You always hear them first. Twin ion engines make TIE fighters howl as they fly by on patrols.“
The TIE/ln space superiority starfighter, more commonly known as the TIE fighter, or “Eye-ball” by members of the Rebel Alliance, was the signature starfighter of the Galactic Empire during the Galactic Civil War. Always seen in massive numbers, the ship was the flying standard of the Imperial navy. Instantly recognizable from the roar of its engines, the signature howl of the TIE carried with it death, destruction, and the embodiment of Imperial power. The ship struck fear into the heart of countless beings across the galaxy and its pilots were just as ominous.
Equipped in sleek, black, flight suits with an expressionless helmet reminiscent of the Stormtroopers, these soldiers represented one of the most elite castes within Empire’s military. Not much is known about these pilots beyond their exceptional flying, combat skills, and willingness to lay down their lives for the Empire. Until now.
As the war between the rebels and the Galactic Empire stretches on, it’s the innocent people of the galaxy who are most at risk. An elite squadron of TIE fighter pilots is assembled to help protect Imperial interests – and hammer the Emperor’s fury down upon the treasonous and violent Rebel Alliance. But how far is this untested team willing to go to preserve law and order? Are the pilots of Shadow Wing as loyal to the Empire as they seem? And on a dangerous mission to deal a devastating blow to the Rebellion, will any of them survive the fight?
What’s the skinny?
Jody Houser, the comic book adaptation queen, is here and in command of her very own TIE Fighter pilot squadron of artists: Roge Antonio, Michael Dowling, Joshua Cassara, Geraldo Borges, Ig Guara, and Juan Gedeon. Together they’re here to give us an up close and personal look at the men and women behind the TIE pilot helmets. Over the years we’ve learned so much about the friendships, families, and lovers that make up the soldiers of the Rebel Alliance. Now it’s time to shine a light on all of those very similar human experiences that exist during wartime among the soldiers of the Empire’s elite pilots. For the Empire!
What’s the catch?
There are a few minor plot details that felt a little too easy for the situations, but when looked at with the larger scope of the story, they don’t really impact your enjoyment that much. What I did find mildly irksome was the lack of directions that should have been present to point readers to Alexander Freed’s latest Star Wars novel, Alphabet Squadron. TIE Fighter and Alphabet Squadron are tied very closely together, so much so that you’re really missing out of an important component of the overall story if you only read one of the two. I definitely enjoyed TIE Fighter more because I’d already read Alphabet Squadron. Reading order doesn’t matter here, just do yourself a favor and be sure to take in both of them.
Is it good?
If you follow the infamous Star Wars mantra “the Empire did Nothing Wrong,” you’re obviously going to love this story. But even if you don’t, good news, you’re still going to love this story.
Meet the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing, also known as Shadow Wing, one of the most elite TIE Fighter wings within the Imperial Navy. The Empire has just scored a major victory against the Rebel Alliance at the Battle of Hoth and Shadow Wing is cleaning up various scattered Rebel elements around the galaxy. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, war is anything but.
Houser takes us to the ground level of the conflict into squad five and puts us in the cockpit. Not only do we have an over the shoulder view to some incredible space combat, but for the first time ever we’re witnessing an untold chapter of the Galactic Civil War unfold before us. I love Luke Skywalker and the gang as much as the next Star Wars fan, but man, it’s so refreshing to experience a Star Wars story that doesn’t involve Sith, Jedi, or one of the franchise’s famous characters.
I’m often hesitant when I see multiple artists included on a single story arc. To be fair, sometimes there’s a very clear need for it: flashbacks, characters with multiple personalities, time jumps, drastic changes to the environment, etc. This book has a few flashbacks, but they’re very brief and few and far in-between. So I’m not sure why there’s six different artists here, but after reading this I have no complaints to offer.
At large, the quality of the artwork found here is really good. There are several pages where the level of quality veers into fantastic and utterly excellent territory. The cover art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Elia Bonetti, and Tommy Lee Edwards, with Edwards shouldering four of five issues, is just plain awesome. I would happily display all five on my office walls, but unfortunately I’m out of space.
The dogfight scenes were exceptionally well drawn, even with the utter chaos of dozens of X-Wings and TIE Fighters trying to blown each other up. I particularly enjoyed how the artists made the TIE pilots’ helmets translucent to show us the characters’ emotions under their helmets. The artists may be working on a science fiction story with a ton of lasers going off, but they’re also drawing an emotion-laced tale and they take particular care to display that across the faces of Shadow Wing’s pilots.
The most important thing this book does is highlight the fact that good people can be found on both sides of a conflict. By the end of this story you’ll realize that you’re not only sympathetic to the plight of many of these pilots, but you’re concerned with their survival. There’s very real humanity behind the expressionless helmet of a TIE pilot, one that often shares the same fears, hopes, and dreams of the X-Wing pilots their locked in mortal combat with. Amidst dogfights, lives being snuffed out like candles, and laser cannons blazing, Houser teaches us how to show compassion and empathy for people that we’ve been wired to view as our enemies. That’s probably going to make some folks uncomfortable but I can’t help but see that as a good thing. Star Wars: TIE Fighter may be a fictional story about a galaxy far, far away, but today’s world would do well to take its biggest lesson to heart.
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