Warning…This article contains spoilers for the comic book series, Journey to The Force Awakens: Shattered Empire.
There were two characters at the Battle of Endor, in Return of The Jedi (ROTJ), who you didn’t meet. You have recently met their grown son, however: Poe Dameron. Sergeant Kes Dameron was a demolitions expert in Han’s Endor strike team, The Pathfinders; Lieutenant Shara Bey was an A-wing pilot, call sign Green Four, who nearly destroyed Luke’s shuttle as it abandoned the second Death Star, instead escorting it down to the moon.
Published in the months leading up to The Force Awakens (TFA) December 2015 release, Journey to The Force Awakens: Shattered Empire is a 4-issue mini-series (shop) from Marvel Comics that serves as an overlooked, but official, prelude to TFA. There is nothing in the comic book series that you had to know to thoroughly enjoy Episode VII, but there are a couple things you may not realize you need to know as the saga continues. In this mini-series, both Shara and Kes continue their anti-Imperial exploits against the shattered Empire alongside Han, Luke, and Leia.
The Emperor’s Posthumous Reach
Shortly after the destruction of the second Death Star, at an Outer Rim Imperial Rendezvous Point named Victim, an
eerie, red-caped, helmeted messenger arrives aboard the Star Destroyer, Torment, with a message for its captain, Captain Duvat. After verifying the captain’s identity by blood, the messenger’s helmet turns into a grainy video screen, and the face of the Emperor gives instructions to execute Operation: Cinder.
Elsewhere, Princess Leia is reluctantly sent to Naboo to seek the Queen’s support in restoring The Senate. Mon Mothma assigns Leia to the mission not only because of her diplomatic clout, but also because she “already visited once in recent memory.” (See Marvel’s Princess Leia mini-series (shop)). Shara is assigned as her pilot on the mission. While on Naboo, the Torment arrives, and Captain Duvat employs a climate disruption array to scour Naboo with destructive weather phenomena. Shara, Leia, and the Queen herself pilot a few old Naboo fighters to destroy the orbital array.
Order 66 lay dormant for years in the clone army before it was executed. Operation: Cinder was an equally diabolical doomsday plan, planted by an adeptly farsighted Emperor. His whole posthumous message was: “Captain Duvat, you, and a handful of others unknown to you, have been selected for a particular honor. Resistance. Rebellion. Defiance. These are concepts that cannot be allowed to persist, Captain. You are but one of many tools by which these ideas shall be burned away. Operation: Cinder is to begin at once. Heed my messenger. He shall relay to you your target.” Admiral Ackbar later refers to the extent of Operation: Cinder, “…ongoing Imperial operations targeting another dozen worlds…Burnin Konn, Cadovant, Abednedo, and Commenor amongst them. Some of these appear to be solely punitive on the part of the Empire…though the purpose of many others is far less clear.”
From Marvel’s Star Wars: Lando mini-series (shop), we know the Emperor hoarded priceless artifacts of Dark Side power. We can only guess at what other machinations the Emperor put in motion after his death and their ramifications in future films.
When Leia entered the long-sealed off fighter bay of the palace on Naboo, she had a strange feeling of “cold.” That specific comic panel is overlaid with the unmistakable face of Darth Maul, the same Sith Apprentice who was cut in half by Obi-wan in that very building at the end of The Phantom Menace (TPM). The reappearance of Darth Maul in the season 2 finale of Star Wars: Rebels and his confirmed appearances in Season 3 could mean that this shadowy character has more to add to the Star Wars saga in way of the films. Journey to the Force Awakens–Shattered Empire takes place shortly after ROTJ, and, offering more backstory on Maul, Rebels takes place chronologically earlier between ROTS and A New Hope (ANH). Maul tells the remaining Jedi in Rebels that he is “just Maul” now, having dropped the Darth title. Earlier in that episode, he tells Ezra he is called the “Old Master,” leaving us to wonder who was calling him that. Either Leia’s “feeling” in the comic book serves only to showcase Leia’s Force sensitivity, which hardly seems necessary since we know she never pursues Jedi training, or that scene indicates Maul’s non-Sith legacy somehow plays into subsequent saga movies.
In the final issue of the series, Luke needs Shara to co-pilot a Lambda-class shuttle to Vetine in the Merrick Sector to “get” something. Luke disguises Shara as Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) officer Commander Alecia Beck, in order to get into the lab at the center of the Imperial base on Vetine. The intelligence for this mission was obtained in an earlier raid by Han Solo and Sergeant Dameron at The Wretch of Tayron, an ISB black site. As Shara, with Luke, arrogantly impersonates her way deeper into the research facility, we see in one panel droids being constructed with heads identical to the red-caped messenger earlier in the series. Commandant Hurron saw through the ruse but went along with the charade because of his curiosity about the “couple of twigs” he’s been protecting all this time. Luke explains, “these are all that remain of the tree that grew at the heart of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. The Force is with them.” Luke, a knight reminiscent of the prequel trilogy knights, fights his way out of the base with Shara and the two trees. He was only expecting to find one and leaves the other with Shara, who, with her husband and young son, close the series out by settling somewhere green with a small glowing tree growing just outside their house.
If you recall Rey’s AT-AT wreckage home on Jakku, an easy deduction would be that the small bonsai-looking tree there is a remnant of this Force tree. But it would only be further, wild conjecture from which tree it came: Shara’s or Luke’s. It’s hard to fathom that the introduction of these trees in the TFA prelude, like Leia’s vision of Maul, is throw-away story fodder. With Luke found at the end of TFA, at the first Jedi Temple, that’d be a logical place for the tree to have originated.
There’s plenty to look forward to in this reinvigorated film franchise, but, with caution against assigning too much significance to obscure details, there may have been some obvious clues inserted in this canon comic book mini-series.