The main Star Wars comic line, written by Charles Soule, has been a bit unsteady and hit-or-miss recently as it fills in the story in-between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but in issue #12 it slows down considerably, and in so doing hits some truly poignant and beautiful notes.
The entire plot of the issue is Leia Organa and Kes Dameron sharing stories of their lost loved ones. Shara Bey, Kes’s wife, was left behind on an Imperial Star Destroyer. Han Solo, Leia’s love, was frozen in carbonite. So Kes shares the story of when he first met Shara, while Leia shares a story about Han and explains why she fell in love with someone so different than her.
Let’s dive in to the review.
Kes Dameron finds Leia Organa alone, and they both confess that they get away to this space to reflect. Kes says that he comes here to watch a holo of his son, Poe, and Leia asks him to tell her the story of how he first met Shara Bey. Kes explains that seven years and two months ago, he and some friends went to Galator III to celebrate a friend’s wedding, and while there Kes placed a bet on a pilot competing in Crestracing. This particular pilot was courageous and daring, making it through a dangerous bottleneck on the course called the “Death Chute.” By making it through first, it guaranteed the pilot a win – and Kes, too. So Kes went to congratulate the pilot, Shara Bey, who said that with his newly earned money he could buy her a drink.
He then asks Leia about Han Solo. Leia seems surprised that he knows, and he mentions that the Rebellion isn’t that large… plus Lando told them all about it. He asks how Leia could have fallen for a guy so obviously different than her, and Leia tells a story about Han from more recently, saying that Han hates the cold. So Han hated Echo Base and being on Hoth, but one time the heat went out – which meant that they couldn’t stay there long and live. They boarded everyone in the ships, and much to Han’s frustration, Tauntauns occupied the Millennium Falcon. The techs eventually said they would have to evacuate, since the reactor was going to overload. But the reactor they were using was from a YT model ship, and Han and Chewie went to check it out. They encountered some trouble and Han ordered the ships to take off to get clear, but he and Chewbacca managed to get it to work, saving Echo Base.
Leia tells Kes that the reason she loves Han Solo is because he hates the cold – yet stayed with the Rebellion throughout it all. She explains that he truly believes in the cause and fighting for good, even if he doesn’t realize it. At that point, Kes is contacted by Shara Bey, who explains that she has found a hiding spot to stow away in the Star Destroyer. She asks Kes to come get her soon, but in the meantime, she has sliced some important Imperial information that she begins to give Leia.
I really enjoyed this issue. This has been a good series, but especially recently it has felt a bit directionless. This issue doesn’t move the plot forward much (aside from Shara Bey surviving and contacting them), but I actually think that is it’s biggest strength. Star Wars rarely allows its characters time to actually grieve and reflect, as so much of that happens off-screen. But one of the things I really wanted to see from this series was Leia dealing with the loss of Han Solo; she has lost so much, and now here she is dealing with the loss of the man she loves. In order for that to happen, however, it needed to slow down and give her time to reflect. It is done really well, since Kes is also dealing with the loss of his wife, Shara Bey, and therefore the two of them can reflect and grieve together.
I think that’s great, and I think it’s great how they both share stories of the person they love – while remaining hopeful that they will see them again. It’s one thing to remain hopeful when everything is going right; it’s far different to remain hopeful when things are bleak, hard, and tragic. Leia has lost Han. Kes has lost Shara. Yet as Leia tells Kes at the end of the issue, “Hope’s never wasted.”
I enjoyed Kes’s story about how he met Shara, and it probably shouldn’t be surprising that it came via Shara’s excellent flying skills. I also loved seeing Poe show up as a baby, and Leia getting to see him (maybe for the first time?). That is a meaningful moment, given that we know Leia will take Poe under her wing as her protege decades later with the Resistance.
But it was really Leia reflecting on Han Solo that made the issue so fantastic, in my mind. She tells a story about Han that’s new and fun, but in the process Leia explains why she loves this smuggler so unlike her. And it’s because of the cold. I think it’s worth hearing Leia’s explanation in her own words, because it’s so beautiful:
“So there’s the question, right? Why would I come to care for someone like Han Solo. So different from me, so infuriating and half-useless and utterly reckless? It’s because he hates the cold. He spent his entire time at Echo Base complaining about it. Everyone else saw it, everyone else knew it. But he never left. Over and over, he fought and risked his life and sacrificed and personally saved the entire Alliance more than once. He stayed because even if he couldn’t admit it, even to himself, he believes in this cause. Han Solo’s a smuggler because he likes it, but he’s a rebel because he’s Han Solo. And Han Solo complains and jokes and is generally half-useless… but he doesn’t leave. That’s inspiring. He matters to the Rebellion… and to me. And now he’s out there somewhere… in the cold.”
I think Soule wrote this whole thing beautifully. Leia begins her story by explaining how Han hates the cold, then explains how that’s actually the reason she loves him, and then mentions that he’s out there in the cold right now. It’s all tied together so well, and I think it does a really fantastic job of allowing Leia to process things and share why she’s fallen for this smuggler.
It seems that the series will dive back into the storyline that was largely paused in this issue, but I really hope we continue to see Leia process Han’s absence and her feelings toward him as we inevitably begin to see some of the plan to rescue Han put into place eventually, beginning with the epic upcoming crossover story War of the Bounty Hunters. I hope that this series continues to make time for the characters to slow down and simply be, to share stories and emotions and memories and reflect on them. This was a very enjoyable issue and so beautifully done.