WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel Comics’ Star Wars: Poe Dameron #27, by Charles Soule and Angel Unzueta, on sale now.
The demise of Han Solo at the hands of his son Kylo Ren really divided the Star Wars fanbase in The Force Awakens. But eventually, with the baton passed from director J.J Abrams to Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi, wounds healed and (many) fans came to accept the rogue pilot's cruel fate as a sign of change.
They finally understood George Lucas' beloved legacy characters weren't meant to last, that their deaths were inevitable -- deaths carefully crafted to leave gaping holes in our hearts, of course. In Han's case, he also left a hole in the shape of an available seat in the cockpit of the iconic Millennium Falcon.
In The Last Jedi, audiences saw Chewbacca take over duties as the lead pilot, and now, courtesy of Marvel Comics' Poe Dameron #27, we know who'll be his co-pilot in the space adventures to come in a galaxy far, far away -- none other than franchise veteran, Nein Nunb.
The issue opens up on Leia in the co-pilot's seat, hallucinating Han asking her, "Whatcha thinkin', Princess." However, she's quickly snapped out this moment by a highly-concerned Chewie, recognizing his friend in her grief. It's a tender moment from Soule because we didn't get much of Han's family and friends mourning him in The Last Jedi, with similar endearing scenes surprisingly kept for Marvel's comics rather than cinematic reveals.
Nonetheless, as Leia comes to her senses, her heart heavy and her head weary, as this conversation occurs right after she escaped the First Order on Crait, jumping into hyperspace alongside fellow rebels like Finn, Rey and Poe to seek refuge. As she and Chewie console each other, in the wake of Luke Skywalker's death as well, Nien unwittingly interrupts their bonding session.
He quickly tries to excuse himself, but Leia makes it clear the chair is all his, telling him, "You have as much right to the co-pilot's seat on the Falcon as anyone." She takes her leave and he cautiously sits down, shooting Chewie a glance. The Wookie then basically gives him the seal of approval, confirming his promotion with a lighthearted moment: an epic fist-bump.
There's a lot of symbolism to Nien's appointment here for a couple reasons. Firstly, when Han was on Endor trying to bring down the shields of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi, the Falcon was being piloted in outer space by Lando, with Nien as his second-in-command. As the Falcon was formerly Lando's, it was only fitting he steered it in Han's absence, and as for Nien, well, he was a loyalist of Leia, and was trusted to take the first-mate's chair with Chewie off fighting alongside Han on Endor. All of this led to Leia growing even more fond of Nien, a former smuggler from Sullust, who risked it all to protect Leia's people, citizens of Alderaan, in the past.
Secondly, apart from having Leia's trust, he's simply the most capable person for the job, being an experienced war veteran. In The Force Awakens, he joined Poe and the Black Squadron in piloting X-Wings to Maz Kanata's castle to save Rey, Finn and BB-8. Then, in The Last Jedi, he was aboard Leia's flagship, the Raddus, as one of her chief advisers and military strategists.
After Kylo Ren forced them to Crait -- where Luke sacrificed himself to buy time for the Rebel Alliance -- Nien was one of the Resistance survivors who then accompanied Leia on the Falcon, which all acts as precursor to opening events of this current issue.
These Poe Dameron comics will continue to fill us in on the aftermath of The Last Jedi, so clearly Nien's journey has only just begun alongside everyone's favorite Wookiee. They both have big shoes to fill, and with the First Order in hot pursuit, Nien's expertise will surely be put to the test again, very soon.
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