SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Star Wars #53, by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Guru-eFX and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
One of the big things avid Star Wars fans noticed at the start of 1980's The Empire Strikes Back was the dilapidated state of Han Solo's Millennium Falcon. At the end of A New Hope three years earlier, it was in perfectly great condition, helping Luke Skywalker and the Resistance X-Wings destroy the Death Star.
This left audiences wondering what happened between the movies to leave the Falcon so banged up and in poor working order. Well, Star Wars #53 finally fills in this particular plot hole, finally revealing why the galaxy's fastest spaceship was in such torrid condition.
The beginning of Empire found the Rebel Alliance on the ice planet, Hoth, trying to escape an incoming attack from Darth Vader's forces. However, the Falcon's hyperdrive wasn't working; in fact, the ship was basically a hot mess, an odd detail given it was in stellar condition in the previous film. No explanation was given as we witnessed Han and Chewbacca struggling to get it up to par, and we simply accepted it as plot convenience in order to add extra drama by leaving our heroes at the mercy of the Empire's fleet.
This issue, though, shows that the Falcon was damaged badly due to the assault on the Rebel Alliance at Mako-Ta. Here, thanks to the betrayal of Queen Trios, the rebels have been sold out and trapped by Vader's blockade, including the Death Squadron we'd also come to see in Empire. However, the Falcon arrived to save the day, freeing Luke and his fellow X-Wing pilots (now christened as the Rogue Squadron), allowing the Resistance to push back. After besting Vader in a thrilling one-on-one, despite what he thinks, Han isn't out of the Sith Lord's crosshairs just yet.
We now see Luke's X-Wings freeing more rebels and attacking Vader's cruisers, while Leia and Co. devise plans for a new escape route. It's less about offense and really focusing on retreat, as the numbers game isn't in their favour. Sadly, while all this is occurring Vader returns for a second round with Han (who's trying to take the heat to allow Luke's squad to free up more fighters) and ambushes him from the back.
He doesn't quite lock in, but is able to blast the Falcon out of its flight path, forcing Han to crash it into an Empire cruiser. It's no ordinary crash though, because as Han indicates, the Falcon hasn't taken this much of a beating since the Kessel Run we saw in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
They're grounded, and the ship is severely damaged, making Han seek out a new ship to go back out and help Luke. Luckily for him, Vader doesn't pursue as he senses Leia trying to infiltrate his own ship, the Executor, and heads over there. It remains to be seen how they pull the Falcon out of this mess but this current arc, aptly titled "Hope Dies," is intriguing because it adds so much depth to the dogfight fans wanted to see for decades: Han versus Vader, which is now split at one apiece.
Little did we know that Vader, driven by ego and revenge, was the one who would end up leaving the Falcon battered and bruised for the sequel, but it certainly affirms why Han stuck around. We assumed it was for Leia, and that's still true, but the chance to take some level of revenge on Emperor Palpatine and Vader added a little fuel to that fire.
In short, what was purely business became a personal affair when Vader decided to leave his sinister mark on Han's Falcon. What's also telling is this issue's cover shows Han decked out like an X-Wing pilot, which leaves us wondering if he'll join Luke's crew to foil Vader's plans. These comics are all about fan-service and secrets we never knew existed in the Star Wars filmverse, after all.