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A graphic novel by Michael A. Stackpole, Jan Strnad (1999, Dark Horse Comics)
Book 5 of X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
4.5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Settling in some rookies on a search for a missing Bothan ship, Rogue Squadron finds an active former Imperial establishment.



3 stars

Last read on April 1st, 2002  
    The art in this installment was wonderfully done, and at the same time, there were some terrible drawings!  I was amazed at something on each and every page, though.  The story was simple, but I am very tired of the way Sith "magic" seems to work.

The story is extremely simple, and is a variation on a horror theme, where people experience abnormal feelings and dreams.  Only these were not really horror versions; they seemed pretty mundane.  After arriving at a planet where Rogue Squadron is pretty sure a mislaid Bothan freighter has landed, they are attacked by TIE Fighters.  They easily win, but Wedge is knocked out by the initial blast.  His group lands near the Bothan ship, where the men start lusting after the Bothan females, who are dancing in barely any clothes.  This was my first clue that either I was going to hate the story, or something strange was going on here.  Tycho and Ibtisam also have strange dreams about events that didn't happen in real life, but seem like memories. 

The camp is attacked by wild semi-sentient beasts, wielding Imperial blasters.  They fend the creatures off, and in the morning, they trudge into the forest, where Dllr hears strange music.  They are fought off by the creatures again as they near a stone temple, and when the Rogues are forced to retreat, Dllr is lost, while the Bith pilot is injured. 

Meanwhile, Wedge was rescued by a Devaronian who is wielding Sith magic, and miraculously healed.  Wedge doesn't have any affinity to the Force, so is unaffected by the lust for power.  He understands that the Devaronian is mind-linked to the creatures, and is coordinating their attack.  He manages to escape when the Devaronian is distracted by the battle, but is replaced in the temple by Dllr. 

I get very tired of everybody being able to have access to the Force and Sith magic.  The Emperor must have been absent-minded to let so many Force-sensitives get away.  Nearly every member of Rogue Squadron was affected.  Why?  The aliens were the most affected.  Again, I don't understand why.  Wedge specifically attributes his not being affected to his lack of Force sensitivity.

When the Rogues take to the sky, they manage to defeat the natives in TIE Fighters again, and thanks to a distraction caused by Dllr, they get away without any casualties (except for Feylis' X-Wing S-foil). 

By this time, we learn that the Bothan in charge of their group, Girov, murdered his captain, and was actively searching for this Sith temple.  He leaves the group and takes control away from the Devaronian, killing him and nearly killing Dllr.  He coordinates a new attack on the Rogues, intent on creating a new Empire, centered on this planet, Malrev 4.  I don't understand, once again, where the Force-sensitivity came from.  And at the beginning, Wedge explains that a software glitch transposed the numbers of a hyperspace jump path.  Was this software the creation of Girov?  If he was actively seeking this temple, as they say, if it was just a random bug, then this Bothan was extremely lucky.  I don't know how many days they had been stranded on that planet (actually, the engines were sabotaged), but he hadn't found the temple he was searching for.  It took the Rogues mere hours to find it, albeit because Dllr could hear the "music".  But Girov seemed pretty well tuned to the music himself, afterwards.

Of course, the Rogues overwhelm Girov's coordinated attack of dozens of TIE Interceptors.  They were doing well on their own, but the timely arrival of Plourr into the battle was enough to give Girov too many targets.  When an opening presented itself, the Bith pilot, fatally wounded and in Feylis' crippled X-Wing, crashes into the temple, destroying it.  She and Dllr were mind-linked, and he led her to him.  I take it they were growing fond of each other, though I hadn't noticed it in the previous installment

What I really didn't like about this installment was the last quarter, in that the Sith magic was truly like magic.  It could do anything, even reattach a hand that Girov intentionally took a blaster to!  It sucked the enjoyment right out of the book.

However, the art was masterful, for the most part.  Every time an alien was in a scene, the result was a masterpiece.  X-Wings and other fighters were incredible, though there seemed to be some scaling problems at times, where the perspective wasn't right, or the lines were too sharp.  The backgrounds were also amazing; I love the blurred edges to everything that's moving, as if it's just too fast for the comic to capture.  Fire was the best part, as it actually looked alive.  And the smoke that was present for hours after a battle were great to look at -wisps that drifted up from doomed ships in the forest, even smoke that formed into little wing-tip vortices, or the way it spiraled from a half-smashed TIE Fighter. 

Unfortunately, any time a human was in the scene, which was often, I had to avoid them, because they were not interesting or even nice to look at.  They had no shades to them, no focus, and often their hair was simply a mass of one single color, no more.  The Bothans didn't really fare much better, either.  It was the other aliens who kept my interest.

The story was simple but intriguing, and introducing the death of a major Rogue Squadron character was completely unexpected.  But Wedge was Wedge, totally in character, and the rookies were given a good chance to prove themselves, after not really getting to do much in the last couple of books.  It was good to see that the Warrior Princess has not been dropped from the stories, too.

This collection also includes the Rogue Squadron Prequel as an extra bonus at the beginning, making a nice prelude to this story.  The cover gallery is terrible, though, showing us postage-stamp sized images that I was not impressed with. 

Overall, enjoyable until everybody starts wielding Force-powers, and the art was something to behold, for the most part, bringing the grade up.



3 stars

Also read on August 14th, 1999  

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