To whom or what do you owe allegiance?
Is it to an unshakeable set of ideals or unassailable principles? Is it to those who hold and fight for those beliefs? Or is it simply to the highest bidder, to whomever offers the greatest opportunity for wealth, advancement or power?
These kinds of weighty questions sit at the heart of Star Wars: Allegiance which asks, through two gripping adventures, what it is that drives you and why.
It continues the theme that is also explored in the novel Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse, but with a twist; whereas the book looked at how accommodating people can be to authoritarianism even to their own detriment if it means staying “safe” and “secure” (neither is really true; it just looks true), Allegiance takes a good hard look at where people choose to place their loyalties and what motivates them to do so.
It is most strikingly examined in the storyline which takes place on Mon Cala, whose most famous resident is Admiral Ackbar (he of “It’s a trap!” fame), one of the heroes of the Resistance who – SPOILER ALERT! – paid the ultimate price in The Last Jedi.
Given their Resistance pedigree, you would expect the ruling elite of the planet to welcome General Leia Organa, Rey, Rose, C-3PO and Chewbacca, who journey to the oceanic climes of Mon Cala in the Millenium Falcon, with open, freedom-loving arms.
But that’s not quite what happens, due to slew of factors and perverted loyalties, all of which are best left to a reading of the novel to explore, leaving Leia to make an impassioned plea for the Mon Calamari and the Quarren, two aquatic species who share the planet, for a renewed commitment to the ideals that were once embraced so freely and without condition.
“Only by working together can we keep the galaxy free of the kind of tyranny that the Mon Calamari and the Quarren so bravely fought against decades ago!”
As rousing invocations to action go, it’s pretty inspiring but not enough apparently for King Ech-Char’s military chief, General Nossor, who responds to Leia’s warning about the shadow of the First Order falling across the galaxy with a counter-accusation of his own.
“The Resistance if the one that will bring that shadow down upon us!”
It’s not exactly a “NO” since the King is the one who has the ultimate say, but it indicates that the expected help from the onetime Resistance stalwarts isn’t going to as easily forthcoming as Leia assumed.
Given the dire straits the decimated Resistance is in, with personnel, ships and general resources all in short supply, the equivocation of the Mon Calamari comes as a crushing blow, one made even worse by some venomous politicking by General Nossor whose allegiances are suspect at best.
Quite where things land is best left for the graphic novel but suffice to say, writer Ethan Sacks (along with artist Luke Ross and colour artist Lee Loughridge) does a nuanced but powerful job of examining how murky allegiances can sometimes be, even when the demarcation between good and evil is readily apparent to all.
Loyalties of another kind come into play on Poe Dameron and Finn’s mission to the moon of Avedot where a cache of New Republic weapons is supposed to be hidden.
Again, we bear witness to the purity of allegiance to a just and noble cause exhibited by Poe and Finn who, like Leia, Rey etc have committed themselves wholly and solely to do whatever it takes to defeat the murderously spreading evil of the First Order.
Theirs is a loyalty without condition and without question, one that takes them to a moon, followed by bounty hunters contracted by the First Order who, naturally enough, only care about who is paying the money.
Thus Avedot witnesses a battle as old as time as Poe and Finn face off against guns for hire who care little for any kind of ideal and whose response at the end of the story when things haven’t gone quite to plan is to shrug and non-commitally sail off into the galactic sunset.
The cutaways to the First Order which punctuate the alternating storylines show us another kind of allegiance, one which is ruthless enforced, so ruthlessly in fact that Supreme Leader Kylo Ren scornfully dismisses much of what the Empire did, or didn’t do, as “too lenient”.
The allegiance in this case is extreme and absolute and anyone who transgresses impossible to see lines in the sand, such as the blighted souls of the ice planet of Tah’Nuhna, is dealt with no mercy and a brutal disregard for any kind of basic humanity.
It is efficient true but much of the loyalty the First Order elicits is borne of fear not fervent belief which is why, eventually, the vast majority of authoritarian regimes crumble in to history, rejected by people who took the first chance they could get to seize the destiny of their lives back.
But Leia and the others can’t wait for the inevitable to happen nor can the Galaxy which will suffer in ways horrific and numerous if the First Order is allowed to hold unfettered sway.
Waiting, notes Leia, simply isn’t an option, for the Mon Calamari or for anyone.
“The time to rekindle the old alliances that once fought back against Imperial aggression [is now] … We cannot hide in the depths waiting for the danger to pass. We must be a rising tide.”
That is as impelling a call to action that you could ask for and it’s emblematic of a brilliantly-realised tale that through the course of Star War: Allegiance, powerfully underscores how vital allegiances can be and why choosing the side for the right reasons is vital if freedom is to be protected and guaranteed, now and into the future.
The story of Star Wars: Allegiance is continued in Rise of Skywalker, releasing this December.