WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Star Wars #48, by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larocca, Guru-eFX and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Marvel’s Star Wars comics have done an impressive job thus far in providing fans with content filling the gap in between chapters of George Lucas’ original trilogy. Right now, the story’s set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, focusing on Princess Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, as they try to fortify the Rebel Alliance.
Thanks to the victory on Jedha in Rogue One and the subsequent destruction of the first Death Star, the Empire is hot on their heels, as they try to find a new base. This leads the trio to Mon Cala, an oceanic planet which has always been a rebel sympathizer, but their not-so-diplomatic efforts in Star Wars #48 results in the death of one of Alliance’s biggest supporters, and a character whose loyalty has rippled through from The Clone Wars right down to Star Wars Rebels — King Lee-Char.
They were searching for Lee-Char, who was imprisoned by the Empire so Palpatine’s cronies could subjugate Mon Cala for past transgressions. In The Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala and Ahsoka Tano helped Lee-Char rightfully gain this crown from insurgents after his father’s demise, and come Star Wars Rebels, Mon Cala was a secret ally which eventually became a hidden cornerstone in the galactic fight against oppression; something fans are currently reading in Charles Soule’s Darth Vader comics.
However, in this title, there’s a big time-jump focusing on the search for Lee-Char in order to rally Mon Cala’s support. Sadly, the last issue ended with them finding Lee-Char in the underwater prison, Strokill Prime, in a coma-like state, hooked up to machines seemingly keeping him alive.
Issue #48 opens with Leia instructing Luke and Han to help her record a message from the king, who reveals he’s near death. They record the message off-panel, but are intercepted by Stormtroopers who have now become aware of the security breach.
It turns out, their distraction — which featured a shape-shifter posing as Mon Cala’s Moff Tan Hubi to hold the Stormtroopers’ attention — was exposed, and the guards quickly realize the rebels are trying to free the king. They storm the sick bay, guns blazing, firing at will against the rebels, and much to Leia’s dismay, Lee-Char gets killed in the crossfire. Our heroes barely escape but even though they’re distraught, they believe Lee-Char’s last will and testament will get Mon Cala to step out the shadows and help them wage war in due time.
However, they’re intercepted by the power-hungry Grand Admiral Urtya, who was governing Mon Cala in Lee-Char’s absence. His guards train their guns on Leia’s team and seize the recording. Leia’s unit leave thinking they’ve lost, only to find out Urtya did broadcast the king’s message to his people.
As expected, the king tells his people to rise up and drive the Empire out, which they instantly begin doing, enraged the Empire was keeping him prisoner in such a sordid state. Urtya never planned to discard the recording, but he simply wanted the glory for himself, pretending to be the person who tried to liberate the king, all to get fame and win over his people.
But as Leia points out, Urtya is acting impulsively, with “no preparation, no support.” They are taken aback as to why he’d do this without proper backup, and almost immediately, as Leia, Luke and Han realize Urtya has doomed the Mon Calamarians, an Imperial Fleet arrives in Mon Cala’s orbit.
It’s fully equipped with a Star Destroyer, intent on exacting revenge. With Lee-Char dead, Mon Cala has lost a fierce leader, as has the galaxy, and it’s something Leia knows is a huge blow to their mission. As the hostile Empire moves in to quell the dissent, it seems the rebels can now cross this planet off its list as a potential home, as we’re not sure what will remain of it after the Empire inflicts punishment.
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