After a Luke Skywalker-centric first arc, Marvel’s main Star Wars comic book looks to be steering toward focusing on Princess Leia Organa for the second extended storyline of its second volume (set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), but in issue #7 it takes a quick detour to give us the backstory of one Imperial Commander Ellian Zahra. Zahra was introduced as a new villain in issue #1 of this run back in early January, but now acclaimed writer Charles Soule (Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren) is taking the time to let us get to know her a little bit.

#7 begins with the Fourth Division of the Rebel Alliance fleet regrouping in the wake of the Battle of Hoth. Leia receives a transmission from the Seventh Division, and the decision of whether to respond or not (and risk giving away the division’s position) is a key motivating factor in setting this arc’s narrative into motion. We cut to the Imperial Star Destroyer Tarkin’s Will, where Commander Zahra must decide which of the two rebel groups to pursue, triggering an almost issue-long flashback to her time as Grand Moff Tarkin’s protege, prior to the destruction of the first Death Star.

After working under him for years (and gradually earning his utmost trust) Zahra is tasked by Tarkin with taking out a warlord using the long-obsolete name of the Nihil– a group of anarchistic marauders who we’ll see lots more of in the upcoming Star Wars: The High Republic publishing initiative. A disappointing mistake causes her mentor to lose faith in her, and Zahra sets out to prove herself again to the stern governor, to whom she owes her entire career and playbook of tactical strategies. I won’t spoil where it goes from there except to say that this comic ends with a return to the “present” and an explosive cliffhanger that sets up the next issue’s primary conflict.

For this arc, Soule is teaming up with a different artist– namely Ramon Rosanas of Star Wars: Age of Resistance, who draws both characters and locations like planetary vistas and spaceship interiors with crisp, clear, recognizable precision. The art is straightforward and attractive, allowing the reader to get lost in the story rather than distracted by flash and over-stylization. And Soule has still not lost his knack for grabbing fans’ attention, even when dedicating this many pages on what is essentially a brand-new character. We only see Luke and Leia for a couple panels, but I  understand why the writer found Zahra’s history in the Empire compelling enough to not feel the need to check back in on our heroes. Plus, we get brief contextualizing cameo appearances by Director Orson Krennic (of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story fame) and the Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader.

It seems Zahra holds a grudge against Leia and her particular band of rebels because of what they did to the Death Star and her beloved Tarkin, which sets the stage for an interesting rivalry between these two skilled military leaders as this book continues over the coming months. And as always, I’m very curious to see what Soule and his collaborators have in store for the remainder of “The Will of Tarkin.”

Star Wars #7 is available now wherever comic books are sold.