Eli Vanto and the Empire find a cunning warrior on a remote world. Little did they know about the genius they encountered in Thrawn #1.
This review includes discussion of plot points of Thrawn #1.
Writer: Jody Houser | Artist: Luke Ross | Colorist: Nolan Woodard | Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles | Cover Artist: Paul Renaud | Production Design: Anthony Gambino | Editor: Heather Antos | Supervising Editor: Jordan D. White | Based on the novel by Timothy Zahn
Thrawn is a character familiar to many, if not most, Star Wars fans. He first appeared in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy in the 1990s, and was a significant factor in the rise of the old Star Wars expanded universe (or, “EU” as it came to be known). The blue-skinned Chiss rallied the remains of the Empire and took the fight to Luke, Han, Leia, and the fledging New Republic of the EU. After consignment to the shelf of Legends material with the rest of the EU prior to the debut of The Force Awakens, Dave Filoni and the creative team behind Rebels resurrected Thrawn for the third season of the television series. Following that, Timothy Zahn returned to the Star Wars galaxy with a new tie-in novel simply titled Thrawn that rebooted or relaunched the character. Now, Marvel offers an adaptation of the novel which begins with Thrawn #1.
Summary of Thrawn #1
On an unnamed planet in wild space, Imperial officers discover a remote outpost. The Empire’s Imperial Protocols require an investigation. However, whomever occupies the outpost begins sabotaging and hunting the Imperial soldiers and officers. Eventually, Captain Parck pulls his team off the planet. However, their saboteur stows away on their shuttle and is caught by the Empire when he emerges from his hiding spot on the Star Destroyer. He reveals himself to be none other than Thrawn and that he was exiled by the Chiss. Despite his exile, he believes his people need him and requests an audience with the Emperor. Impressed by Thrawn, the Emperor puts the Chiss on the fast track at the academy and assigns Cadet Eli Vanto as an aide. Despite the resentment of other cadets, Thrawn displays a tactical cunning unseen from cadets and quickly graduates with a slightly advanced rank. As the issue concludes, Thrawn is assigned his first post aboard the Gozanti-class cruiser Blood Crow. Vanto is assigned to be his aide despite his preference for a position as a supply officer.
Enhancing the Star Wars Element
Zahn’s novel was a fine story. However, for some, it didn’t need to be a Star Wars story. It lacked many of the elements that have come to define Star Wars: Rebels, lightsabers, bounty hunters, super weapons, etc. Granted, it did have stormtroopers, clones, the Emperor, and a brief appearance by Darth Vader. Regardless, most of the story could have been told in the setting of some other galaxy, and it would have worked.
Jody Houser, who previously adapted Rogue One for Marvel, and Luke Ross set about changing that. For the well initiated, Star Wars has acquired a shorthand. Ships, such as an X-wing or a TIE Fighter, don’t need to be described. They can simply be referred to by name. Most readers were in the audience for the films, and merely mentioning an X-wing, an AT-AT, or the Millennium Falcon is sufficient to bring the object to mind. However, things become a bit trickier in the era between the prequel and original trilogy. How many people know what a “Gozanti-class cruiser” is? Or, how many people can automatically fill in the details of a building so that has an appropriate Star Wars appreance in the mind’s eye?
This, among other things, is where this adaptation shines. The clones are there. The aforementioned Gozanti-class cruiser appears in the final pages. The Emperor, wrinkles and all, and, for a moment, Darth Vader appear on the page. Cadets and other Imperial officers parade through the issue in their Imperial uniforms. Suddenly, this Thrawn is much less a Star Wars story in the abstract and much more a Star Wars story in the visual.
The Cunning of Thrawn
Perhaps Thrawn’s greatest asset is his analytical mind and cunning nature. In some ways, Thrawn is quite a bit like Sherlock Holmes. He is socially awkward, but brilliant in assembling his deductions from clues and nuance. The novel takes its time showcasing Thrawn’s mindset as he observes and analyzes his allies and opponents. In contrast, the comic adaptation provides a quicker payoff. For instance, Thrawn enrolls in the Impeiral academy and is immediately awarded the rank of Lieutenant. Vanto spends several panels explaining how Thrawn’s rank insignia isn’t actually a favor, but in fact a potential trap. Within a few pages, Thrawn manages to turn the trap on fellow cadets plotting against him. Not that it was a difficult analysis to follow in the novel, but it is cleaner in the comic.
However, the opposite happens as well. In the early pages of the novel, the exiled version of Thrawn is laying traps for the Empire on the unnamed planet in wild space. He is seen stuffing the uniform of a captured pilot. The fate of that pilot or what he did with the uniform is unclear. Later, a clone trooper sees something in a tree, presumably Thrawn based on the shadow in the previous panel, and there is a reaction scream. Again, the reader is left to assume a lot of things. The novel, with additional space for exposition, does not have this issue.
Regardless, Houser did a fantastic job adapting Thrawn for a comic. Luke Ross’s art is well suited for this story as well.
Concluding Thoughts on Thrawn #1
Thrawn #1 shines in so many areas. Foremost, it is an excellent adaptation of the novel thusfar that compliments an engaging story with genuine Star Wars imagery. Second, this adaptation highlights Thrawn’s analytical skills in a succinct fashion that is fairly easy to follow. In addition, it adequately focuses on Cadet Vanto as well. Although his a more minor character in this story so far, his point of view and insight are more crucial as the story progresses. Notably absent from the story so far is Arihnda Pryce. The future governor of Lothal is featured prominently in Thrawn the novel. With five issues to go, she can still surface in this adaptation. Her role is key to Thrawn’s integration into the Empire. This adaptation is off to a good start and it has a world of potential.
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.