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XWing SW: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - In the Empire's Service TPB
Story: Michael A. Stackpole
Pencils: John Nadeau
Inks: Jordi Ensign
Cover: Timothy Bradstreet, Grant Goleash
Editor: Peet Janes

Summary

Six months after the battle of Endor, the war between the Alliance and Empire continues. In one battle, prestige and the rich planet of Brentaal will belong to the victor. Rogue Squadron is part of the Rebel task force, while the elite 181st Imperial Fighter Group, Baron Soontir Fel commanding, ensures that the Rogues do not have an easy time of it. As both sides struggle to prove their dominance, Director of Imperial Intelligence Ysanne Isard schemes to take the Empire for herself . . .


Adrian's Review
reviewed 1/31/00

The Story
‘In the Empire’s Service’ surpasses all previous X-Wing arcs. It illustrates the struggle between the Empire and the New Republic particularly well, using the New Republic offensive against Brentaal, a rich Imperial world. Some of the Rogues make insightful comments on the situation, unlike Plourr, whose comments on Fel are somewhat stupid.

Interesting Imperials are featured, primarily Baron Soontir Fel, a virtuous Imperial fighter ace hamstrung by the intrigues of his superiors. Fel is the best Imperial character after Thrawn in both competence and interest, and his basic human decency makes him a nice change. Fel cares for his pilots, and little things like his referring to his second-in-command, Major Turr Phennir, by his first name, help show that he is a genuine human being. This is nice to see, for if every Imperial were like the scheming, incompetent, emperor-wannabes we have seen so many times before, it is questionable whether even the power of the dark side itself could have held Palpatine’s empire together for as long as it did!

Speaking of incompetence, Admiral Lon Isoto, Imperial commander at Brentaal, is the complete opposite of Fel, and that officers like him could remain in positions of power goes a good way towards explaining the Empire’s post-Endor defeat. Another factor particularly relevant to this story was Ysanne Isard, who sabotages the Imperial defence from the beginning, as she betrays all Imperial factions to further her own power. The story ends with her position improved, but her victory comes at a price - the Empire’s defeat.

The Rebels are not quite as interesting as the Imperials in this series. Of the new pilots who are introduced, it is soon clear which ones will survive and which will die. Kapp Dendo, the Devaronian special operative from ‘Battleground: Tatooine’, reappears to carry out an raid against an Imperial facility. His appearance and the raid seem superfluous to the plot, and was apparently only included to prevent a story going by without Rogues running about shooting a few stormtroopers. Also, when some Brentaali children are wounded after a Rebel assault shuttle is shot down into a school, an ideal opportunity is offered for the Rebels to question their actions, to consider that they are causing harm while they acting to free people from the Empire. Alas, this issue is not explored.

The Art
Stackpole’s story is really brought to life by the impressive artwork. To begin with, Timothy Bradstreet is very good at creating artwork that conveys a sense of menace (like much of his work for White Wolf Game Studio, for example) and this cover is no exception. Even though Fel looks different inside the comic, the brilliantly detailed cover helps set the tone for the story, and the kill symbols showing X- and Y-Wings show right from the beginning that this will not be another story in which the Imperials simply throw themselves at the Rebels and conveniently die.

The interior art is also quite impressive. Technology, a particularly important component of any X-Wing comic, is particularly well done, from the ever-present X-Wings, to TIE launch racks and life-support systems. A number of scenes take place in or over cities on Brentaal, and the buildings are depicted well. Sunsets and sunrises are particularly effective, and one of the best panels of the story is one of X-Wings and TIE Interceptors flying at each other as the sun sets over Brentaal.

However, there are a few problems, such as the depiction of people, as their faces in particular seemed a little disappointing. Most seemed to lack detail or to be a little chunky. A symbol on the very first page, meant to be the Imperial symbol, looks exactly like the star of David. Kapp Dendo wears a strange helmet that he should never have been able to place on his head, and due to the snug fit of his horns, he should certainly never be able to remove it. In a later scene Fel’s flight suit had holes in it just before he was to fly, something a pilot of his experience would be unlikely to overlook, especially considering TIE craft do not contain their own atmosphere!

For the most part, however, the art was excellent. Imperial Sanctum on Coruscant, where Pestage seems to spend most of his time lurking, looks exactly like the kind of place Palpatine would have built. Isard’s chamber, on the other hand, seems to have been partially inspired by Episode I development art, which was a very nice touch. The opulence of Isoto and his palace are depicted well, recalling the luxuries of ancient Rome or Egypt, particularly appropriate given that Isoto’s debauchery and incompetence recalls certain leaders of those civilizations.

Major Phennir seems strangely reminiscent of Sting as Feyd-Rautha Harkonen from the David Lynch version of ‘Dune’. Battles and explosions are depicted well, even if the starfields don’t look quite right. One combat scene in which the dialogue and images mesh perfectly is the one in which Fel downs a Y-Wing, a scene sure to be appreciated by any who have flown against Y-Wings in any LucasArts game.

Conclusions
An excellent story that is well illustrated and introduces a great new character. A must buy.

9/10. Highly Recommended.

Cover Image

Dark Horse Profile


Copyright © 2000 by Adrian Ringin. With the exception of Dark Horse Comics Inc, this review may not be reprinted without permission.

Titles, Cover images, Dark Horse Comics, and the Dark Horse logo are trademarks of Dark Horse Comics Inc. and its respective Licensors.

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