Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #2 demonstrates why Han’s better nature prevents him from being the ideal Imperial Navy cadet.
This article contains plot points for Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #2.
Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #2
Writer: Robbie Thompson | Artist: Leonard Kirk | Colorist: Arif Prianto | Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna | Cover Artist: David Nahayama | Production Designer: Anthony Gambino | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia
Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #2 continues the tale of Han’s life as a cadet in the Imperial navy. In Imperial Cadet #1, readers learned exactly what Han meant on Mimban in Solo: A Star Wars Story when he said he was busted down to the infantry for having a mind of his own. Imperial Cadet #2 expands on that tale as Han handles the consequences of stealing a TIE fighter. Han’s natural flying ability buys him a temporary reprieve, but his moral compass conflicts with Imperial protocol. Imperial Cadet #2 explores a little more of Han’s past as readers learn how he became disenfranchised with the Empire.
Imperial Cadet #2 begins with Han in an Imperial holding cell. The narrator, Yurib (the commandant of the academy), explains that Solo faces termination for stealing the TIE fighter. However, Solo is also the most gifted pilot that Yurib ever encountered at the academy. Even worse, Han remins Yurib of himself. Therefore, he commutes Han’s sentence and provides him with another chance.
Before granting Solo leniency, Yurib demands to know where Solo learned to fly. Han flashes back to his time on the streets of Corellia. There are three experiences he reflects on. The first features Han and Qi’ra on a speeder bike, which Han presumably stole. Han executes a risky jump over Qi’ra’s objections. Next, Han is seen in escaping from a Sabacc game gone bad by piggybacking on the back of a man with a jetpack. The third experience is Han flying some sort of Corellian freighter with Qi’ra under the watchful eye of Moloch.
These experiences are likely meant as examples. None are spectacular. The three taken collectively don’t equal the “years of intense training” Yurib expects Han to have endured. They just don’t. In response to Yurib’s demand for an explanation, Han simply replies that it “just comes naturally.” It is the best answer he can give. His life on the streets of Corellia is unlikely to win him any favors with the Empire. These scenes also have the additional benefit of providing Han with another glimpse of Han’s life with Qi’ra. The Solo adaptation, unfortunately, hasn’t yet had the opportunity to expand on that much.
Life in the Academy
Han spent two weeks in the brig. When he gets out, he finds himself at the bottom of the academy’s leaderboard. Although it is unclear, and unimportant, how the academy keeps scores for the recruits, cadet 803-308 has the highest score and is atop the leaderboard. 803-308, his real name remains a mystery, tormented Han in the last issue when Han’s insubordination cost Han and his recruits additional hardships. Only three of Han’s fellow recruits, Hanina and the Dree twins (Lyttan and Tamu) to come to his aid then.
Life returns to the status quo outside of the brig. 803-308 immediately insults Han by noting that he belongs at the bottom of the leaderboard and reminds him he is just a scrumrat. This time, however, Han’s experience as a scrumrat is useful. When 803-308 moves to take on the twins, Han resorts to dirty fighting. Han vows to move up the leaderboard, and he quickly does.
What follows is a vignette in which Han continues life at the academy, but he isn’t engaged in any flying. When he finally gets his chance, he out flies everyone.
Lack of Discipline
Yurib describes Han’s flaw as “lack of discipline.” That might be accurate. However, it isn’t what gets Han in trouble again. On a tandem training exercise, Han sacrifices his own TIE fighter in order to save Tamu. The Empire conducts this exercise with live fire. One cadet, Jarwen, dies when his TIE takes a direct shot. Tamu suffers nearly the same fate until Han finds a way to complete the mission and save Tamu with an assist from Hanina.
Robbie Thompson’s writing makes clear how brutal the Imperial academy is. First, the brass repeatedly reminds the cadets they are Imperial property. In fact, they “belong to the Empire.” The mission is more important than their lives. Pilots are disposable. The Empire considers the TIE fighter more valuable. Therefore, Han’s bravery and heroism go unappreciated. The Empire establishes a perverse system of motivation. Cadets earn points by adhering to Imperial discipline even at the cost of the lives of their fellow cadets. After Han’s heroics, the issue concludes with everyone involved in the training mission sitting in the brig.
Concluding Thoughts on Han Solo: Imperial Cadet #2
The conclusion of Imperial Cadet #2 provides the issue with symmetry. It began with Han in the brig and ends with Han and his companions in the brig. Imperial Cadet #1 had the same kind of symmetry with Han uttering, “I can explain,” although under different circumstances.
Yurib’s comment that a lack of discipline holds Han back is interesting. It might be more accurate that Han’s lack of imperial discipline holds him back at the academy. Han has a kind of discipline. He is true to himself. He can’t abandon a teammate. When Tamu gets into trouble, Han sacrifices nearly everything to save him. This action echoes his decision to fly to Luke’s aid during the trench run during the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope. Also, on might argue that Han exhibits a discipline to get through the Imperial academy. It is his only way back to Qi’ra, or so he thinks.
Imperial Cadet #2 begins to make clear exactly why Han was never going to make it in the Empire. Perhaps it was his life with the White Worms, but he isn’t one for rules. Considering how harsh the Imperial program is, he was never going to fit in. It simply isn’t his style. The biggest question for this series now is how he kept his fellow cadets from killing him.
Dennis Keithly is a graduate of the University of Missouri, North Texas attorney, husband, father of two, and co-host of Starships, Sabers, and Scoundrels. In addition to Star Wars, Dennis is a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and super heroes in general. When not engaged in fictional universes, Dennis is reading a good book or watching the NHL, football, or studying the NFL draft.