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A graphic novel by Michael A. Stackpole, Steve Crespo, and John Nadeau (2000, Dark Horse Comics)
Book 9 of X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
4.5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Rogue Squadron seeks to capture and rescue the head of the Empire when he being chased by Isard, who cements her hold on the leadership.



Read on October 9th, 2017 for the 3rd time  
    Once again, I was impressed with this book. It has a story that follows the lives of Rogue Squadron from before the mission and throughout. The way it sets up the relationships between several of the characters made me certain that at least one pair wouldn't survive the mission, and I was right. I also liked the way the mission leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth, because they are trying to save the life of a man who led the evil Empire. In the end, his prejudices keep him short-sighted and in the domain of "evil", so that he betrays Rogue Squadron and is killed for his efforts, because nobody trusts a traitor. On the other hand, we have Baron Fel, who is also a traitor, but is accepted, because his actions show that he is trustworthy. In all, a great story.  


5 stars

Read on March 9th, 2003 for the second time  
    I was amazed at how this graphic story actually felt like a novel. The characters were extremely well-developed, the story was exciting, and the action was superb. It had all the elements of a great Star Wars novel -yet it had only a handful of pages, comparatively speaking.

The beginning of the book, probably the entire first issue of the comic series, slowly draws us into the lives of the characters. That is what makes this story so great. It gives us a glimpse of what their down-time is like. The tension exists because we also see the Imperial point of view, the power struggle between Isard and Pestage. We know that the leisure time of the Rogues will be short-lived.

Although the book starts slow, it accelerates constantly. The situation builds up, through the mission planning, through Pestage's capture, and finally to the rescue attempt. I admit that this is the weak part of the story. The authors couldn't really come up with a convincing argument to rescue Pestage. Capture him, perhaps, make him pay for his actions as a war criminal (as would later happen to Tycho in The Krytos Trap), but simply to rescue him from tyranny? I don't think there is enough support at this point in the timeline. Although Fey'lya questions the motives, and seems to be the only rational one on the Council, he eventually concedes the argument.

The artwork is also superb in this book. The individuals were very distinct, as were the objects and backgrounds. There is a page in the final attack on the two Star Destroyers that reminded me of a scene in Return of the Jedi, where everything is chaos, with so many ships filling the screen that it is overwhelming. It must have taken a long time to draw all those ships, and it was worth it, completely. Although most of the characters were pilots, they were very different in looks, so that they were easy to distinguish. Not to mention the scenes at the pool, where everybody is in bathing suits... However, the best drawn was Leia -she was so incredibly beautiful in the Council chamber, both when she is fighting for the rescue, and when she is frustrated enough to suggest that she would go and rescue Wedge herself! Mon Mothma was very right when she explained that the time when one more gun would help the Rebellion is long gone.

It must be nice to know the future of the timeline, as these authors did, so that they could work in so many continuity notes. The one that slipped by me last reading was Isard's reference to her clone, which would appear in Isard's Revenge, which I had not read at that time. Krennel, of course, also reappears, as do some of the Senators on the Republic Council, notably the Wookie.

Definitely the best of the X-Wing comics, even though nothing technically happens on the New Republic side of things. The development of the characters is what matters, and they got a lot of development here. The story was also pushed forward, in that we finally get to the point where Isard is in control of the Empire, so that the Rogue Squadron novels can take over.


5 stars

Read on March 25th, 2001  
    Spectacular, from the complex political manipulations (successful, this time) to the wondrous space battles, and the terrific artwork. This book was a success on all fronts.

Mandatory Retirement comes right off the heals of its predecessor, Masquerade. Tycho still has a black eye from the beating he received there, Pestage is justifiably concerned for his life, and Isard is ready to dispose of all who stand in her way. 

We start off simply enough, with barbs flung between pilots. Tycho and Wedge work out at the gym, flinging stinging comments back and forth. The two blond crewmates, wingmates, take a private stroll through a garden and then a dip in a secluded pond. The Mon Calamari and Quarren wingmates also share an intimate moment while Plourr takes on a physical challenge from another wingmate, after hearing about some nice combat from the previous book. Finally, the other Rogues are lounging by the pool, some trying to hit on the women there. All this served to show how normal these people are. It gave them some vulnerability, which has been hit-and-miss with this series. You can tell that they love each other, and would be devastated if any one of them were to be killed.

Things are shaping up on Imperial Center, though, that could get the Rogues killed. Pestage, leader of the Empire, made a deal with the New Republic in the last book that would leave Coruscant wide open and defenseless, but Isard has enough suspicions that he flees. Unfortunately for him, he is transported to safety by Leonia Tavira, who then double-crosses him and informs Isard of where the man is -in a holding cell.

The New Republic finds this too sweet an opportunity to pass on, and mounts a rescue mission. There is some nice debate about the matter, especially between the Bothan Borsk Fey'lya and Leia, who seem to be constantly at odds through the entire post-saga series. 

The Rogues are sent in, along with the commandos (who would reappear in Rogue Squadron and its sequels) to break Pestage out of prison. That part is easy, and goes off with barely a hitch. The ground battle is well drawn and is very exciting. The problem comes when they are about to leave. The Imperial Council has sent a Star Destroyer to retrieve Pestage, but even worse, Isard also sent an Interdictor Cruiser to prevent anybody from going into hyperspace. I can't recall if this is the same Interdictor that appears in later books, but I wouldn't be surprised. The commando Y-Wings manage to get into hyperspace, but the Rogues and the shuttle containing their prize is stuck. They go to ground on the far side of the planet, camouflage their fighters, and prepare to wait for an opportunity. 

Pestage gets to have some good conversations with several of the Rogues, including former Imperial Baron Fel. He is nearly killed by several others, especially after an Imperial scouting party kills the Mon Calamari pilot. The Quarren is extremely upset. But Pestage still doesn't get it. He refuses to share the shuttle with the body of an inferior species. And for that disrespect, Wedge nearly kills the man himself! The concise way the story unfolded was extremely well done. I was caught up on every word.

Wedge manages to get word through to Mirax after commandeering an Imperial outpost. She arrives and prepares to become a decoy for the Star Destroyers. I love this character more and more. She is so strong-willed that she even bosses Wedge around! It's terrific. At the same time, the commandos in their Y-Wings guide Mirax safely through the enemy fire. They had no intention of abandoning the Rogues to the Imperials, and waited at the edge of the system until Mirax showed up.

The Imperial captain prepares to mount a final strike against the grounded rebels, as the rebels form an assault plan. As they leave, X-Wings, Y-Wings, shuttle and Mirax's ship, everything seems to be going according to plan. Except that Pestage decided not to board the transport, sneaking off to make a deal with the Imperial captain. He does not survive the exchange.

Back on Imperial Center, Isard cements her hold on the Imperial Throne. She murders every member of the Imperial Council except its leader, whom she gives to her operators on a new facility ship, the Lusankya, which will feature prominently in The Krytos Trap, and reappear in Crimson Empire.

The final battle between the rebels and the two Star Destroyers was incredible. I was happy that the authors decided to give us a guide to the characters involved, because it could have become very confusing. The colours and the ships were amazing. Lasers splashing through space, ships exploding, driving off the Interdictor with torpedoes, and everything else made this the best battle drawn in this series. It might even be better than the one drawn at the end of The Sith War

The series ends with a memorial to all the Rogues who passed away since its inception, which is a great tribute. I find it too bad that the authors and artists finally seem to be getting used to grand storytelling as they end the series, but I am very happy that it ends on such a high note. 

The story may not seem like a conclusion to a series, but for some parts, it is, because it finalizes Isard's rise to power, and it shows how the Rogues can even win a mission that feels like a failure. It is not a perfect lead-in to the Rogue Squadron books, but it is obvious that Stackpole didn't know exactly how this series was going to end when he started those books. I can't see Rogue Squadron turning into a parade group, as mentioned in that book, but there must have been some time between now and then in which the squadron broke down or needed all fresh blood.

This book featured some of the snappiest dialogue, concise plotting, with many political and military twists. And it combined it with terrific artwork, drawing and colours. I wish most other stories could be so intense, with the same degree of softness, as well, as the characters become people. Sure, it was obvious that at least one of the couples would be separated by death by the end, but that death still shocked me. And that tells me that I felt more for the characters here than I have in the past. And to be able to do that in a short graphic story is a wonderfully amazing thing.

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