In Review: Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #5

Han and his friends go on a rescue mission to save one of their own with surprising consequences.

The covers: Two very different images of the title character to chose between for this final issue. The Regular cover by David Nakayama has Han throwing some papers riddled with blaster fire, which are still smoldering, to the wind as he walks away from the reader into the sunset. The papers are enlistment fliers put out by the Empire showing three young people in trooper armor standing before an orange colored emblem of the Empire. It appears that this will be the issue where Han washes his hands of this institution. Even if one can’t read Aurebesh, one knows exactly what’s going on in this cover. The Variant by Khoi Pham & Brian Reber has Han shown from his right in dark Imperial fatigues. He’s turned his head towards the reader but keeps his pistol ready, held up. Behind him are red and orange colored lights in a misty setting. This is okay, but Han is too tall and too buff. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant C

The story: In the Outer Rim on Ohulosk, the Imperial Navy Mobile Base has TIE Bombers, escorted by a TIE squadron, making their way to destroy the local army. Five cadets are noted as missing, as well as five speeder bikes. “Scanning shows their speeders are heading down a path that might overlap with our bombing run.” The CO refuses to say whether the bombing run should be halted so the cadets can escape or if it should continue. Writer Robbie Thompson then moves his story right into the action as the cadets are shown being chased by several enemy ships, sending blaster fire their way. The cadets are aware of the impending bombing run and realize they have to go faster if they don’t want to be caught in the downpour of destruction. The five arrive where Beilert Valance’s ship went down; their goal is to rescue him after being refused the opportunity to do so last issue. Unfortunately hostile forces are heavy in the area, so they have to leave their speeders and proceed on foot to keep their presence a secret as long as possible. Naturally things don’t get well for Solo and his friends, but Thompson has a terrific reveal on Page 11 that changes the direction of the rescue mission. The cover had me believing that this might be the final issue in Solo’s tenure as an Imperial soldier, but some information given on 13 changes that and Han does something to show that the Empire is truly not for him. I was impressed with what Han does and my heart was lifted by Pages 15 – 17. But Thompson isn’t done with these characters yet, as 19 has two supporting characters going in radically different directions, while Han is right where fans would expect him to be. This was a surprising and appropriate ending to this series. Overall grade: A

The art: This issue’s art is created by Leonard Kirk on pencils and Daniele Orlandini and Cory Hamscher on inks. I wish that Marvel had stated who is responsible for inking specific pages, but Marvel seems to be doing a terrible job of that lately. The first panel of the book informs the reader that TIE Bombers are launching into action and the three panels that follow show the darkened control room from which the Empire is waging its war. I like the slow pull into the CO, with his pupils black, making him unreadable to his subordinates and the reader. A small visual trick that pays off well. The action on 2 starts quickly with the cadets, still wearing their TIE Fighter pilot uniforms receiving heavy fire from above as they race along on speeder bikes. The close-up in the third panel shows that the explosion behind the cadet is massive enough to get attention. I also like the panel that ends the page, looking down on the troopers to show the reader what their formation is as they travel. The rescue in the third panel on the following page is cool, with the body that’s flying believable. The alien forces aren’t clearly seen at the beginning of this tale because of their distance from the cadets, but when they later appear they look great. Valance’s condition is excellent, looking like a trooper who’s not going to go down as easily as his ship did. The four panels in the center of Page 8 create some great tension for being quick looks at the heroes’ escape. Again, the artists pull in for the close-up on the CO on 9 and it increases the emotion of the moment. The look Han gives in the fourth panel on 10 is pure Solo. The surprise at the bottom of the page rocked me as much as did Han. There’s a lot of information that needs to be given on 13, but the artists have it given in a long shot from the speakers, showing how one person’s pain doesn’t really matter to the Empire as there are distant explosions getting closer. I like the power of the third panel on 14. The first panel on 19 is perfect, showing the lack of sensitivity at what’s being done to a character and how that individual feels about what’s being done. The fourth panel on that page is a promise of unfinished business. The last page has the visuals one would expect, but the second through fifth panels give me unexpected warm fuzzies. This book’s visuals are good. Overall grade: A-

The colors: The first page opens with an exterior panel of Ohulosk’s exterior and it’s a gritty brown and tan world. Contrasted against the blacks and grays of the Empire, even the colors by Arif Prianto show the colors of the sides to be at polar opposites: earth tones versus mechanical ones. The explosions rocking the heroes are done in oranges and yellows and are accompanied by sound effects in reds. The coloring at the bottom of 10 is the high point of the book due to the strength of what’s occurring, though I do like the reds, oranges, and yellows on 14. The brightest colored panel in the book is the third panel on 16, which mirrors the optimism of the speaker. Notice how the setting goes to cool blues on 19 to increase the sterility of the setting. Nice. The final page starts and ends with two darkly colored panels, but those in the middle, though hypothetical, are warm with oranges. A well done job. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna creates this issue’s scene settings, dialogue, sounds, and alien speech. The scene settings on this book are easier to read than in the regular Star Wars comic and I wish that book would them. They look futuristic without being illegible. The sounds really stand out with all the destruction happening around the heroes. The BOOM! on Page 3 is epic and every CHW! makes me happy; that latter sound has got to be incorporated into other Star Wars titles. The alien speech, though seen only briefly, is terrific for it being absolutely indecipherable, making what Han does even more comedic and cool. Overall grade: A-

The final line: Han and his friends go on a rescue mission to save one of their own with surprising consequences. I love that there were several unexpected moments in this final issue, making me want to see Thompson return to these characters’ exploits. I liked the visuals which created the polish and the chaos that the Empire maintains and creates. Marvel should have another look into Solo’s Imperial days as soon as possible. Excellent reading for a missing chapter in the life of one of Star Wars’ most famous characters. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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