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A graphic novel by Michael A. Stackpole and Scott Tolson (1998, Dark Horse Comics)
Book 4 of X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
4.5 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

One pilot must confront her past and regain the throne on her homeworld against her brother and the occupying Imperials.



4 stars

Last read on March 16th, 2002  
    Exciting and intriguing, two things that make a great story.  After the first quarter of the story, the art became really good, too.  This is definitely the best Rogue Squadron tale to date, and one of the best of the entire series.

Rogue Squadron is finally coming into its own.  In The Phantom Affair, the Rogues were involved in a ruse mission, which was mildly interesting.  In the last tale, Battleground Tatooine, it was a mission to capture spy information.  In this adventure, they are actively trying to align planets with the fledgling New Republic. 

Years ago, my buddy Robert and I went about creating a set of characters that branched away from the main Star Wars characters.  We set our stories in the time between Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, and envisioned it as a set of short stories -or even a TV program!  We wanted to create a set of Rebel lives that were out on the fringe, but did important things on their own.  It never went beyond concept, but I am glad to see that somebody has taken on the challenge.  Luke, Han and Leia are nowhere to be found in these tales, at least not yet, and I like it that way.  People get to grow like this, without being overwhelmed by the main heroes.  I like it.

It was certainly a surprise to find out that Plourr was a young Princess before joining the Rogues.  An unusual background, for sure, and probably inspired by Princess Leia's entry into the Rebel Alliance.  This is a character whom we have come to know over the last three comic collections.  Giving her a background like this might seem like reverse-plotting, but since we never learned anything about the backgrounds of any of the Rogues yet, I like it.

The book starts off with a simulator run.  I was confused for a moment by the death of Dllr, but when virtually all the rest of the Rogues were vaporized, I figured it out quickly enough!  The Rogues are getting nice and diverse.  We now have both a Mon Calamari and a Quarren, and they pick verbal and philosophical fights as often as they can!  There is also a Bith, who is attuned to music even in the birds, though it has always been Dllr who appreciated music for its mathematical melodies in past tales.

Plourr is revealed to the Rogues by somebody who wants to stop the civil war that has started on her home planet of Eiattu.  It seems that her brother is leading a liberation army, while the leaders, who helped destroy the monarchy decades ago, are trying to keep people from being killed, but are also appeasing the Imperials. 

Plourr is not happy with the government, for their acts to her family all those years ago, and she remembers all of the atrocities they committed.  But for the good of her planet, she is willing to believe that this government is not the same one that purged her parents.  However, at her first state dinner with the nobles, I thought she was going to break down and kill everybody!  She pierced them with words, but that was enough.  If they ever thought she was going to be a pawn or a figurehead, they didn't realize how mistaken they were!  Wedge's comment "that could have gone better" was hilarious and all-too true.

Plourr is a great character.  She is completely no-nonsense, and is not able to listen to garbage for long.  When confronted with the person she is supposed to marry, arranged long ago, she is disgusted.  But as she gets to know him, and see what a good person he is (not to mention that he is an ace fighter pilot), she starts to see that perhaps she could constrain herself to accept him.  As the nobles try and kidnap her, she and her count Rial Pernon fight them all off, until dozens of bodies are littering the landscape.  To see Plourr in action is amazing -especially when she has a temper!

The rest of the Rogues act more as a group than as individuals.  While Wedge and Tycho join Plourr and others in touring the grounds and the damage the Liberation Battalion has caused, the others are caught in a couple of ambushes, both by Imperial soldiers.  In one case, they are rescued by Wedge and a couple of X-Wings, and led out of the swamps by the Liberation Battalion.  In this way, we are able to meet with Plourr's brother in a completely believable fashion.  Janson and the others find that Prince Harran is a very charismatic person, who truly believes, as they do, that the Imperials have to be driven from Eiattu.  But he also believes the the nobles in the government must be destroyed, as well.  The Rogues spend the night at the Battalion's camp, and meet back with Wedge in the morning.

During the night, we meet a face that will become familiar in later comics and a novel.  It turns out that Harran is in league with the Imperials.  In fact, he's in bed (literally) with Leonia Tavira, who would go on to be a major villain in I, Jedi.  Here, she is revealed to have killed her husband, who was the local Moff of this planet, and taken over in his post.  It seems that this went on a lot in the Empire, especially after the Emperor died. 

Stackpole loves strong female characters, and Tavira is no different.  She bluffs her way through every situation, playing everybody for fools.  And she succeeds in a lot of what she does.  When plans don't go exactly as she wanted them to, she is smart enough not to hang around for the aftermath.  After the Rogues are captured in the second ambush, Tavira lets them know that she might need them as bargaining chips.  She will listen to the reports of how the final battle is going, and be back.  If she doesn't need them, she'll kill them!  And that is very much the Tavira we know from I, Jedi and Masquerade

Fortunately for the Rogues, the Quarren member of their group was left for dead in the swamp.  Being from a watery planet, he can breath underwater.  He steals an Imperial scout and rescues his comrades.  Tavira escapes with loads of money!

The final battle takes place as the Liberation Battalion attacks a major Imperial monetary facility.  They succeed, but Plourr reveals that she killed her younger brother twenty years ago, so this must be an imposter.  I really liked her retelling of her little brother, the sick little monster who tortured small creatures and worshiped Darth Vader.  It was a little silly to see Vader playing with toys with a young boy, but the rest was chilling to the bone. 

It turns out that Vader had had a double ready for when the boy was killed, ready to take over the monarchy on Eiattu.  This man now believed that he was Harran, and is driven insane when his brainwashing ring is destroyed. 

Plourr is given a chance to rejoin Rogue Squadron, but refuses, knowing that her place is in trying to rebuild her society.  Wedge lets her keep her X-Wing, though, so that she might join them on missions every once in a while.  And so, after Elscol, another Rogue Squadron member leaves. 

For a graphic novel, art is very important to the telling of the story.  I was worried at the beginning, as the art was simply lines and colors, with no depth or feeling to them.  But once we got out of the halls of starships, and down onto Eiattu, the art changed dramatically.  I especially like the blurred lines that show extreme motion, or the way Tavira's face is blurred by the green tactical screens.  I also liked the way Plourr's hair started to grow back, little by little  But the swamps, and the colors of the royal uniforms really stood out, leaving me soaking up details long after I had finished reading the text on the page.  This was extended to the covers of the individual issues, as well.  It's too bad the cover gallery didn't give a single full page to each cover, because they were really beautiful and intense.

Most of this graphic novel was intense, actually.  It had a clear purpose, fierce and devoted characters, lots of action and ambushes, and wonderfully laid-out history and politics.  The only easy out the book took was putting Harran in league with Tavira, and having made him an angry child.  How would Plourr have reacted if she had not killed her mad little brother so long ago, and he turned up here, fighting possibly against her and the Imperials?  Still, what we got was a terrific tale of the liberation of a planet that featured nobles who were afraid to lose their power.  Plourr fixed that problem in the best Rogue Squadron adventure to date.



4 stars

Also read on June 26th, 1999  

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