The main Star Wars comic line is moving closer and closer to the events of The Empire Strikes Back, and as it does so it has been filling in some details.
Earlier this month, the series wrapped up the “Hope Dies” arc, which provided a major battle against desperate odds for the Rebellion. Written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Salvador Larroca, it provided several cool moments (which we’ll look at another time soon), but it also told us the fate of a significant figure in the Rebellion: General Jan Dodonna.
General Jan Dodonna is a face that is probably familiar to Star Wars fans, even if the name isn’t. He commanded on of the largest Rebel cells, the Massassi Group, and was an invaluable asset to the larger Rebellion because of it. When he showed up at Atollon to aid the Phoenix Squadron in their planned liberation of Lothal, it inspired confidence amongst the Phoenix Squadron that they might actually be successful. Unfortunatley for them, however, Grand Admiral Thrawn arrived at their secret base and ravaged the fleet. Thanks to the sacrifice of Commander Jun Sato, General Dodonna, Hera Syndulla, and the others were able to escape with their lives.
Dodonna served as part of the Alliance High Command and was one of the Rebellion’s great leaders. He personally prepped the fighters on Yavin 4 in advance of the Death Star assault, and he oversaw the battle from their hidden base on the moon. Because of the heroic actions of Luke Skywalker (aided by Han Solo and Chewbacca), the Death Star was destroyed and the Rebellion on Yavin 4 was spared. They escaped, and Dodonna continued to serve as part of the Alliance High Command leading the now encouraged yet still fledgling Rebellion.
Eventually, the Rebellion set up operations at the Mako-Ta Space Docks while they continued their search for a more permanent base. With the Rebel fleet gathered here, however, they were betrayed by Queen Trios and the Empire arrived, led by Darth Vader aboard the Executor. The Alliance was trapped, and the Empire had codes that rendered the Rebel fleet useless and defenseless. Princess Leia Organa and General Davits Draven led a mission to infiltrate the Executer and steal the codes that would allow them to escape, and Draven and his men gave their lives to slow down Vader and allow Leia to escape. With the codes, General Dodonna – in command of the Rebel flagship Republic – ordered a retreat into hyperspace, not wanting any more lives to be lost. The Republic stayed hidden, waiting to regroup with any survivors, but Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa convinced Dodonna to return to aid the fleet.
Dodonna did so, as the Republic arrived back at the scene and engaged the Executor. This heroic action bought the remaining Rebel vessels the time needed to escape, but the Republic was severely damaged. As the other ships made their escape, the Republic was destroyed by the Executor, killing General Jan Dodonna and his crew.
Dodonna had been incredibly instrumental in the foundation of the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and his ships and leadership had proven to be big assets – most notably in commanding the Battle of Yavin. And his final actions were befitting of the heroic leader: returning to the battle in an effort to save others. Though Dodonna gave his life, he allowed others to escape – including notable Rebel leaders Mon Mothma, Gial Ackbar, and Hera Syndulla. So in many ways, Dodonna’s sacrifice kept the hope of the Rebellion alive, which would eventually allow them to finally defeat the Empire years later.
The “Hope Dies” arc showed us the deaths of General Dodonna and General Draven, two members of the Alliance High Command, and showed us a costly loss for the Rebellion. In many ways, though, this is preparing us for The Empire Strikes Back. By the time the Rebellion winds up on Hoth, we don’t see Dodonna or Draven anywhere. Though another book (The Rebel Files) had identified both as being alive, these comics supersede those and are to be considered canon. The reason neither of those men are with the Rebellion on Hoth is because both of them gave their lives to help save the Rebellion at Mako-Ta.
With so many critical leaders killed during the battle and with the Rebellion in utter disarray after the retreat, Mon Mothma takes the opportunity to promote three of the brightest stars the Rebellion has. She promotes Leia Organa to General, Luke Skywalker to Commander, and Han Solo to Colonel. Again, just another sign that we’re getting closer and closer to the events of The Empire Strikes Back.