia and the Rebels do what they need to survive. Revenge is a terrible indulgence and not one Leia gives into. She believes in justice, so she doesn’t make the choice to free Zahra from the cave. She leaves Zahra to her fate, which will be determined by a very angry parent who just watched the commander kill their children.
When Leia, Kes, and Chewbacca emerge the rest of the fleet has arrived to greet them. The fight is far from over, but today they can breathe and find the hope they need to keep going.
While the cover banner suggests this is part of the Crimson Reign event, I couldn’t make any connection. This is a tidy issue, with writer Charles Soule bringing the arc to a relatively quiet and mundane close. It felt a lot shorter than I’d expect and I hoped we’d hear a bit more from Shara Bey, who this arc heavily focused on. It also leaves the future trajectory of this series up in the air, as Star Wars rapidly approaches the events of Return of the Jedi. Are we getting closer to moving beyond the events of the original trilogy or will this titular series jump around the canon as we know it? The next issue may give us some hints.