Despite not exactly being the blockbuster darling they had hoped for, Disney and Lucasfilm are still dabbling in the time period adjacent to the events seen in the film Solo: A Star Wars Story. So far, we've gotten a rather solid Lando-centric miniseries and some kid-friendly stories about young Han and Chewie in IDW's rollicking anthology series Star Wars Adventures. They've all been enjoyable, and have helped add a bit to the once dense lore of the character of Han Solo after the Expanded Universe was scrubbed from canon post Lucasfilm acquisition/merger.
Now, starting over from scratch is not a bad idea. What is now known as Star Wars Legends is fill with tons of lore that is almost impossible to navigate. While many of the choices Disney has made for the franchise have been met with mixed feelings by from fans, having a more streamlined continuity helps make everything more inclusive, especially for new or young fans. The exploration of this fresh start continues in the page of Star Wars: Han Solo - Imperial Cadet #1 in which, just as the title suggests, we get a glimpse of Solo's life as a soldier in the Empire.
Sadly, the results don't bring much to the table.
Star Wars: Han Solo - Imperial Cadet #1 begins with a truncated retelling of the events of the firs tact of Solo: A Star Wars Story. We get some familiar scenes involving the relationship between Han and Qi'ra, as well as the Corellian gangster Lady Proxima. However, these familiar echoes aren't really expanded upon and they also include the most groan-inducing moment from film in which an Imperial officer gives Han his surname. (Why they decided to make Han mononymous in the first place is beyond us.)
The story opens up a bit in the second half of the issue but somewhat hearkens back to deleted scenes from Solo, which unfortunately makes them fall a bit flat for some fans. Writer Robbie Thompson (Spider-Man/Deadpool, Silk) seems to be struggling with the weight of adhering to the new Star Wars canon. It never quite feels like he is able to play around with the idea of Han as a member of the Empire. Now, hopefully future issue of this this five-part miniseries will see more expansion on this fascinating premise, but the first chapter is just a faithful retread. And that's a shame, really, as Thompson is a great writer who has shown time and time again he loves playing in well-established worlds while bringing something new to the table.
We do get some interesting moments between Han and some of his fellow cadets, but it feels like they should have been bigger. It feels like Thompson wanted to give readers Stripes in space, which on paper, could be a lot of fun. Hopefully subsequent issue expand on them and give some new characters to gravitate towards.
Leonard Kirk's artwork is one of the highlights of this first issue. He's take on young Han does borrow heavily from actor Alden Ehrenreich's likeness, but it has enough visual flare to feel somewhat new. All the ship designs are solid and the panel layout flows just fine from page to page. But again, it doesn't really take any chances. Everything feels very workman-like, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does hamper any chance of feeling wholly unique.
Overall, Star Wars: Han Solo - Imperial Cadet #1 is by no means a bad read so much as it's a familiar one. With a creative team this talented, we had hoped to see something a bit more striking. With the comic adaptation of Solo: A Star Wars Story currently running this first issue feels redundant. Again, subsequent issues could turn it around and really give us a fascinating look into the younger days of everyone's favorite scruffy-looking Nerf Herder.