Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Larroca
Cover by David Marquez
THE ASHES OF JEDHA! Once the site of great significance to the Jedi, Jedha was left in ruins when the Death Star annihilated the Holy City there. Now, new series writer Kieron Gillen joins artist Salvador Larroca to bring Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest to the remains of the tragic victim of the Empire’s fury!
In the last issue, after saving Chulco Gi and Ubin Des from the Imperial forces on Jedha, our Rebels – Luke, Han and Leia – were brought to the remnant of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans led by Benthic, whose welcome was less than warm. At the same time, the Imperial forces got new leadership in cybernetically enhanced Commander Kanchar and his mining adviser Queen Trios of the planet Sho-Torun.
As this issue opens, while Han starts mouthing off to Benthic, Leia is trying to offer help to the Partisans and the surviving people of Jedha. We learn that Benthic’s eggmate Edrio died in the Death Star attack. Leia tries to connect with Benthic over their similar, immeasurable losses as she wants to make sure that there never is another Alderaan or Jedha. The Partisan leader notices that the rebels talk well like Saw Gerrera did and wonders if they would also do things he used to do. He recollects the time when Gerrera massacred a group a civilians just to send a message to the Empire, shocking Luke. Canon connoisseurs will recognize the event Benthic describes from Beth Revis’ book Rebel Rising which Jyn Erso witnessed and which was one of the reasons that drove the young rebel and her adoptive father apart. Benthic finally accepts the rebels’ help.
Back on the Imperial ship, Queen Trios informs Commander Kanchar that crystal resonators deployed on Jedha have picked up unnaturally high concentrations of gems. Kanchar tells her that those are the crystals Saw Gerrera intercepted and stole during his career on Jedha. He admires the old rebel for his efficiency and desires someone like him in his own ranks. As the Queen’s men prepare for exploratory mission, Kanchar declares Jedha a prohibited moon and every civilian still living there part of the Rebellion. It is interesting how often we get this kind of Imperial pairing, a blunt instrument and a strategist, and I suspect that among the two Trios is the latter.
Luke, Ubin and Chulco Gi venture among the survivors to distribute breathing filters while people cling to their dying home, barely surviving. There are no regular off-world flights, and while the ruined atmosphere allows for smuggling, hardly anyone still comes to Jedha. The fact that the Partisans accepted Leia’s offer to help at all is an indicator of how bad things really are. The group encounters stormtroopers incinerating the surviving citizens. Ubin fears orbital bombardment and wants to evacuate the people. Luke attacks and destroys all the soldiers. The way Larocca draws the following scene indicates not only Luke’s realization of the stakes on Jedha and the burden of things he had to do, but might also depict his first brush with the Dark Side.
Back in the Partisans’ camp, the group plans destruction of the newly deployed Imperial drill citadel which Han declares his and Luke’s specialty.
The second issue of The Ashes of Jedha answers some questions left to us after Rogue One. Unlike Alderaan which was instantaneously destroyed, Jedha and its people are suffering through prolonged, agonizing death while the Empire picks its bones. It seems that the outcome isn’t in question, the question is can anyone be saved. The people’s suffering impacted even the hardened Partisans who were willing to sacrifice even children in he past.
And if you wondered, like I did, if anyone of our original rebels other than Leia knew about Jyn Erso and her team’s sacrifice, the answer is yes. Ubin was inspired by Jyn’s disobedience which was why she returned to help her people and Luke wants to learn more about her. Gillen also connects the story with Greg Rucka’s Guardians of the Whills and many Force sects of Jedha. While the destruction of the Kyber Temple is a disaster for some of the pilgrims like Chulco Gi, for others it is a blessing.
While I feel like every page of this comic awards my canon-devouring heart, at the moment I am mostly interested to see what will happen to Queen Trios. She is someone who danced with Darth Vader and, lost limb aside, survived and learned her lessons. I don’t think her motives lie with the Empire and I don’t think Kanchar is her equal in any way. I wonder what will happen if she is confronted with a leader like Leia or another Force wielder like Luke. Is her spirit irreparably broken by Vader or might she actually help them given the chance?
This issue is mainly a building block in a bigger story, but together with the previous issue it is a good starting point for those who haven’t given this comic a chance. While Larroca’s hyper-realistic art still bugs me, I like what Gillen is doing with the story and Star Wars lore, and I am excited to read more. We’ll see where he will take us in the future…
…but for now, this issue gets 7/10 stars.