Han shot first. And for a legion of wide eyed converts who gazed in wonder at, and immersed themselves in, that galaxy far, far away, when he fried poor, monologuing Greedo, it told us everything we needed to know about the cocky, self-assured and slightly arrogant captain of the Millennium Falcon. A roguish rapscallion who, more by good luck than good management, and living by the seat of his pants had managed to avoid being blasted into atoms by the Empire and the less then well intentioned attentions of his numerous creditors, Han Solo was a man with far more past behind him than future ahead of him. Everyone who watched him unbuckle his holster and fire from hip to silence his interminable persecutor knew that to be true the moment he pulled the trigger. We just didn’t know what that past was until Brian Daley first brought it into focus with his Han Solo novels and then later Disney, Lucasfilm and Ron Howard decided to explore the formative years of the scruffy looking nerf herder in Solo.
Set between his fleeing Corellia and his desertion from the rank and file of the Imperial Army, Imperial Cadet follows Han’s initial foray into the military life, and as anyone familiar with the character will testify, it’s a career move destined for failure. While he’s a natural behind the controls of a TIE fight and was undisputedly born to fly, Han Solo and discipline are one of the greatest oxymoron’s in galactic history. With only one thought on his mind, getting back to Qi’ra, Han’s short, turbulent ride through the academy sees him make, and lose, friends and foes and time and time again fall victim to his very worst enemy, himself. The thing with Solo though, is no matter how hard he tries to ignore it, his true nature always sneaks up on him in the end, and without fail he always does the right thing, which usually ends up costing him dearly. And Imperial Cadet is no exception to the rule of Han, as when he lets his heart guide his head, as he’s want to do, it ends up knocking him on his backside and nearly costing him everything.
I’m willing to bet a round of Blue Milk, that Robbie Thompson is a Star Wars kid and that he grew up playing with a Millennium Falcon and imaging the countless adventures that its captain and co-pilot had while dreaming of being Han Solo. Thompson knows Solo, he knows his character inside out and every line of dialogue and crazy action sequence, and every relationship that Solo forges and mistake that he makes, in Imperial Cadet feels exactly like something that the guy who shot first in that Cantina in Mos Eisley would do. He knows Solo and he pours his heart and soul into the character and brings those adventures he almost certainly first envisioned as a child to vivid, glorious life for his peers and everyone else who has ever felt like losing themselves somewhere between Tatooine and Hoth. And the fact that Leonard Kirk captures the young Solo’s likeness perfectly in every panel and on every page, adds a little coaxium to Imperial Cadet’s hyper-drive and pushes it above and beyond your wildest expectations. Oh, and if all of that wasn’t enough to make you part with your hard earned credits, the good folks at Marvel have only gone and included the first issue of Gerry Duggan’s rather wonderful Beckett as an added, and very welcome bonus, proving that the Rule of Two doesn’t just apply to Sith. Punch it… Tim Cundle