The best battle in Star Wars history just happened, but not in a movie - it's in the comic book. The Star Wars comic series from Marvel, to be exact, following Leia, Luke, and Han in previously-unseen adventures of the Rebel Alliance (after A New Hope, but before The Empire Strikes Back).
The films may claim the greatest skirmishes included the Battle of Yavin, where the Rebels proves capable of destroying the Death Star thanks to Luke and The Force. The Battle of Hoth, delivering a blow to the Empire’s pride. Even the new battles of Rogue One and The Force Awakens, benefiting from blockbuster budgets. But when it comes to the hope, the heart, and the character moments fans have demanded - and some they never knew to dream of - we say there's a new Star Wars champion.
It's the Battle of Mon Cala that united the Rebels in what might be their greatest victory. Without this win… the Empire would probably have crushed them all.
To make such a claim isn't taken lightly, but neither should the value of the Mon Calamari be understated. Something Emperor Palpatine recognized, immediately kidnapping the Clone Wars veteran King Lee-Char, and imprisoning him for years to crush the Mon Cala’s support for the Rebellion. And crushed it was... until Leia finds the ailing Lee-Char, and carries his words to the Mon Cala… broadcasting it to every ship and sailor in the planet’s orbit.
That broadcast is just the first of many made-for-a-movie moments, as the Mon Calamari sailors have their hopes and spirits renewed by their King's holographic message… and his death at the end of Stormtroopers blasters. And as the Imperial officers commanding them try to talk down what's coming, the Mon Calamari hurl themselves at their oppressors, and effectively join the Rebellion without a word needing to be spoken. But the ships they command aren't made for war… unlike the Star Destroyers next to them. Luckily, the Rebels are never far from those in need.
It was the King Lee-Char’s former advisor Raddus who forced the Rebels to back Jyn Erso’s team in Rogue One, gaining the plans to the Death Star as a result. Here, the King’s former head of security - Admiral Gial Ackbar - gets to come to his people's rescue. Knowing how important the Mon Cala fleet and sailors are to the Rebellion’s chances, Ackbar chooses his words carefully.
Hailing the whole of the Rebel fleet’s crew and pilots, Ackbar orders them to save the Mon Cala as only he can. And with his stirring command, the Battle of Mon Cala begins.
For all the space battles in the Star Wars films, there aren't many where the heroes are launching a valiant assault to protect and save (on a smaller scale, the X-wing attack in Force Awakens shows how satisfying it can be). And by this point, the ‘Rebels need to blow up a superweapon’ premise has worn thin.
By contrast, The Battle of Mon Cala sees Rebel craft large and small swooping in to defeat TIE Fighters before they can fire their weapons, and intercept Star Destroyers firing on escape pods, determined to show that joining with the Rebellion means heroes will sacrifice everything to defend their friends.
A belief that Leia Organa demonstrates personally, finally hopping onto the laser cannons on board the Millennium Falcon to show that her training as a “princess” also included blowing enemy ships into dust. And adding her name to the list of movie greats who manned the Falcon's weapons over its colorful history.
It's a long time overdue, but worth the wait (especially with Leia's fighting days in the film's now over, barring a possible flashback). Writer Kieron Gillen and artist Salvador Larroca don't disappoint anywhere else in the battle, or the final stroke needed to win the day. We won't spoil the moment of Ackbar accepting the sacrifice of one Mon Calamari vessel and its crew - a moment every Ackbar fan should see for themselves - but most readers will wish that this skirmish made it into a full-sized feature film long before the newly-formed Rebel Fleet escapes to lightspeed.
When the dust settles, the new canon origin of the Rebel Fleet is set in stone. And all things considered, the entire "Mutiny at Mon Cala" has done more than enough to show why the late King Lee-Char may be the most important Star Wars hero. It's a testament to the work being put into expanding the canon through comics, including incredible moments like these - and the revelation of Darth Vader jealously protecting his podracing record from his own son, Luke.
If we're adapting the best comic moments to new prequel movies... there's no reason that both can't make the cut, right?
Star Wars #49 is available now from Marvel Comics.