It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan, with tons of great and significant stories being told in a variety of mediums. There are plenty of shows, books, and comics that are being released, and one of those comics that just wrapped up recently was Charles Soule’s five-issue Crimson Reign mini-series.
That series is actually the middle chapter of a trilogy being told by Soule. It started last year with the War of the Bounty Hunters mini-series, in which Crimson Dawn re-emerged onto the galactic scene, led by Qi’ra, as they stole the carbonite-frozen body of Han Solo and held an auction to sell him to the highest bidder. That series ended with the revelation that Crimson Dawn had people spread all throughout the galaxy, having infiltrated the Empire, the Rebellion, and pretty much everything else.
So that led right into the second chapter of this trilogy, Crimson Reign. In it, we see Qi’ra’s plans really begin to unfold. Her desire is to overthrow the Sith – Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader – for the good of the galaxy. To begin, she spreads the lie throughout the galaxy that the Empire is looking to move on from their contract with the Hutts, sparking a war between the criminal syndicates.
Qi’ra also dispatches some key agents on special missions. Ochi of Bestoon is sent to kill the Emperor’s royal guards, sending a message that Palpatine isn’t safe. Deathstick is sent to capture a young girl named Cadeliah, whom Qi’ra thinks will one day hold significant influence. The Archivist is sent to find Jedi Master Yoda and enlist his help (she tracks him to Dagobah, and though she doesn’t see him, she realizes he saved her life on the planet and thus leaves him alone). The Knights of Ren are sent to infiltrate Vader’s castle and steal a key that will help unlock Qi’ra’s plans.
But as the Empire comes to realize the threat posed by Qi’ra and Crimson Dawn, Qi’ra sends her advisors into hiding and moves to the next phase of her plan. She sends the Archivist and the Knights of Ren to recover the artifact with the key from Vader’s castle, which Qi’ra believes to be the secret to their victory. With the artifact in their possession, Qi’ra tells her followers that it’s time to enact chaos, declaring that her hidden empire is here.
And that leads into the third installment of the trilogy, Hidden Empire, which will launch later this year.
This was a really good series, and I felt like one of its biggest strengths was how it managed to have a large connected storyline. In other words, each one of these five issues – as well as the complementary tie-ins happening in related comic lines – told different stories that were held together under the umbrella of Qi’ra’s plan. So, for example, even in this series we had an issue about Ochi and Deathstick (#2), an issue about the Archivist (#3), and an issue about the Knights of Ren (#4), telling different tales that are still connected. I feel like that gave the series overall a chance to spread further and that it was stronger because of it. Of course, that means that some of those stories will be stronger than others, but that’s what should be expected. The highlight of the series for me was the issue focusing on the Archivist, as it was one of the best, most insightful and thought-provoking, and most interesting Star Wars comics I’ve read in a while, period.
My main drawback with this series is that I felt like we really didn’t get many answers about what Qi’ra is up to. We saw little tidbits here and there, but we’re still in the dark about a lot of it. That makes sense when considering there’s another installment following after this one, but it nonetheless felt a bit odd to end the Crimson Reign series without many significant developments into the larger plan. To compare it to War of the Bounty Hunters, in that story it felt like the tie-in material was stalling a bit, while the story was advanced by the main mini-series. In Crimson Reign, it felt like the tie-ins had a bit more chance to breathe, but the main mini-series was stalling a bit in expanding the larger narrative. On an issue-by-issue basis this was great storytelling, but I was hoping for it to move the ball along a bit more in setting up Hidden Empire.
But that’s a pretty minor critique, especially since the next chapter is coming before long. We’ll find out everything we need to know about Qi’ra’s plan in due time – and, as we were reminded at the start of this series, it’s a tragedy.
I am thoroughly enjoying this storyline about Crimson Dawn and this period in-between Return of the Jedi, and I think Charles Soule is doing a fantastic job overall. Qi’ra is a great character and it’s cool to see her being such a major player in a story that feels majorly significant in filling in the gaps of this era.
If you are interested in reading more, check out my review of each issue in the Crimson Reign series!