A graphic novel by Michael A.
Stackpole and Jan Strnad (1998, Dark Horse Comics)
Book 3 of X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
4.5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope
Rogue Squadron patrols a delicate party on
Tatooine, searching for a hidden Imperial stash.
Read on March 9th, 2002 for the second time
Really exciting adventure, with some strange mixtures of character, more
hit-and-miss artwork, and a questionable ending.
Rogue Squadron is sent to Tatooine in order to try and locate an Imperial
conman, who has been taking hefty bribes and disappearing, then reappearing
under a different name. By the end of the book, they haven't finished their
mission. Or did I miss something? I went through the book several times looking
for traces of Lirin Banolt, but I couldn't find any. I figure he had to be the person
who Sate Pestage "eradicated" because he was embezzling funds, but did Wedge or
Winter ever find out about that?
Continuing her decline from the last book, Elscol finally calls it quits here.
She has had too much, with the death of her husband in
The Rebel Opposition,
and, in The Phantom Affair, her protector Wookie. Now, after becoming a little
too unstable, and going off to attack a Star Destroyer all by herself
(presumably subconsciously to commit suicide), Wedge lets her go, so that she can
become a freedom fighter on Tatooine, trying to get rid of the Imperial threat
there. It seemed rather tacked-on, and I didn't get the sense that Tatooine had
such a huge Imperial presence -otherwise, how did Wedge and the others dock
their X-Wings so casually?
Winter is the main Alliance agent on Tatooine, and it is always nice to see her.
She is always nicely drawn, too, and I concur with Tycho's comment "nice...
stunner", the pause indicating that he's really looking at her legs... She goes
as Tycho's date, along with Wedge and Elscol to the Darklighter farm, where
Biggs' father is holding a memorial. It's funny (and sad) to see the great Wedge
Antilles wilt under the pompous gaze of Huff Darklighter as he essentially calls
Rogue Leader a coward for abandoning the Death Star trench in Star Wars!
There is a cool sequence where the party comes under attack and the Rogues have
to jump into action. Winter staged an attack as a diversion to steal an Imperial
data disc that Darklighter had obtained. But this was not her attack! A group of
Rodians staged another diversionary attack and stole the disc before she could
get to it. So the Rogues go off on a merry chase, where Tycho marvels at the
expensive speeder Darklighter loaned them, worrying about scratching it until
Winter puts an intentional blaster bolt in the hood! No nonsense, that one! But I think I
liked her better before she took the blond wig off... But they never recover the
disk, as they run into an ambush. No matter... Winter just intimidates Darklighter into giving her the copy he made.
The rest of the Rogues are partying, waiting for Wedge to show up. They enter a
cantina where they immediately get into a brawl. I liked Dlrr's sense of humor
-always the one-liner kind of guy. They are hired by a Devaronian who ends up
being Kapp Dendo, the commando who would turn up again in many of Stackpole's later
comics and novels, to be Winter's diversion, though they don't know this. They
are doing it because ...well, I don't know why, and neither do they! As Wedge
and the others are going out of the Darklighter moisture farm chasing the
Rodians, the rest of his Rogues are incoming, and all are trapped in the ambush,
their ships destroyed.
The disk has come into the possession of Firith Olan, a Twi'lek with ties to
Jabba the Hutt and the bodiless brain of the Hutt's majordomo, Bib Fortuna, who
is stuck in a brain spider. Olan takes the disk and the brain to Ryloth, where
he wants sanctuary, but his clan-mates sell him out. Somehow, the Imperials also
get involved, because the data disk contains the location of a bunch of secret
stashes that the Imperial conman set up. Wedge and Winter battle two Imperial
elite stormtroopers in a simulated game on a simulated surface of Ryloth. The
Imperials win, because Wedge stayed behind to save Winter, but the Imperial
captain betrays them all by stealing Olan and the data disk. Sixtus, the
Imperial commanding trooper, wants revenge. He comes off sounding more like a
Klingon than anything else, crying on and on about honor. If he was so
honorable, why didn't he leave Imperial service long ago?
They chase Captain Semtin back to Tatooine, where the Imperial stash is located. It
turns out that Sate Pestage, who would later become leader of the Empire,
created a huge base on Tatooine. The Rogues go to battle it, with the Imperial
soldiers who were left behind on Ryloth serving as ground forces. They
single-handedly take over the base, while the Rogues battle scores of
TIE-Fighters. It is during this battle that Elscol enters the belly of a Star
Destroyer and shoots at it from the inside. I am just glad that the authors
decided not to destroy the ship because of that. Sure, she gave it a lot of
damage, but not critically. Seems to me that this trick was used again in one of
the X-Wing or Wraith Squadron novels.
In the same battle, Tycho nearly causes Winter's heart to break, as he abandons
his X-Wing to a suicide run, ejecting before it crashes. It makes sense the way
they wrote it, but it artificially tried to pull at the emotions. Tycho and
Winter eventually will get married, as I recall they are wed by the time of
Jedi, so it's nice to see the relationship develop here.
So by the end, the Rogues are happy, even though their mission doesn't seem to
be the one they started out with. Captain Semtin was killed by Sixtus, so we don't
have to worry about him. We only now have a mysterious political figure named
Sate Pestage to worry about. At the very end, we learn that Olan also survived,
but that, back at Jabba's palace, the B'omar monks performed a brain transplant,
resealing Bib Fortuna's brain in the body of Olan, and making Olan into a brain
spider instead... I liked the development that led to this transfer. I only wish
the authors picked up on it in the future. As far as I can recall, Fortuna never
again surfaces during the Star Wars expanded universe.
The adventures on Tatooine were very intense, and very well developed. Once
again, I was not entirely impressed with the art, though. Shadows and outlines
are not my idea of a great graphic story. However, when the vibrating axes were
shown on Ryloth, I loved the shimmering that the artists were able to give! That
is what I would like to see more of.
I liked the idea of Elscol not being able to cope anymore, but her exit here
seemed very strange. She obviously plans to recruit Sixtus and the other
troopers, but it would have been nice to hear from them again. And I'm not sure
of what they plan to accomplish. I am also not sure whether Rogue Squadron
actually completed the mission they were sent to perform.
There was also a
small story involving the liberation of a small settlement from Imperial control
tacked on at the end. Originally featured in the Apple Jacks cereal, Wedge
destroys the people's monumental tower because it is the only way to destroy the
entire TIE Fighter battalion before its pilots get them into the air -and if
that happens, the Rogues will be decimated. The people are angry, but Luke
Skywalker arrives and talks them down. It was pretty cheesy, and I was
quite embarrassed about the whole episode.