She’s the most ruthless woman in the galaxy – Captain Phasma takes no prisoners. From her humble beginnings on a ruined planet, she rose to mythic status in the First Order. But how? With plenty of attitude and custom chromium armor, that’s how! Keep reading for my reviews on both her new novel and collected comic mini-series!
Despite my clever title, this is all canon.
Finally, I’m getting around to reviewing some books on my backlog!
The Force Awakens tells us very little about Captain Phasma. She’s presented as a no-nonsense symbol of the First Order. She commands loyal troops, minus one famous traitor, and carries out the massacre at Tuanul village on Jakku under the orders of Kylo Ren. Phasma believes herself, and the First Order, to be superior to the Resistance movement that attacks Starkiller base – but why is she so sure of herself? And just how strongly does she believe in the First Order and its goals?
Where it all begins. . .
Part of the Journey to the Last Jedi series of tie-in comics and novels, Phasma by Delilah Dawson details the origin story of Captain Phasma. Her rise from tribal leader to First Order captain and symbol of strength is delivered like a legend, which I think was a brilliant choice by the author. Phasma doesn’t tell her own story – instead, much of her backstory is explored through Resistance spy Vi Moradi. Vi, in turn, met one of the main characters of this story and retells the tale after she is captured by another First Order captain named Cardinal.
Phasma’s homeworld, Parnassos, has been described as Mad Max meets Star Wars. The planet is ravaged after the ConStar Mining Corporation left the world to rot after a series of industrial accidents, leading to rampant and disastrous climate change. Phasma’s tribe is isolated from the few remaining bands of beings across the planet – be they other tribal scavengers, corporate droids, or vicious creatures from land and sea.
The hostility of Parnassos tempers Phasma into a cold, self-centered warrior. Nothing matters to her but survival of number one, and she is always number one. The catalyst of her journey across the wastes of her homeworld is a falling starship, which was shot down by an automated turret system in orbit (which surrounds Parnassos thanks to the ConStar Corporation’s effort to protect its investments.) Phasma’s people believe crashing ships to be extremely valuable, as they are rare and can contain even rarer medicines, technologies, and maybe even a way off-world. After betraying the leader of the tribe, her own brother no-less, Phasma gathers a loyal band to set off across the unexplored wastelands.
Unknown to Phasma early on, the crashing vessel belongs to General Hux of the First Order. The crash leaves his ship worse for wear, and he, along with his surviving squad of troops, set out across the deserts of Parnassos seeking help after their escape pod lands. I was eager to know how Phasma and Hux met, given the little glimpses of backstory between them that had been teased since The Force Awakens came out. When Phasma’s band crosses path with the First Order, Phasma is quick to see who is stronger – and who poses the greatest benefit to her own survival. That’s something that never leaves the core of Phasma’s thought process – it’s survival of the fittest, and she will be the fittest, without question. She decides that, for the time at least, her band will help the mysterious First Order people and find the crashed ship. The emergency beacon is the only hope for both groups of people.
Without getting too far into spoilers (I want to leave Phasma spoilers alone – mostly because the reveals aren’t huge but they make the story interesting,) Phasma is one of my favorite novels in the new canon. It does something so totally different, from its landscape to its delivery. There’s great interaction between Phasma’s tribespeople such as Siv and Torben and the First Order troops, showing just how far the conditioning of stormtroopers goes to erase individuality. Phasma, meanwhile, is solely focused on herself and joining the First Order by any means necessary, as she sees them as the most powerful beings she’s ever met. And that’ show far her loyalty goes – she will associate with the strongest to her own ends, and if they become weak she will destroy them to save her own skin. She even goes so far as to barely ever show her face throughout the book, whether she’s wearing her tribal mask or later her custom stormtrooper armor.
Phasma gets a lot right with its delivery, and using the cunning Resistance spy Vi Moradi to tell the tales was brilliant. She’s captured early on by another captain of the First Order, Cardinal. Cardinal is a personal friend and former personal guard of the late General Hux (senior – he now answers to his son, Armitage Hux, from The Force Awakens.) Cardinal is desperate for answers. He wishes to know who killed his mentor General Hux, and also wants to confirm what role, if any, Phasma played in it. But spoiling that would be robbing you of reading it yourself! Just know that the book may start a little slow and may be hard to get into at first. If you stick with it though, the writing gets more interesting as layers are added onto Phasma’s treacherous tales.
If you don’t mind a little extra brutality in your Star Wars novels – the Darth Bane trilogy comes to mind as the next closest thing in terms of blood and battles- then you will probably enjoy Phasma.
And now, comics!
Fast forward to the tail end of The Force Awakens film, Phasma’s comic mini-series details. . .what Phasma did after she got out of the garbage bin on Starkiller Base. Okay, that’s maybe oversimplifying it, especially if you haven’t read the novel (though admittedly, I think the novel is more interesting.)
So what is Phasma up to when she’s knee-deep in space trash? Looking for an opportunity to make it look less bad, of course! Phasma’s pragmaticism and cunning are in full-force throughout her comic, and the art gives some great scenery as well as looks for the character. Knowing the base is under heavy attack, she’s quick to react and begin a personal mission to clear her name before it can be sullied. She immediately deletes the records of her treachery (deactivating the shields at the behest of
a traitor Finn) and also tracks down the only other person known to have accessed those records – a fellow First Order officer. Despite her best efforts, Phasma is unable to finish the job and has to track her prey off-world.
With the conscripted help of a TIE pilot (who is referred to only as ‘pilot’ – Phasma prefers operating numbers over individual names per First Order conditioning,) Phasma tracks the lieutenant she intends to pin the blame on to a planet called Luprora. Her focus is never derailed from this mission, as reporting such a grand failure to General Hux, Kylo Ren, or Supreme Leader Snoke would mean certain death. Rather than be marked as a
Finn traitor, Phasma tracks the lieutenant to a nearby village. Thinking fast, she and the pilot borrow clothing to fit in better with the natives. While the natives are friendly, the planet itself is less-so, and even reminds Phasma of home thanks to the harsh, gloomy weather and rampant sea monsters.
So does Phasma get her way? Well, spoiler alert, of course she does. While Phasma is an interesting character, I think she deserved a better comic arc than just ‘this is what she did immediately after climbing out of a trash compactor.’ Yes, that should be addressed, but I think that oversimplification hurt my overall impression of the series. However, I was happy to see that she has a couple minor recollections of events in the Phasma novel as they pertain to her current situation on Luprora. And once again, this story is presented in a similar tall-tale style through Phasma’s dialog and the art. There are moments where she jumps down craggy shores on Luprora, and with the darkness, rain, and cape flowing behind her, you’d be forgiven for mistaking her for space Batman.
I would recommend the Phasma comics for anyone who was a fan of her novel – and I’d probably suggest becoming a fan of the novel before even buying this comic. It’s out now in trade, which is how I buy all my comics (I’m always behind on comics if you couldn’t tell) and is a quick read with Phasma’s trademark attitude and great artwork. It’s easy to compare her to Boba Fett because she didn’t have a huge role in the movie, but I’m okay with getting side characters expanded in novels and comics. So if you are too, check these out. Is any of it really important to The Last Jedi? Well, she’s back and fighting
that traitor from sanitation Finn, so we’ll just have to see!
Is it prized chromium or should it stay in the trash compactor? Let me know what you think, and thanks for reading!
-Supreme Leader David