Hope is at the very least on life support in Star Wars #50. Vader unleashes the might of the Empire on the Rebel fleet.
This article discusses plot details for Star Wars #50.
Star Wars #50
Writer: Kieron Gillen | Artist: Salvador Larroca | Colorist: Guru e-FX | Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles | Cover: Travis Chrest | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia
Leia and the Rebel Alliance worked hard. Through grit, determination, and hope, they kept the Rebellion moving forward. It was growing. At the conclusion of the “Mutiny on Mon Cala” story arc in issue 49, the Rebellion secured the aid of the Mon Cala fleet. After a refit, all was ready. The Rebellion stood able to challenge the Empire. Then Queen Trios showed her true colors and signaled Darth Vader that the Rebellion was present and assembled. Now, Star Wars #50 starts a new story aptly titled “Hope Dies.” If the Rebellion is to survive and challenge the Empire one day, they have to escape an elaborate trap in Kieron Gillen’s incredible story.
A Moment to Celebrate
Some of the tragedy of this issue originates in its opening pages. The Rebellion is celebrating. Their hard work has paid off. They have a fleet, and with that fleet, they are in position to pursue bigger victories against the Empire. As Leia and the Rebellion toast their success, Queen Trios praises Leia for making all this happen. Leia deflects her kind words. She isn’t solely responsible for the fleet and the Rebellion’s recent success. That is the type of leader Leia is. Credit is given to where credit is due. She points out that the ships came from Mon Cala. The weapons are furnished by Shu-Torun. The fighters come from a dozen different worlds, and there are pilots, engineers, and marines from hundreds of worlds. The Rebellion is a group effort.
While the Rebellion is busy christening their new fleet, Han has other business to attend to. Despite his recent successes with the Rebellion, he still has a bounty on his head. Working for the Rebels isn’t paying it off either. Therefore, he and Chewbacca borrow Threepio and head for the Ring of Kafrene. The notorious smuggler purchases some fresh transponder codes to resell to a prospective buyer when bounty hunters show up. Jabba hasn’t forgotten about the cargo Han dumped either. Some grudges die hard. This scene seems like a sidebar designed to explain where Han is while the Rebels celebrate their new fleet. However, it is likely that Han’s absence will be important in this story arc later. Regardless, Han and Chewbacca elude the bounty hunters, in a clever and humorous fashion, and make their escape with Threepio.
Launching the Fleet
While Han escapes from the bounty hunters, the fleet shows off a little bit. Luke and the other pilots fly in formation and execute complex maneuvers under the direction of General Dodonna. A point is made here that this fleet is a precision instrument, and the Rebellion still lacks the ability to fight a war of attrition with the Empre. Mon Mothma delivers an address to the assembled dignitaries; however, the Rebel fleet misses its cue to jump to hyperspace and disperse. Something is wrong. The Alliance leaders quickly deduce that the fleet has been sabotaged and that Trios is involved. She was conspicuous by her sudden absence from the party. The engines are out, the launch bays for the shuttles are sabotaged, and the ships weapons disabled. Then the Empire arrives.
To make matters worse, the Empire arrives. Vader delays bombardment so that fear can set it and the Rebels will understand. Once the moment is right, Vader orders the attack to commence. The Star Destroyers target General Willard’s ship, and it doesn’t take long before the cruiser explodes. Vader proves himself every bit the villain with his response. He notes that the terror he feels from the Rebellion is “most satisfactory.” Even more chilling is his next command. When asked for the next target, Vader replies, “Hope. Hope Dies.”
Writer: Kieron Gillen | Penciler: Giuseppe Camuncoli | Inker: Cam Smith | Colorist: Java Tartaglia | Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles | Assistant Editor: Tom Groneman | Editor: Mark Paniccia
A Spark of Inspiration
Star Wars #50 contains a bonus story. Set months before the current story, Darth Vader meets with Admiral Ozzel and General Veers at his palace on Mustafar. An obviously nervous Ozzel explains why his fleet has failed to defeat the Rebels. The Empires resources are depleted. The Rebels are scattered. He compares them to vermin. General Veers has a differing view. To him, the Rebels are weeds. Indeed, they are scattered and hard to find. In comparison, the Empire is a storm. When the storm rolls by, the weeds bend, but they rebound. If the Rebellion was a tree, things would be different. The rage of the storm uproots the tree and destroys it. Vader is inspired.
The conversation Gillen wrote here is perfect. Ozzel appears every bit as incompetent as he appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. He bumbles by inadvertently calling one of Vader’s strategies “ludicrous” and then immediately starts to backtrack. In comparison, General Veers is a model Imperial officer. He is collected. His observation is on point. His analogy of the Rebellion to weeds is exactly what Vader needed to hear. In fact, his explanation of the issue reminds Vader of a prior conversation he once observed and allows him to formulate a plan.
The Cost of Loyalty
The scene shifts to Shu-Torun. On this mining world, Queen Trios holds court and handles the business of government until Darth Vader arrives. His visit is a surprise. She immediately protests that she has done nothing wrong. In just a few panels, Gillen’s writing demonstrates just how terrifying Vader is. Of course, Camuncoli’s art contributes greatly to the overall effect.
If his presence was surprising, then Vader’s commands to Trios are shocking. He explains the plot of the previous twelve issues of the series. Everything Trios did from her time on Jedha until this issue was a ruse. She posed as a Rebel sympathizer. Or, did she? Her reaction in the core story of this issue suggests she wasn’t exactly happy with how this turned out. Perhaps she really began to feel a kinship with the Rebellion.
Whatever it is that she feels, one look at a gift Darth Vader once left for her and any doubts about pursuing this plan are quashed. The gift is a chunk of Alderaan that Darth Vader brought her when he installed Trios as the ruler of Shu-Torun. It is a stark reminder of what happens to those that defy the Empire. The Queen is more than ready to follow Vader’s plan to show the Rebellion how weak it is.
There is one last piece of business for Vader on Shu-Torun. The success of his plan depends upon secrecy. Unfortunately, many of the Queen’s advisors and guards are present. When one of the guards objects to Vader’s threatening posture, Trios wastes no time in shooting him herself. Then her adviser objects on the grounds that the guard’s family will be outraged. Then it hits her. Vader isn’t leaving anyone but her alive. She sits by as Vader slays everyone in the room but her. When it is done, Vader states that he trusts that all were expendable. In response, Trios replies that “as long as Shu-Torun lives, everyone is expendable.”
That last line says it all for Trios. She isn’t a loyal Imperial. She is a compliant Imperial. In fact, she does what is necessary to preserve her planet. If that means some guards and advisers may need to be sacrificed, then so be it. She and Leia are two sides of the same coin, except Trios chose compliance and subservience when Leia chose Rebellion.
Concluding Thoughts on Star Wars #50
Darth Vader #50 is a masterpiece from Kieron Gillen. This is some of his best writing in Star Wars yet. Vader’s plan was brilliant. His demeanor was menacing and chilling. Plus, even though the reader had to guess that Vader put the pressure on Queen Trios to infiltrate the Rebellion and betray it, the backstory as to how it was done was genius. In addition, Trios is complicated. She is clearly devoted to Shu-Torun. She’ll sacrifice anything to save it. In the “Shu-Torun Lives” story, the price was her advisers and guards. In “Hope Dies, Part I,” the price was the Rebellion. That was likely harder than she let on. She found a kindred spirit in Leia. Over the past few issues, a friendship evolved. At the conclusion of “Hope Dies, Part I,” she is making her escape, and she seemingly laments that she brought the Rebellion to this.
Salvador Larroca’s art in Star Wars #50 is also exquisite. Take the final panel of “Hope Dies,” Vader stares out the view port of his Star Destroyer at the exploding cruiser. He sees his reflection as he utters “Hope dies.” Much is made of Larroca’s use of photo referencing. While that is apparent in this issue to a degree, it is not nearly as stark as it has been in the past. Luke, Leia, and Han blend in with the other characters much more smoothly than usual.
The Empire set a trap for the Rebellion in Star Wars #50. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. Although the Rebellion is in a better position to fight now, they still have a long way to go to challenge the might of the Empire. How the Rebellion escapes this trap should be a great story.
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.