What If the Death Star Hadn’t Blown Up?

By 3 months ago

Star Wars Infinities was one of the most exciting projects by Dark Horse Comics. Three creative teams were given the chance to explore one movie in the original trilogy and break a key moment in its story, creating unique “what if” scenarios. Today, we’re taking a look at the Infinities version of A New Hope, a story of shattered hopes, corrupted ideals, and Yoda Goomba-stomping Palpatine with the Death Star.

Shavit is gonna get weird, ner’vods. Brace yourselves.

A New Hope uses its first pages to pay homage to the original movie and set up its core conceit. We see panels depicting Luke Skywalker’s daring rescue of Princess Leia, Han Solo coming to save the day, and the Death Star destroyed — but then the story rewinds right to that fateful trench run. Luke’s missiles go in, but as the remaining Rebel pilots flee, they realize the explosion they are waiting for is not going to happen.

Wouldn’t ya know, Luke’s proton torpedoes were faulty, merely damaging the innards of the Death Star’s power grid. It is at least weakened enough that it can’t completely destroy Yavin, merely decimating part of it. Leia and the rest of Alliance command attempt to flee but are captured by Vader. The brave pilots of the Rebellion are chased through Yavin’s asteroid field, with only Luke and Han managing to survive the slaughter. Pressed on all sides, we see Luke give in to the Dark Side, thinking everyone on Yavin is dead. He mercilessly tears through a squadron of TIE fighters until Han snaps him out of it.

Among the ashes of failure, Leia is crestfallen, captured by Tarkin once more, while Han and Luke flee into hyperspace. While Luke is still eager to fight, Infinities paints Han’s nihilistic pragmatism in a more rational light. The Rebellion is over, whether Luke wants it or not. It’s only when Luke’s ready to start a fight that Obi-Wan reaches from beyond, and Infinities introduces its first ripple – an early journey to Dagobah. With seemingly no princess to rescue nor rebellion to lead, Luke’s path to becoming a Jedi Knight is made clear.

At the same time, on Coruscant, a new path opens for Leia. Infinities really uses hindsight to its advantage in exploring the original trilogy in new ways. So where Vader was just some colossal monster to Leia until Return of the Jedi, here that father-daughter bond arises in a most mysterious way. Vader offers Obi-Wan’s saber to Leia, sensing the potential within her.

Vader commands her to strike him. She’s a natural, fierce and full of the Dark Side in the wake of her defeat at Yavin, but Vader deflects the blows and he states she’s not ready. Leia then resolves to commit suicide with the saber, screaming in response, “Ready to die!” but Vader pulls the blade away. He then leaves to contemplate why he of all people would spare her.

As this plays out, Luke’s arrival on Dagobah is a tad more familiar, if sped along by Han’s presence. Han pegs Yoda as the Jedi Master in hiding in seconds. However, Han departs and he and Luke promise to reach out when the time is right. Then several years pass in the blink of an eye.

Broken down and rebuilt by the Empire, the once idealistic Leia is now primed to be Palpatine and Vader’s successor, a true Sith through and through. It’s actually Han who realizes the time has come for Luke to return to the galaxy, witnessing Leia preaching the gospel of the Empire. Luke’s more than ready, having been unburdened by the wants of attachment and experiencing a vision of what’s to come.

This is where things get very interesting quickly. Yoda insists on accompanying the crew of the Falcon as they fly to Coruscant, with Luke and Han vaguely intending to sneak into the Imperial residence of the Emperor himself. Yoda, however, has a plan, taking R2 and venturing aboard the Death Star — now called the Justice Star — as it hovers over Coruscant’s sun, casting the planet in eternal twilight. The ancient Jedi Master makes short work of Tarkin’s mind, puppeting him to the station’s control room. As a distraction for the Millennium Falcon to land undetected, Yoda requests Tarkin give him a “demonstration” of the station’s capabilities by firing on the entire Imperial navy. Yoda has absolutely no chill in this graphic novel.

Meanwhile, Vader and his apprentice Leia speak of the future of the Empire. The Emperor is growing old and tired. With no conflict to stoke his fury, Palpatine’s time is coming to a close, and in his place, it’s time for someone younger, with vision, to lead the Empire. The hope behind Leia’s eyes at this is like a distant memory. However twisted and corrupted by the Empire she might be, a shred of that compassionate woman clings for dear life within her.

It becomes a race to confront the Emperor, with Yoda tearing apart Super Star Destroyers as Luke and Han do the same to Palpatine’s guards. Han is desperately outmatched until he borrows a saber of his own. Yet when they finally find Palpatine’s chambers, a reprogrammed C-3PO captures Han at blasterpoint, and Leia stands ready to confront Luke. Luke reveals to her their true parentage, much to Palpatine’s dismay, but not enough that the Sith Lord doesn’t take immense joy at the prospect of anointing Leia by having her slay her brother.

This revelation shocks Vader, having never learned of Luke’s existence. “She has the Skywalker’s fire,” Palpatine notes as Vader watches his children duel. Yet instead of stoking an inferno within his apprentice, we see a Vader sobered at realizing how thoroughly he’s been blinded. He struggles to encourage Leia, his resolve shaking. She feels it, and together both she and her brother refuse to duel further.

Sidious has lost his Sith underlings to compassion, the one thing he’d tried to crush in Leia and Vader, and like in Return of the Jedi, he tries to erase both of the Skywalker twins in a fury of lightning. Vader intercedes, ordering them to flee. So as Luke, Leia, and Han evacuate to the Falcon, Yoda calls Palpatine over comms, informing him that he’s on his way to meet with the Sith Lord, very soon.

As the Falcon rockets through the Coruscant skyline, evading the onrush of Imperial forces, they realize they’re of little concern as the Death Star plunges into the heart of the Emperor’s fortress on Coruscant. Though the planet itself will survive, the throne and most loyal of the Empire are all brought down in an inferno via their most vile creation. Luke reflects on the violent, tragic end but finds solace that Yoda’s sacrifice brought the Death Star and Palpatine both to an end. They have a chance now, however small.

While this is a positive sentiment to take away, this is the one part of the book that just doesn’t really jive when you consider the damage inflicted. Infinities skirts past the carnage to do an odd homage to the ending of The Phantom Menace of all things, with a peace summit on Naboo. Peace is restored, we never hear if Leia turned away from being a Sith but she’s not dressed in black so *shrug*, and we learn that R2’s databank was backed up, so they get to live while Yoda, Anakin, and Obi-Wan’s ghosts smile at the summit. The end.

Each of the Star Wars Infinities entries has at least an issue or two, but it’s nice that, overall, the only real issues with this one are how quickly the pacing loves to jump ahead and Yoda’s weird turn into mass-bombing part of a planet to kill Palpatine. As a comic in its own right, the art is gorgeous, with some really inspired lighting choices, like when Luke almost slips too far into the Dark Side and his face is cast in shadow. They go so far as to obscure him fully with an oxygen mask when transferring from his X-wing to the Falcon, giving a nice homage to Vader.

What’s best about the story by far though is how much more Leia gets to do. Regardless of her temporarily being cast as a villain, she finally gets to do something besides be an objective for someone to rescue. Not to mention her portrayal as a Sith is far more in line with what the lore at the time would indicate. She’s passionate, brutal, and unrelenting, but her passion is serving others. No matter if she leads Rebel or Imperial forces, she inherently holds true to who she is, just in a far more overt, dangerous form. She’s a powder keg, primed and ready to blow as need be. The depths explored within a single volume are great and indirectly set the stage for the next two volumes. If anyone benefits greatly from Star Wars Infinities’ myriad timelines, it’s our Lady of Eternal Scruffy Nerfherders, Leia Organa.

Perhaps we’ll discuss the other two Star Wars Infinities entries another day. For now — what’s a movie you’d love to see get the Infinities treatment? It stays the same up to a point, then diverges to offer new possibilities. Bonus points if you say which scene it diverges off of.