Looking Back At Captain Phasma

Review of "Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Captain Phasma"

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Phasma in "Captain Phasma #4", from: https://www.marvel.com/comics/series/23455/journey_to_star_wars_the_last_jedi_-_captain_phasma_2017

Captain Phasma may be the character with the most unused potential in Star Wars, at least as far as the recent films are concerned. Extra sources such as Delilah S. Dawson’s “Phasma” novel or, to a degree, Star Wars Resistance have been trying to fix this. Another piece that should not be overlooked in this respect is the “Captain Phasma” comic, which explains the events between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

The comic does not actually spend much time showing how Phasma climbed out of the trash compactor. In a way, that is a disappointment, as many fans would expect just that – for many, the question “How did Phasma escape the Starkiller’s destruction?” required a satisfactory answer. The comic does answer it – however in such a way that takes Phasma’s escape for granted, considering it so easy and obvious that it decides to focus on other events at the same time. That is, in the end, a good decision: ten pages of Phasma climbing through rubble would not remain entertaining for long.

“Captain Phasma #1” (source: https://www.marvel.com/comics/series/23455/journey_to_star_wars_the_last_jedi_-_captain_phasma_2017)

Personal Quest, For Phasma, About Phasma

Instead, the story is preoccupied with Phasma’s pursuit of the First Order officer Sol Rivas who had stumbled upon the evidence of her treachery in the shield controls’ terminal. To protect herself, Phasma decides to frame him for the base’s destruction instead and get rid of him. Everything else is secondary to this objective, and Phasma’s hunt for the lieutenant is the chief part of “Captain Phasma”‘s plot.

Overall, the entire tale is first and foremost an illustration of Phasma’s personality. It shows her ruthlessness, her desire to survive no matter what, her opinion that the lives of others are always second to hers. This characterisation of Phasma is perfectly in line with that in Delilah S. Dawson’s “Phasma” novel – and, for that matter, in the deleted scene from The Last Jedi. There are a couple of tiny nods to Dawson’s novel, too. The planet Luprora, where Phasma’s pursuit takes her, has elements similar to Phasma’s homeworld, which makes Phasma reminisce on her past. We are literally talking two insignificant frames here, however. Given the comic miniseries’ length, however, I think it is good that the author, Kelly Thompson, did not try to cram in references to other works and rather decided to focus on the main story.

Anything New Under The Sun Killer?

On the flip side, the comic does not add much beyond Phasma’s established characterisation. The narrative is merely a pastime of sorts, with Phasma pursuing the escaping officer with the help of a (blissfully ignorant) First Order pilot, TK-3465. Oh, and the pilot’s BB unit – but that droid does in the comic even less than BB-8 does in the films.

The pilot’s presence adds an extra value to the story. It shows how Phasma acts towards a fellow trooper when in a personal, one-on-one contact – something we don’t really see in the films or, in fact, anywhere else. (The closest we get to it is the ten-second segment when Phasma asks Finn about his blaster at the start of TFA. When they meet again, Finn is already a traitor. Hux is Phasma’s superior. In the “Phasma” novel, Cardinal is not really a trooper either, he is a special officer, and a threat to her at that.) Since TK-3465 is Phasma’s sole audience, she can afford to approach the pilot as an individual, while at the same time not stepping out of her role as a commanding officer of the First Order, or out of her own character, for that matter. I think Kelly Thompson nailed it.

“Captain Phasma” #2 cover by Paul Renaud (source: https://www.marvel.com/comics/series/23455/journey_to_star_wars_the_last_jedi_-_captain_phasma_2017)

If there is anything especially praiseworthy about the comics, it is the artwork – a quite important part of this particular medium. Marco Chechetto, one of Marvel’s best (worked also on Star Wars: Shattered Empire, The Screaming Citadel, or Obi-Wan & Anakin), has done a great job. The scenery of Luprora, as well as the initial sequence of Phasma running through the destruction of the Starkiller, is quite stunning.

The combination of Phasma’s ruthlessness, the diluvial setting of Luprora and the overall bleak tone similar to that of Dawson’s novel makes its atmosphere rather dark. Some could even say un-Star-Wars-esque. It is certainly far from the fairy-tale or heroic setting of the films: darker than Episodes IV or I, less heroic than Episode III. That is simply the outcome of the fact that it is the story of a villain, narrated from the villain’s perspective, and there are no heroes. Even the runaway officer is, after all, a First Order soldier, and so is TK-3465. The inhabitants of Luprora are casual bystanders at best: just like Phasma herself, the narrative is not concerned with their point of view, and we don’t learn anything about them besides what the outsiders’ point of view offers.

A Dark Tale

“Captain Phasma” is certainly a beautifully illustrated story that is worth reading at least once if you are into Phasma, or into the First Order. Besides that, it probably won’t give you much satisfaction. I could still recommend it to those who like all kinds of dystopian sci-fi settings, or are the fans of “dark” Star Wars stories along the lines of Delilah S. Dawson or Matthew Stover’s (perhaps those are still darker and more gruesome than “Captain Phasma”, however).

One final thought comes to my mind – that Phasma may be, after all, one of the “darkest” characters of all Star Wars films. Even the Sith, at least the way they are portrayed on-screen, may be evil schemers, but are following certain agenda. Phasma is only concerned with herself, and she would be willing to destroy the entire universe if it meant that she would survive.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.