That’s It, Star Wars, Mandalorian Sabine Wren Needs Her Own Comics
Sabine needs more canvas space for her story.
As we await the debut of Kelly Marie Tran as Rose in The Last Jedi, another onscreen Asian woman heroine needs her due. In Star Wars Rebels, Mandalorian Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar) is an Asian-coded heroine in the Star Wars Universe.
To date, Jedi Kanan Jarrus is the only Ghost crewmember to star in his own Marvel series. As Rebels strives for a flashback-free narrative, it was natural that his spoken origin story had to be showcased elsewhere in comics, although other Ghost members have backstories only dispensed through onscreen dialogue, spoken about rather than shown. I brought up before that Captain Hera Syndulla has a cultural and war-filled background rife with narrative opportunities for comics. Now, considering Sabine Wren’s overdue prominence in Rebels, I’ve waited for an announcement of a Sabine Marvel series. Like the contents of the Kanan comic miniseries, Sabine’s origin story does not seem to fit into Rebels‘ flashback-free televised form. (Wishful speculation: Lucasfilm and Marvel must be saving something for both Sabine and Hera.)
A weapons expert in the rag-tag Ghost crew, Sabine has gone through a turbulent journey. She began a bit one-note, a pink-armored Mandalorian teen with a penchant for explosive, pro-Republic graffiti and snark. When Sabine was a supporting character, she was not quite given breathing space to develop into a rounded character. As a result, Sabine’s artistic proclivities unfortunately came off as gimmicky in the eyes of many fans.
Fortunately, when Sabine was not an arbitrary team player who shot and threw explosives, her input had weight in the grand scheme of the ethics of missions. In “Out of Darkness,” she clashed with her Captain Hera Syndulla over mission secrecy and trust. “Protectors of Concord Dawn” also showed her enacting an impromptu compromise between pacifism and aggressive war. She has a complicated tale of heritage and allegiance.
The Mandalore arc left by the canceled Clone Wars series provided a plethora of thematic opportunities for Sabine. Once fate placed the Darksaber weapon into her hand, Sabine became the center of hands-down some of the best on-screen Star Wars drama. “The Trials of the Darksaber” marked the most nuanced episode of Rebels, illuminating the cultural and spiritual dynamics of a non-Force-sensitive Mandalorian wielding a Jedi and Mandalorian relic, which has a history that rotates around Jedi philosophy, peacekeeping, extremist violence, and necessary defense. With Sabine brandishing a weapon of manifold symbols and chaotic history, there was no better way to externalize Sabine’s cognitive dissonance with her cultural and family origins and the new values provided by her adoptive Ghost family.
From being raised by a Mandalorian warrior-countess, to Imperial cadet, to bounty hunter, to rebel crewmember of the Ghost, Sabine lived a multi-layered life. The Sabine of Rebels is a heroine with a temper, but the Sabine of the past was a borderline anti-heroine who once endangered her own homeworld, as revealed in her cathartic confession in “Trials.” The brunt of Sabine’s Imperial past has yet to be fully fleshed out. Jarringly, when she goes undercover as an Imperial student in “The Antilles Extraction,” the episode does little to develop the emotional discomfort Sabine would feel to be back in academic Imperial spaces, though the ironic homecoming is noted.
“Welcome home, little Mandalorian,” taunts the Imperial Lothal Governor Arihnda Pryce, who represents a cautionary tale for the younger Imperialized Sabine, when a daughter perverts their own homeworld with Imperialized mentality. The show is also vague about how much Imperial brainwashing, Mandalorian upbringing under a complicated Clan, and/or genuine independent egoism had to play in her history of anti-heroism.
Speaking of which, Clan Wren is a rich mine for Mandalorian dynamics. Sabine is the progeny of an unorthodox Star Wars family unit, complete with one of the rare active (living) mother-daughter interactions in the Star Wars universe. How a strict warrior mother Countess Ursa Wren, with a (likely remorseful) history with Mandalorian terrorist group Death Watch, raised Sabine invokes questions about how Sabine interpreted her warrior heritage. To compliment Sabine’s combative education, “Heroes of Mandalore” depicts Sabine’s artistic father as the gentle nurturer to his wife’s tough-love harshness, who taught his daughter that Mandalorian strength is not just in sharpshooting but in the technique of color.
On another note, Sabine shares a bond with her Mandalorian friend Ketsu Onyo (voiced by Gina Torres), her equally disillusioned Imperial classmate and bounty hunter partner before their relationship soured. But oddly enough, despite their strong chemistry on-screen, with the comfortable interplay between Torres and Sircar, Ketsu appears in and out sporadically on the show, with only two Rebels on-screen appearances to date. (The Forces of Destiny shorts and Rebels magazine comics fill in some story gaps of Ketsu’s integration into the Rebellion.)
Time will tell what the Rebels finale has in store for Sabine, but whatever happens, there wasn’t enough time and canvas space to do justice to her past.
Sabine could inspire a stand-alone Star Wars novel or even a YA series, but written prose would not be enough. If Sabine is a warrior who battles with art, her story requires vivid illustrations. The artistry of this Mandalorian, as well as her relationships with family and friends of her pre-Ghost years, deserves to shine in the medium of comics.
(featured image: Disney/Lucasfilm)
Speaking of which, Caroline Cao has recently finished “The Historians of Clan Wren,” a Mandalorian Clan Wren fanfiction that can be read on Archive of Our Own, which somewhat occupied her desire for a Sabine Wren comic.
Carol is a queer Vietnamese-Houstonian Earthling surviving under the fickle weather of New York while buried in her Non-Fiction MFA homework like Hermione Granger and her Hogwarts studies. When not angsting over her first poetry manuscript or a pilot screenplay about space samurais, Carol is cooking her own Chinese food instead of buying take-outs and dreaming of winning Hamilton lotto tickets.
She chronicles the quirks of New York living, runs writing and scripting services, and lends her voice to Birth Movies Death, Film School Rejects, and The Script Lab. She’s also lurking in the shadows waiting for you to follow her on Twitter or Tumblr and read her Star Wars fanfiction.
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