Star Wars: Empire Ascendant #1

DESTINED FOR HOTH! Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa and smuggler Han Solo have have struck blow after winning blow against the Empire. The Rebels are digging in their defenses on the remote ice world of Hoth but how long will they truly be safe from their many enemies?

Darth Vader will stop at nothing to crush the rebels but his efforts to locate their new base have been in vain. Will the dark side of the Force guide him to the missing rebels and to young Skywalker or mire the dark lord in the conflicts of his past?

Despite a life riddled with treachery and destruction, Doctor Aphra has found a family (of sorts). Former Imperial inspector Magna Tolvan and Aphra’s young ward Vulaada will have to face the struggles of a life of rebellion…while Aphra reckons with her legacy.

Former Imperial loyalist turned cyborg bounty hunter BEILERT VALANCE is taking on a dangerous new mission. And the lives of the entire Rebellion—including his old buddy HAN SOLO’s—are at stake should he fail!

Writers: Charles Soule, Greg Pak, Ethan Sacks, Simon Spurrier
Artists: Luke Ross, Roland Boschi, Paolo Villanelli, Caspar Wijngaard
Letterers: Clayton Cowles, Travis Lanham
Colorists: Guru-eFX, Rachelle Rosenberg, Arif Prianto, Lee Loughridge
Cover artist: Riccardo Federici
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publication date: December 18, 2019
Pages: 48
UPC: 759606095018

Whilst this comic book is described as a one-shot, it is in fact a collection of four short stories that brings closure to the 75 issue run of Marvel’s 2015-2019 Star Wars reboot. If issue 75 was the end, then this is the end…of the end. Or maybe the beginning of a new beginning?

So let’s take a look at the quartet of tales set out in this 56-page special – starting with an adventure on a rather familiar ice planet…

Star Wars: An Echo of Victory is a prequel to The Empire Strikes Back, written by Charles Soule and beautifully illustrated by Luke Ross. Echo Base is under construction, and the action focuses on two of the rebels who have been tasked with melting ice to create its network of tunnels. Shara and Kes are at the controls of a mobile laser cannon, repurposed from an A-Wing, to slowly but surely create the maze that we became familiar with at the Hoth rebel base.

Unfortunately, the technological tool proves to be a primitive method for creating architecture and it’s not too long before the inevitable collapse of the tunnel ceiling, isolates both of them from their fellow rebellion cohorts. As Shara and Kes come to terms with their impending doom, attention turns to recording s message for their infant son. Just as they make the finishing touches their fate looks to improve with the unexpected appearance of some familiar faces…

In the second story we are reunited with the Star Wars saga’s most tragic character – Darth Vader. Written by Greg Pak and inked by Roland Boschi, Darth Vader: In Service of the Empire commences in the thick of action on Mimban, most likely the same battle featured in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Focusing briefly on imperial Sergeant Cordo and his mission on the mud-ball of a planet, the story zooms on by 13 years – where Cordo seems to have retained his rank in the Empire, rather than progress further. Perhaps his bitterness is born of this failure? Regardless, his chastisement of Deathtroopers during a mission to destroy a rebel ion cannon ends badly for him and is apparently endorsed by Vader himself…

If you are of a certain age, when the 1978 run of Marvel Comics’ interpretation of Star Wars ended, the saga continued with new heroes and villains joining the fray, including the first great bounty hunter – Valance. Morally ambiguous, and somewhat distinctive with his glowing red eye, it’s little surprise that this fan favourite made a successful return and has stories ready to play out throughout 2020. However, in this short tale – Bounty Hunters: Two Sides to Every Sortie – Valance the cyborg exchanges words with one of our favourite rebels, whilst seemingly protecting a naïve young soldier who may not be all that he seems.

Look out for a cameo or two from some of our minor heroes. A great set up to The Hunter’s forthcoming tales. Writer Ethan Sacks is joined by artist Paolo Villanelli…

Doctor Aphra and her droid sidekicks have been a revelation in the last few years. The archaeologist spawned a string of adventures and action figures too. Artist Caspar Wijngaard and writer Simon Spurrier helm Doctor Aphra: Epilogue. Whilst emotionally charged, this story adds little to the narrative delivered at the end of Aphra’s run. Interestingly, it holds a mirror to that final story – exploring if the archaeologist’s final message reached its intended targets…

But, as with the other three stories is this the end? It appears not.

The stage has been set and new adventures beckon for Vader, Valance, Aphra and our friends on Hoth and as the Skywalker saga draws to a close with Episode Nine, fans can rejoice knowing that Star Wars is dead.

Long live Star Wars.

Star Wars Empire Ascendant #1
  • 05/14/2021 (Publication Date) - MARVEL COMICS (Publisher)
SOURCEMarvel Comics
Paul Naylor
Paul Naylor has been a fan of Star Wars since first seeing it on a cold February evening in Wellington, Shropshire back in 1978. Paul is a former journalist, having worked for the Shropshire Star and Express & Star newspapers for 25 years, leaving the industry at the beginning of 2017 and launching design agency Media & You. Paul is the co-host of the Start Your Engines podcast and is a Features Editor on Fantha Tracks, reporting from events and conventions across the UK and the US.