SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Star Wars #52, by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Guru-eFX and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Marvel Comics' recent Star Wars arc has been all about the Empire getting back at the rebels following the events of A New Hope. With Darth Vader smartly infiltrating the Rebel Alliance using spies of his own, Palpatine's forces have finally cornered Princess Leia and the resistance at Mako-Ta.
There's no chance of escape following the betrayal of Queen Trios, selling out to win Vader's favor, as well as the arrival of the Death Squadron, Vader's personal fleet which is now meant to replace the Death Star as a galactic enforcer. However, just when it seemed hope was lost, Han Solo and Chewbacca entered the fray to help save the day.
This led to a space dogfight between the Millennium Falcon and Vader, who jumped into his Tie Fighter to deal with the insurgency. And as expected, it's certainly the showdown Star Wars fans everywhere wanted to see, finally confirming who the best pilot in the galaxy really is.
Star Wars #52 is one of the series' most high-octane issues, focusing on Han and Chewie outrunning Vader. While this occurs, the Empire's Death Squadron is picking off rebel cruisers, leaving Leia's battalion as sitting ducks, just waiting their turn in the firing line.
But Han quickly realizes that Luke Skywalker and the X-Wings aren't as grounded as they think they are. The pilots believe the hangar doors won't open after Trios basically hacked their systems, but all they have to do is fly towards them and the X-Wings' transponders will emit a signal causing the doors to open. It's just about getting that message out, which is impossible because radio communications are being blocked by Vader's army.
Han and Chewie quickly decide to improvise, coming up with a plan to outwit Vader. Sadly, they're taking a lot of fire as he begins to toy with them. An opening presents itself, though, when one of the cruisers explodes, giving the Falcon a much needed shield.
It quickly flies through the explosion, dodging debris and using it as a blockade, one which Vader, as good as he is, simply can't get past. The Sith Lord pulls up and abandons the chase, while the Falcon, much like when it made the Kessel Run in Solo: A Star Wars Story, jets through. It takes damage on the way but Han maneuvers through the fiery field, finally punctuating who the galaxy's best pilot is.
The job's only halfway done though, as the Falcon then shoots C-3PO out into space and at Luke's cruiser. There, R2-D2 instructs the pilots to bring his friend in, and they finally get the information they need. The X-Wings fly out to join the Falcon, with Luke and his newly christened Rogue Squadron ready for battle.
It'll be interesting to see if he joins the smugglers to go after Vader, whose ego took a major hit at not being able to take down the Falcon. For years, many felt that Han's boasts about being the best of the best was rooted in narcissism, but now we see he's been telling the truth.
This story leads into The Empire Strikes Back, and if Vader's legion is defeated here (as it seems they will be), then this arc could add to why he comes back with such a vengeance in the sequel. Right now, what's sure to be irking him is his reputation as a pilot (something he garnered from his days as Anakin Skywalker in the cockpit) has been dented. Well, now we know why the name 'Solo' always leaves a bad taste in Vader's mouth, err.. mask. It reminds him of that rare occasion he came off second-best to the galaxy's loudest mouth.