Comic Review – Qi’ra Finally Opens the Fermata Cage to Combat the Sith Lords in “Star Wars: Hidden Empire” #5

Writer Charles Soule’s Qi’ra saga concluded this week with the release of the final issue of the Marvel Comics miniseries Star Wars: Hidden Empire.

Hidden Empire #5 begins with Darth Vader and his master Emperor Palpatine (AKA Darth Sidious) having boarded the Amaxine space station– first seen in Soule’s The Rise of Kylo Ren miniseries and then in author Claudia Gray’s Star Wars: The High Republic – Into the Dark novel– as the legendary Fermata Cage prepares to open.

The two Sith Lords slice their way through an army of Crimson Dawn soldiers, while the Archivist makes the final preparation for the surreptitious trap that Qi’ra has set for them. But one last obstacle stands in their way that Palpatine and Vader hadn’t prepared for: the rogue archaeologist Doctor Chelli Lona Aphra, having been possessed by the evil artificial intelligence known as the Spark Eternal. The Spark-controlled Aphra has taken possession of an Ascendant weapon called the Null Blade, though Vader is able to make quick work of it, subsequently banishing the A.I. from Chelli’s body by dramatic use of the Force. Vader then gets distracted from dealing with his former assistant by Palpatine’s approach to the Fermata Cage, which Qi’ra has managed to trick them into believing contains an ancient Sith Lord frozen in time. Instead, the Crimson Dawn leader plans to trap them within the Cage, with the later intent of hurling the mystical device into a sun. And this plan actually seems to be working for a quick few minutes, until the intervention of the Knights of Ren, who have decided that their allyship with Qi’ra has never quite payed off in the way they were promised.

The Knights destroy the Fermata Cage, setting the Sith Lords free once again, and bringing Crimson Dawn’s forces crashing down around Qi’ra, who retreats in defeat. Then we get a denouement of Palpatine “rewarding” his saviors and Qi’ra– via pre-recorded hologram message– bestowing several gifts onto Cadeliah, the orphaned heir to two crime syndicates. And lastly, Soule finally reveals the two hooded figures who were listening to the Archivist’s story a few years in the future– it was post-Return-of-the-Jedi Luke and Leia, who decide that Qi’ra actions were ultimately worth it because they directly led to the second Death Star’s destruction. The issue ends on a final flashback to Qi’ra, who we learn did indeed have the opportunity to see the results of her quest, though she does wind up isolated (or as the Archivist puts it, “alone”) in the end. So that also leads to the question of whether Soule’s Qi’ra trilogy was worth reading over the past couple years. I was definitely never less than entertained by these stories, though I’ve argued before that it’s starting to feel like too much has happened between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the current canon. I almost wish that the powers that be had used these three miniseries to lead into the gang’s arrival at Jabba’s Palace, but at the end of this issue readers are teased with yet another miniseries– this one featuring the freedom-fighting droid Ajax Sigma, as teased in the Star Wars: Revelations one-shot last year.

I did really like getting to spend more time aboard the Amaxine station and the breadth of characters used by Soule in this narrative. And like I said, I really can’t complain at all about the quality of the storytelling here– or the art by Steven Cummings (which is consistently excellent) for that matter. I just think it may be time for Marvel’s Star Wars comics, like the finale of Hidden Empire, to move on into the post-Jedi part of the timeline.

Star Wars: Hidden Empire #5 is available now wherever comic books are sold.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.