This issue and the arc as a whole are a great reminder of just how much Gillen has been able to work the characters and conflicts of Rogue One into this series in an organic way. As much as this arc has all the hallmarks of a good Rebels vs. Empire conflict, that rivalry is less important than the heated philosophical divide between Leia’s rebels and the Partisans. Leia wants to inspire others to rise up against tyranny, while sparing as many innocent lives as possible in the process. The Partisans are radicals who don’t care whom they hurt, so long as the Empire is repaid in kind for Jedha. The urgency of this conflict becomes less about whether the mission will succeed and more if Luke and Leia can get through to their allies before the unthinkable happens. It’s a smart way of creating real drama and stakes in a book where readers already know the end destination.
There’s also the fact that so much of the story hinges on original characters who fates aren’t tied to the movies. This issue brings necessary closure to a number of character arcs. Queen Trios in particular is given a satisfying sendoff, one that highlights just how tenuous and complicated her position in the larger Galactic Civil War truly is. For however much harm she might have caused in this series, she remains a sympathetic and nuanced character. The same goes for the shape-shifter Tunga, who proves he’s far more than just comic relief in this issue. Some of the scenes are a bit too compressed for their own good (most notably the final confrontation between Leia and Benthic), but Gillen and artist Angel Unzueta do have an awful lot of material to work through in their final issue.
On that note, Unzueta’s art is the one real sticking point as Gillen caps off his run. First under Salvador Larroca and now under Unzueta, the series has adopted a very strange, off-putting visual style that prioritizes photo-realism above all else. Unzueta’s figures may look exactly like their movie counterparts (with many faces lifted directly from the movies), but that merely gives the series an eerie Uncanny Valley quality. And those photo-referenced characters wind up clashing with the ones who aren’t movie-based. This issue conveys the plot and emotional texture easily enough, but every page is plagued by stiff, lifeless figure work and garish colors.