By Jennifer de Guzman
Star Wars, perhaps more than any other film franchise, relies on other media to tell the backstories and continuing narratives of characters. Even after Lucas Film exploded the sprawling Expanded Universe, removing its canon status, this has remained true, though the bounds of the narratives seem more disciplined now. Devotees of the ginger-haired General Hux (and there are more than you — and Domhnall Gleeson, who plays him — think) have gathered scraps of information from as many sources as we could — novels, the Star Wars Visual Dictionaries, and now comics, with the release of Star Wars: Age of Resistance — General Hux #1 by Tom Taylor, Leonard Kirk, Cory Hamscher, and Guru-eFX.
The abiding image of General Armitage Hux from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is of a fanatical true believer who stands before his troops, screaming out his hatred in precise Received Pronunciation, and then seething, teeth gritted, as the light of his worlds-obliterating weapon reflects in his crazed green eyes. The script for the long-awaited sequel to The Return of the Jedi describes him as simply “General Hux, 34, scary.”
The Last Jedi takes some of the pomposity out of Hux in a way that many regard as comedic, but these moments, when examined more deeply, reveal the truth of Hux’s life: He has always been someone’s punching bag. Poe Dameron trolls him from an X-Wing; Supreme Leader Snoke Force-drags him across the floor in front of Hux’s own subordinates; Kylo Ren similarly both physically abuses Hux and humiliates him when he Force-throws him into the bulkhead of a shuttle.
With all that being done to Hux, it’s easy to see why some might miss other moments in TLJ that hint at the top First Order general’s inner life as well — his move to pull out his blaster when he finds Kylo unconscious in Snoke’s throne room, his measured gaze as he watches Kylo enter the Resistance base on Crait. Gleeson, in a Huffington Post interview, mentions that he collaborated on the scene where Hux contemplates killing Kylo, to remind the audience that Hux is “a very nasty piece of work.”
But where did that nastiness come from? As so much in Star Wars, the answers lie the licensed media that springs from the films. From the novel Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig we learn that Hux is the illegitimate son of his abusive father Brendol (who calls the child Armitage “thin as a slip of paper and just as useless”) and a servant woman; in a sequel, Aftermath: Empire’s End, young Armitage finds a protector in Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, who confronts Brendol about his abuse of his son. The novel Phasma by Delilah Dirk was a veritable treasure trove — we could now place the general on an ice-blue sofa in a black robe when he drinks the bitter Tarine tea. (We learned about that Tarine tea from the The Last Jedi: The Visual Dictionary, the author of which, Pablo Hidalgo, also gave us Millicent, Hux’s orange tabby cat who is now fan-canon.) And, unexpected to those who didn’t know of Armitage’s abusive childhood, we saw a young officer Hux being kind to a scared child.
Another scared child is where General Hux #1 begins — young Armitage himself, after he drops a glass of water. His father calls him pathetic and, once again, useless, and an officer named Admiral Brooks humiliates Armitage still further. When the comic shifts to Hux the general, Kylo Ren is saving his life — an unintended result of saving his own as their shuttle crash-lands, Kylo says. But later, as the two encounter a beast on the planet surface, the Supreme Leader ignites his lightsaber and barks at his General, “Hux! Stay behind me!”
That Kylo Ren and General Hux hate each other is supposed to be well-established in the sequels’ narrative, but their rivalry and relationship seems more fraught and complex. Throughout both TFA and TLJ, there’s an undercurrent of familiarity between the rivals for power and Snoke’s approbation — the way, in The Force Awakens, Kylo needles Hux about clone troopers and Hux lifts an eyebrow and says “Careful, Ren” (as far as I can tell, no one else but Hux uses “Ren” to address Kylo); the way a whispered “That’s enough” from Hux in the shuttle on Crait somewhat calms Kylo; and now, in the comic (which is set before TFA), the way Kylo makes sure he is protecting the General.
There are explanations that fit within a traditional canon framework: Snoke will punish Kylo should anything happen to Hux; the General is important to the First Order’s military strategy (just how far before the completion of Hux’s great achievement, Starkiller Base, the comic is set isn’t clear). But, in my reading, the comic simply reinforces the history between these two characters, which is one of adversaries who are nevertheless bonded through mutual experience of abuse. Snoke is their abuser, and, judging from how often they are together when they speak to the Supreme Leader, they have probably witnessed the other being abused. Snoke undercuts Hux to Kylo, calling the General a “rabid cur” — and one can imagine that he’s said much the same to Hux about Kylo.
When Kylo’s immediate instinct is to protect Hux, when Hux orders Kylo back to the fleet for Kylo’s own protection, when Hux hesitates with his hand over his blaster — each is facing a moment when they could rid themselves of the thorns in their sides, but they do not do it. In my reading, this is because for them to do so would be to kill the one person in the galaxy who understands some of their shared trauma. The thorn’s presence is painful, but if they remove it, they’ll bleed out. They, and their tacit understanding of each other, make each other and their experiences more real, somehow.
So, later in the comic, when Kylo regains consciousness in unfamiliar surroundings to the sight and sound of General Hux calling him “Ben” (a name Snoke has forbidden anyone from even speaking), the erstwhile Ben Solo seems to take no more than a moment to understand — or at least trust — what Hux is doing. But how long can these two sustain such an unhealthy relationship? The death of their common point of contact — Snoke — may sever their connection. Hux wanted to kill Snoke when Snoke was Supreme Leader. And now that Kylo is Supreme Leader himself, there’s more than a hint that Hux’s homicidal ambitions have transferred the new leader of the First Order.
But if he is going to take action — when will it be? Hux allowed a dish of revenge to cool for 20 years before serving it to Admiral Brooks in General Hux #1; having allowed the Imperial holdover to settle into a false sense of security, Hux uses the sabotaged shuttle to finally make his move against Brooks. Hux toys with Brooks before executing him and lets him know exactly why Brooks is on the ground, staring up the barrel of a blaster rifle. “You. My Father. Snoke. Ren. You all underestimate me.” Hux doesn’t know when he says this that Kylo is the future Supreme Leader, but among his final words to Brooks are seven that show he’ll bide his time with Kylo, too: “I am not weak; I am patient.”
Star Wars Age of Resistance: General Hux #1
Written by Tom Taylor
Drawn by Leonard Kirk
Inked by Cory Hamscher
Coloured by Guru-eFX
Lettered by Travis Lanham