Star Wars: Crimson Reign #3 review!

The third issue of Charles Soule’s Crimson Reign comic miniseries was recently released, and this time the focus is on the Archivist!

This five-issue series focuses on Qi’ra’s plans and attempts to overthrow Palpatine and Vader, as she lays in motion a grand plan with many different pieces allied to Crimson Dawn. So the first issue showed her team that she’s put together, and then the second issue focused on the two assassins, Ochi and Deathstick. This issue then turns the attention to the Archivist, while the fourth issue will look at the Knights of Ren.

We don’t know where all of this is heading, but the third issue is a really compelling look not only at this character, but at the nature of the Jedi and how they so quickly came to be forgotten – containing some powerful teachings and reflections about what happened.

SUMMARY:

This issue tells the story of the mysterious Archivist, who was once a Sava (a scholar and a teacher) at the University of Bar’leth named Madelin Sun. She devoted her life to studying the Force, but this meant that after Order 66 she was left without a purpose, resorting to being a junk seller in obscurity. On one occasion a squad of stormtroopers gave her a hard time, and they were killed by Qi’ra, who wanted to enlist Sun’s help.

Qi’ra told Sun that she had great respect for her, and she wanted to know why the galaxy had just forgotten about the Jedi. Sun explains that she had thought about that for decades, and it’s because the Empire rules with fear, forcing those who did remember to keep quiet or forfeit their lives. Qi’ra then offers an important piece of information, saying that Emperor Palpatine is the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, much to Sun’s surprise. Qi’ra then shows Sun a room full of dark side artifacts, which she acquired after her mentor told her where to look. Qi’ra offers it all to Sun for her to study, and asks that she help her find a secret weapon: find Grandmaster Yoda and enlist him to help her.

Qi’ra believes Yoda is still alive since the Empire never announced his death, and Sun gets to work tracking him down. She learns that his last appearance wasn’t actually at the Battle of Kashyyyk (like official records state) but on Coruscant on the day the Republic fell. She learns that Bail Organa helped Yoda flee aboard the Tantive III. This takes her to an Imperial prison to visit Jeremoch Colton, the pilot of the Tantive III who was captured when Darth Vader and the Empire apprehended Leia Organa and the Tantive IV. She uses a dark side artifact to draw information out of him, and while he doesn’t know where Yoda went, he does tell her that it was the Sluis Sector.

Upon studying the sector Sun learns of a world strong with the Force and heads to Dagobah. Shortly after landing she is nearly killed by a large creature but is mysteriously spared, and enters a cave strong with the dark side. There she realizes that giving up Yoda’s location could give her her life back, whether she gave the info to Qi’ra or to Palpatine – but she also realizes that while Yoda could have killed her, or let the planet kill her, but chose to teach her instead. Realizing that the light shows us who we could be, Sun chooses to tell Qi’ra that Yoda is dead. Qi’ra is displeased and leaves, saying that they’ll have to do it themselves. But once more, for the first time in a long time, Sun was happy.

REVIEW:

This was a fantastic issue, and it really operates well as a stand-alone one even though it’s situated within the Crimson Reign miniseries. When the Archivist was introduced in the first issue, we knew nothing about her, which made it all the more mysterious, and here Charles Soule does a great job of giving us a really full and compelling backstory all within a single issue.

So we learned who the Archivist is: she’s Madelin Sun, a teacher and a scholar who devoted her life to studying the Force and its users. She isn’t able to wield the Force herself, but she can tap into it and have it show her things. And because this is her life’s work, she is out of work after Order 66. This ties in with the larger theme of the issue, which is how the Empire eliminated the Jedi and all trace of them through fear, as Sun was out of work precisely because not only were the Jedi gone, but even talking about them would cost a person their life. That’s why when the stormtroopers show up at her junk shop, they’re about to report her to the Empire for possessing Jedi artifacts.

This fits in with what she tells Qi’ra about why the Jedi have been forgotten, and I think it’s a terrific answer to a question Star Wars fans have had as well: how is it that, within two decades of there being around 10,000 Jedi, the galaxy had largely forgotten about them? Well, for one, it’s fair to think that with such a large galaxy most people hadn’t ever met a Jedi, and when one sees the prevalence of conspiracy theories on the internet in our day, it’s all the more plausible to think about it happening in the galaxy far, far away. But that’s not what the Archivist says. She offers a beautifully poignant assessment of how the galaxy viewed things: “But I believe, for most people who thought about it at all, the light side represented the way they wanted to live and act. The way they should be. The dark side was more closely connected to how they actually were.” I think that’s very thought-provoking and true.

And she answers that the way the Empire caused the galaxy to forget about the Jedi was fear, which is their “most potent weapon.” She says that Palpatine unleashed this weapon on the galaxy, making them fear the treasonous Jedi, and “it worked, possibly because as much as people loved the Jedi, they also hated them, on some level. It is hard to look at people who have become their best selves. It reminds you that you have not.” She said that the Empire very simply started by making it illegal to talk about the Jedi, then killed those who did, and all the others decided to stay quiet; because of that, within a generation talk of the Jedi would all die out.

This assessment of what happened is fantastic, and I am incredibly impressed that Charles Soule manages to do it in the span of a few pages, accompanied by some truly beautiful artwork by Steven Cummings and Victor Olazaba. It makes sense, and it speaks to human nature: that we don’t like to see others better than us, and therefore we are more willing to hate them. So what Palpatine did was tap into those very feelings and drive them all the more deeper through fear, which is his biggest weapon. Combined with Qi’ra’s revelation that Palpatine is a Sith Lord, it all makes sense. On that note, by the way, this is just another example of how the galaxy doesn’t know about Palpatine’s true identity, as even this scholar of the Force doesn’t know it.

I think Qi’ra is the perfect one to be playing this role in the story, because there’s a very good reason why she does know all of this. Her “mentor” was Maul, who ran the Crimson Dawn syndicate that Qi’ra worked for. At some point, Maul became stranded on Malachor and Qi’ra apparently took over his syndicate, but because of her connection with Maul she has a deep understanding of the Force and the Sith, knowing about Darth Sidious, possessing quite a few Sith artifacts, and more. She’s even able to piece together Yoda’s survival through a very simple explanation: since the Empire didn’t announce his death (but they did destroy “one of” his lightsabers, a nice nod to the continuity with The Book of Boba Fett), they must be afraid of him reappearing at some point.

And I’ll be honest: I was extremely skeptical about the Archivist finding Yoda on Dagobah, but the way Soule laid out each step of Sun’s discovery process to see how she came to deduce it actually made sense. It’s cool to see an actual researcher in the Star Wars universe who uses skills of study and research to put the pieces together, and I appreciated how we got to see that happening rather than just showing her arriving on Dagobah (that wouldn’t have worked, so I’m glad they did it this way). And when she does arrive on Dagobah, it presents a really poignant lesson for her.

Basically, even though Yoda doesn’t reveal himself to Sun, he saves her life. He saves her from the creature and leads her to the cave to teach her. And what she learns is that Yoda saved her life even though he knew that because of that she could turn him in to either Qi’ra or Palpatine. It is then that she returns to her previous statements: she had always been drawn to the dark side because it showed her who she was, but the light side showed her who she could be. And rather than just being an unreasonable, unattainable standard, Yoda had demonstrated as a living example of who she could be, saving her life even at risk to his own. That’s why Sun doesn’t reveal Yoda’s location and instead lies, saying that he’s dead.

And beautifully, the issue ends the same way it began, with Sun being happy – and we see that the way to happiness is through the light side, while the dark side leads only to suffering. She has embraced that, and grown through it.

So this issue is about a lot more than just filling in the details for the Archivist’s history – it’s a powerful reflection on the light side and the dark side, and how people view it and respond to it. It’s a reflection on how the galaxy could so quickly and so easily forget the Jedi. And it’s a reflection on how seeing examples of people living according to the light doesn’t need to lead us to hatred and fear but should inspire us to do the same, seeing who we could be as well. Though this is the middle issue of the five-part Crimson Reign series, it stands alone and stands out as being so much more.

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