Published: January 2, 2019
Rating: Rated T
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Penciler: Leonard Kirk
Cover Artist: David Nakayama
CASINO ROYALE! HAN SOLO gets demoted for insubordination – dragging his fellow cadets down with him. They go from flying TIE fighters to flying a giant cargo ship. Han’s expert flying cuts their cargo ship’s flight time in half, allowing them to stop at a casino for some hard-earned R&R. But Han’s fellow cadets quickly learn this little “vacation” was NOT authorized by the Empire and, thanks to Han, they’re all considered AWOL!
The story opens in the aftermath of issue two, with the pilots preparing food in the kitchens. Kanina is not at all happy with Han. When the cadets have gone to their bunks for the night, we see Han doing a mountain of chores before hitting the sack himself. In the morning, Yurib announces to the pilots that it was Valance who did the chores and so he can start flying his TIE again. He then tells the others that they will be flying, but not a fighter.
Kanina, Lyttan, Tamu and Han will be flying Valance and the other TIE pilots in a cargo ship, dropping them off. Kanina immediately takes charge, sending Han to engineering. After the TIEs have been dropped off towards a nearby star destroyer, the cadets find that they have made very good time in their ship, so much so, that they should find themselves a day early at the academy. Emerging from engineering, Han explains that he played with the engines and as luck would hold, he’s found some day passes for them. After some persuasion, Kanina agrees to them visiting a nearby pleasure cruiser.
On the cruiser, Kanina notices Han handing some credits off to one of the guards, before dashing forwards to play cards and enjoy himself. While he and Kanina are playing, Kanina says to Han that she knows that during the night, Han had grabbed the regulator for the engines, the passes for the day and clothing for them. What she wanted to know was why? Not willing to answer, Kanina guesses it has something to do with the girl back home.
Alone, Han approaches an ithorian he knew from his days back on Corellia and asks him about Qi’ra. The ithorian confirms that she is still alive. Once this is confirmed, the ithorian pulls a gun on Han, stating that there is a reward for Han. Before he is shot, Kanina distracts the ithorian, allowing Han to run. Before Han can get into too much danger, the ithorian is arrested by the guard that Han spoke to when he arrived, thanking him for the tip (that the ithorian was stealing from Black Sun, who just happen to own the cruiser).
Back at the academy, Kanina says nothing to her superiors. Intrigued, Han wants to know why. Not giving much away, Kanina explains to Han that he isn’t the only one with someone back home. The issue ends with the cadets been told that they will back flying, but this time in real combat…
I can’t say that I wasn’t worried about this issue. The first issue was, well, quite simply a disaster for me. However, issue two saw Thompson turn the whole thing around and give something great to fans. Where would this issue go? Was issue two just a fluke? Thankfully, it wasn’t. Issue three expands on the foundations of issue two and continues its excellence.
The one thing about this series I have always liked is the introduction by Imperial Command. Immediately you get the sense the the Empire is more bothered about its ships rather than the pilots. It helps to create the right atmosphere for these comics that this is a place we shouldn’t like, that it’s a place that isn’t right for Han, no matter how good a pilot he is.
I said this last issue and I will say it again, Han shines through. There is a lot going on and yet the character of Han is always at the forefront. We get to see Han’s engineering skills and how he is able to tinker with ships. But most importantly, we get to see that he is still always thinking about Qi’ra. It would be so easy for Thompson to not mention her, and I can’t say that I’d blame him if he didn’t. Yet every action Han makes is with a single minded goal of getting her back. It makes the scene in Solo when he gets to see her again so much more poignant. I like that Han has some knowledge of the underworld and uses it to help him find someone who can tell him about Qi’ra but also uses that information as a failsafe when things head south. It really shows the start of the Han we get to see in A New Hope.
There are also some little touches that made reading the issue even more enjoyable. The cargo ship that the cadets fly is the same model as the one seen in Star Wars Rebels. I really liked this little Easter egg. The other one, and I’ll be honest, it was lost on me, is the revealing of the mystery pilot as Valance. Now I’m sure for people who read the original Marvel series, this is perhaps quite a reveal, for me, the original series was slightly before my time so this didn’t have the impact I imagine Thompson was going for.
This series has really found its footing and is providing everything I hoped it would. This is the Han we have always wanted to know more about as well as filling in that crucial missing time in Solo. Han feels like Han, he feels like the Solo Han, he feels like A New Hope Han, he’s just right. Everything that we’re seeing of him has clearly been well thought about, using the films as the ultimate guide. The other characters, while there, are always kept in the background, allowing Han to shine. And at the end of the day, why not? It is Han that we have come to read about, not some obscure character that we’ll never see again. It has been done in other series and I’m so glad that Thompson hasn’t fallen into this style. After my trepidation for the arrival of this issue, I don’t think I’ll be worried for issue four, it can’t come fast enough.
Han Solo – Imperial Cadet is a series available from Marvel. This issue is available via the Marvel App and all good comic book stores. This issue retails at $3.99.