As a shade of its forebearer, the First Order at times feels like an organisation in search of an ideology beyond simply being the Empire all over again. In the past few weeks of Marvel’s Age of Resistance anthology comics, it’s been given a lens to examine some of the disparate parts that make up its whole in some fascinating ways.
Over years of tie-in material in the old Expanded Universe and the current Disney-era canon, the Empire’s villainy beyond its roots in real-world influences like the Nazis—aesthetically and morally—has been fleshed out in myriad ways. From its many defectors to the idea of the Good Imperial, from to the incompetent selfishness of its commanders (a trait the current canon has relished in exploring, making the Imperial Bureaucracy feel like Mean Girls on fascistic steroids) to it being little more than a front from Palpatine’s mystical long game, the Empire has evolved beyond oblique, simple villainy to be something much messier and sprawling. It is still, however, at its core, an organisation of hate.
And if we treat the First Order as a shade of what comes before, we can already see the parallels forming. Kylo Ren is the artifice of hate, the potential to be redeemed and if not, a villainy to at least be understood (it is, as ever with Star Wars, a story of daddy issues), like his grandfather before him. Supreme Leader Snoke, as little as we know of him, has the parallels of a fixation on mysticism that he now shares with Palpatine. Phasma, as fascinatingly explored in her own Age of Resistance comic, represents that shrewd, selfish sense of self-preservation above all else.
So what’s left but the empty, cruel hate itself? That’s where General Hux comes in. Although what little time the movies have so far spent with Hux have shone a tiny light on this—his decidedly Nuremberg Rally-esque speech before the firing of Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, his shrieking hate becoming an almost comedic foil in The Last Jedi—it’s an idea embraced entirely in last week’s Age of Resistance one-shot based around the character.
Penned by Tom Taylor, with art from Leonard Kirk, Cory Hamscher, and Guru-eFX, and lettering by Travis Lanham, the issue follows Hux and Ren on an assignment before the events of The Force Awakens, when seeming sabotage of Hux’s shuttlecraft sends the duo careening onto on unknown world.
Quickly, they find themselves facing hostile local wildlife until. in an intriguing twist, it’s quickly revealed that said wildlife has been tamed by a surprising human face on the world: a marooned former member of the Alderaanian Royal Guard who fled to isolation after his homeworld’s destruction. In an inverse to tales of Japanese holdouts from World War II, the guard—named Bylsma—is a soldier hiding from a fight that not only does he not realise is over...he doesn’t know his side won.
That is, until Hux tells him. And, seemingly bizarrely at first, treats him not as a foe, but a friend, masking the existence of the First Order as he chats to Bylsma while also offering the old man a semblance of hope—revealing that his companion, knocked out by Bylsma’s trained animals, is none other than the son of Leia Organa.
Hux isn’t lying of course. Kylo Ren is Ben Organa-Solo (or whatever Leia and Han went by in their marriage), the child of some of the Rebellion’s finest heroes. But while the audience knows the cruelty of his deceit in context, it becomes explicit to Bylsma when, after the old man allows Hux to use his communications array to call for help, that help arrives...and to Bylsma’s confused horror, it’s in the form of figures that look terribly like the Imperial Stormtroopers he’s just been told were defeated once and for all.
If that wasn’t cruel enough a joke to play already, Hux goes even further. He orders Phasma and her troopers to murder Bylsma’s animals and to destroy his communications array, but to leave the old man alive. Hux intends to use the planet as target practice for Starkiller, and relishes in the incredibly hateful pettiness of eradicating a tired old man and robbing him of the hope Hux himself had dangled before him, just because he can.
It’s so unfathomably cruel and disarmingly senseless. But then again, if Hux is to be the embodiment among the First Order’s upper echelons of that blind, relentless hate, it needs to be. There’s no reason for it. It’s just...hate.
Elsewhere, the issue does attempt to texture Hux with a little nuance. In finding out the identity of the saboteur of his ship—an Admiral who’d slighted Hux when he was a child still being bullied around by his father, Brendol Hux—during the issue’s closing pages, Hux relishes in seeking vengeance by executing him with Phasma’s blaster. There’s almost an excuse that there is something to be understood for the grudge-bearing and the vindictiveness Hux displays—that, much like Kylo Ren, Hux is an angry man lashing out because of some childhood trauma.
But it’s made clear in Snoke’s narration of those last pages—a conversation he has with Kylo Ren—that, in the end, Hux isn’t the kind of person to be understood, for there to be a reason to his cruelty. Some people are just cruel and hateful.
And to an organisation like the First Order, an organisation in search of an ideology, that vile and empty hatred is a very useful blunt tool.
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