The comics in the Star Wars canon often fly under the radar due to the higher profile of the films and shows. However, some of the biggest developments in the franchise have come through Marvel's illustrated stories, including unaired episodes of The Clone Wars and a look at how Kylo Ren came to be. With the ongoing runs currently set after The Empire Strikes Back, an unforeseen resurgence of Crimson Dawn has overtaken the era.
At the forefront of the action is Qi'ra, the Emilia Clarke-portrayed lieutenant who made her shocking return in the War of the Bounty Hunters. Having stolen the frozen Han Solo as means of getting her crime syndicate back into the galactic fold, the femme fatale takes on Darth Vader and establishes a shaky alliance with Leia. As readers have come to learn, she has her hands all across the board, boasting Crimson Dawn loyalists within both the Empire and Rebellion.
War of the Bounty Hunters and Crimson Reign serve as the first two parts in Charles Soule's trilogy of miniseries following Qi'ra. Having trained under Maul following the events of Solo, the outlaw is one of a few who knows that Emperor Palpatine is actually Darth Sidious. Her hatred for the Sith runs deep, and every move made in the previous series has been done to get Qi'ra one step closer to fulfilling her ultimate goal: destroying the Emperor.
Qi'ra and Palpatine Clash in Hidden Empire
The official Star Wars website unveiled the first look at the cover for Star Wars: Hidden Empire #1, the beginning of the final act in Charles Soule's trilogy of miniseries starring Qi'ra.
An alternate cover depicts Qi'ra going toe-to-toe with the Emperor:
Soule described Hidden Empire as the "endgame" for Qi'ra in "this phase" of her story:
“This new story is designed to deliver the big finale to Qi’ra’s story — at least this phase of it. She emerged from years of hiding with an elaborate, incredible plan to bring down the Sith, and Hidden Empire is the endgame."
To tie up loose ends, Soule is bringing all of the key players back for a story described as a "tragedy" for Qi'ra's "in a good way:"
"It brings in players from all over the Star Wars universe, from Darth Vader to Doctor Aphra to the Knights of Ren, and I think it’ll be really satisfying — but tragic. As I had a character say in the very first issue of Crimson Reign, Qi’ra’s story is a tragedy. But… in a good way.”
The intent for Hidden Empire is to "deliver a deeply satisfying conclusion" to the trilogy by showing the ramifications Qi'ra's choices will have on the events surrounding the story:
“Hidden Empire is set between Episodes V and VI. So, there are things this story can do and things it can’t. That said, I think it will deliver a deeply satisfying conclusion to Qi’ra’s arc here, and readers will understand how her choices in this story impacted events all across the Star Wars galaxy at this time."
Part of that process is creating connections to the original trilogy films, and Soule predicts fans "will be very happy" with what they see:
“There are direct connections here to both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi — and beyond — and I think the fans will be very happy.”
The Dawn vs. the Empire
With Qi'ra's ultimate fate one of the unresolved mysteries from Solo, her return to prominence in the Marvel Comics has been a thrill. At one time, Qi'ra and Crimson Dawn seemed destined for a large role in The Book of Boba Fett, which unfortunately never came to pass. That possibility still remains should the character survive her battle with the Sith, as Jon Favreau is a big fan of the character, but she's got her plate full in the original trilogy era before Emilia Clarke could potentially reprise the role in the MandoVerse.
The alternate cover depicting Qi'ra and Palpatine's clash is chill-inducing, a rare moment where something momentous seems to be coming off-screen. It doesn't take a protocol droid to calculate the poor odds of making it out of an encounter with the Emperor, but Qi'ra is known for being a survivor. To this point, she's executed every part of her plan without flaw, bringing her ever-closer to the life-altering fight to destroy the Sith.
At this point, the only thing guaranteed is that Qi'ra won't win. The Sith are very much alive and in power when Return of the Jedi comes along (and sadly after the film's credit now, too), so she won't be defeating Palpatine. The first encounter between Qi'ra and Darth Vader displayed her skills in the art of Teräs Käsi, and more than a touch of arrogance. What she fails to recognize is that, as powerful as he was, Maul never had a chance at beating Sidious or Vader - and he could use the Force.
Qi'ra isn't in this fight for power. As much as the destroyed throne room in the Imperial Palace would look nice in Crimson Dawn colors, the former Scrumrat only wants to make the galaxy a more fair place for people from all walks of life - such as the ones who started with nothing, like her.
What of the tragedy Soule speaks of? It would be simple to have Qi'ra die at the hands of Palpatine's lightning in a brave effort to obtain freedom, but there's much more to do with the character. Killing her off would be too easy; it denies her the chance to truly live out a tragic life, one where freedom for her kind is never truly won. She's a survivor, and with that nature comes inherent pain that she'll have to live with forever. There's every chance that Qi'ra bites the big one, but anything is on the table.
Star Wars: Hidden Empire #1 hits shelves in November.