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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.



3 stars

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 I, 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.



3 stars

Also read March 3rd to 7th, 1999  

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