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Ever since he took the reins with the seventh volume of this ongoing series, The Ashes of Jedha, GIllen has been building towards something – if the last panel of Mutiny at Mon Cala provided the answer to what, Hope Dies is an explosive climax of the writer’s five-volume run Gillen is in top form here, recalling his tour de force on the 2015 Darth Vader title, and even Larocca’s occasionally unnerving photorealistic character portrayals did not detract from . I kid, Larocca, your art is great.
Even if it terrifies me.
After the spectacular success the Rebels were met with across their mission on Mon Cala, their hidden base has been discovered by none other than Darth Vader. His retribution is swift – what this graphic novel is, is a string of losses for the Rebellion, each more painful than the preceeding one. Each punctuated by one desperate attempt after another for our heroes to free themselves of the trap Vader has woven over them. They do, of course–else we’d have some trouble excusing the existence of The Empire Strikes Back. But the losses suffered along the way, the callbacks to a certain fan-favourite slaughter-fest from Rogue One, and of course, Vader’s dry dad humour make of this comic everything I want from a Star Wars ongoing. I still can’t live down the sith lord’s non-chalant snapping of a man’s spine while congratulating him over the man’s perceived success. Of particular note is a chase scene in which Vader goes after the Millenium Falcon, a scene which shows not even Han can keep up with Vader’s prodigous piloting skills. This might be my favourite dogfight – I was so into it, I felt actual worry for Han, despite knowing full-well he’d get through with barely a scratch. Comes to mind – this might now be the reason the Millenium Falcon is so badly damaged in Empire, though It’ll take me another few volumes to find out for sure.
Driving a part of the conflict is the relationship between Leia and the rebel sympathiser-but-not Queen Trios of Shu-Torun. What I almost bought as a genuine friendship at one point has now turned to the most bitter of adversarial relations, and I cannot wait to see what becomes of Trios. She was a favourite character of mine in Vader’s first Marvel series, another one of those character inversions Gillen so likes to use (Trios is to Leia the same as Doctor Aphra is to Indiana Jones, as Triple-Zero and Beetee-1 are to C3P0 and R2-D2, as Black Krrsantan is to Chewie — character antitheses, one and all, excellent, screwy foils I love to read about). It’s great to see her willingness to sacrifice all for her homeworld of Sho-Torun squared off against Leia’s principled badassery. When they next come to blows, I don’t think Trios is going to much enjoy it…
Even Luke had a moment to shine, braving what no one else was willing to do in order to save as many Rebel lives as possible in the face of Imperial might. Naive baby-face Luke that he is, that moment showed the kind of willingness to sacrifice that is so disgustingly admirable in all heroics!
Despite my joking about it, Larocca’s art is excellent – action, explosions, plenty of awesome VADER panels – the most I’ve enjoyed the interior art of the Star Wars comic in some time, now. You’d be cutting off your arm with a lightsaber if you didn’t give this volume a shot!
I got Hope Dies from my local library – but if there’s one volume I’ll one day own from this thirteen-volume series, it might very well be this one!