On a planet in unexplored space, an Imperial contingency discovers a mysterious alien believed to be a member of the mythical race known as the Chiss.
This Chiss, named Thrawn, is able to infiltrate their starship with ease, but he is captured shortly after. With help from the translation and kindness of a cadet named Vanto, the Imperials decide to take Thrawn back to Coruscant. He goes before the Emperor, who is impressed with Thrawn.
Thrawn is entered into the Imperial Academy alongside Cadet Vanto where the two experience difficulties thanks to their peers.
Personally, I've known Thrawn primarily by reputation as a Star Wars character. While I've not read a lot of the Expanded Universe novels and haven't watched a lot of Rebels, Thrawn is one of those characters who is referenced a lot in lore and Wookiepedia entries.
I was expecting a classical villain: someone prone to speeches, arrogance, and brutality. Thrawn #1 surprised me, and I'm glad for that. The real Thrawn (I'm not typing out his full name) is confident as far as he is capable. He's not needlessly brutal, and he only speaks when advantageous to do so. He also seems vaguely compassionate towards Vanto, but that could easily be ruse.
Also, I know this comic is based upon a novel, but I've not read it. I can't compare it to that novel.
In any case, the comic smartly opens by showing us Thrawn's legendary capabilities. He uses espionage and spy tactics to kill and infiltrate the Imperial garrison. Even when he is captured, you are left to wonder if that was intentional.
Jody Houser and Luke Ross can play to subtlety very well. This is not a comic with overwrought dialogue and thought captioning. You're introduced to Thrawn as you are introduced to the legends of the Chiss. He lives up to those legends, and that makes him intimidating.
He's written to be interesting enough to engage the reader yet vague enough to leave you wanting more. This is a great way to write a villain character, and Houser accomplishes it seamlessly.
The relationship between Thrawn and Vanto is really intriguing. You're not sure what can be attributed to compassion and what is usefulness. Vanto knows what he is capable of, and it's not much. Meanwhile, Thrawn appears in control of every situation.
It also touches on the issue of racism, which isn't often done in Star Wars with the exception of Wookie exploitation and Trandoshans hunting Wookies. The other cadets hate nonhumans, and this is partially attributed to the Clone Wars and the fact that the Separatists were largely nonhuman. That's a simplistic answer for what is always a complex problem, but it is at least something.
Ross and Woodard's artwork is stellar. The world is highly detailed and brightly colored. Thrawn himself is given an otherworldly texturing that makes him stand out even more in this world. It does look a little weird compared to the more cartoonish Vanto, which makes me wonder how intentional that distinction is. The art is largely great though, so those idiosyncrasies aren't too much of a drawback.
Star Wars: Thrawn #1 is an enticing dive into a beloved Star Wars villain. It's an intriguing read with good characters and great art. This one is highly recommended. Check it out.