In Review: TIE Fighter #1

I'm liking what I'm getting, but I do hope there's more action in future issues.

The covers: There are four covers to pick up if you want the complete squadron for this first issue. The Regular cover is by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Elia Bonetti and features a pilot inside his TIE. The reader is looking up at him and can see in his goggles the X-wing he’s pursuing and behind him can be seen the chaos of a battle between some TIEs and X and B-wing fighters. A decent job, but really red. I’ve never seen the interior of a TIE cockpit so red. I would have preferred to see it in black. The Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher is a first because it’s not an action figure, it’s actually a ship! The vehicle is mounted on a familiar Kenner action figure card, but contains a TIE. The image of the fighter is excellent as it fires its emerald blasters. Once again, this is a variant I’ll have to track down. The Alphabet Squadron Variant cover is by Jeff Langevin and features Yrica Quell an X-wing pilot of Alphabet Squadron. She’s on three pages of this book, but probably features more prominently in the soon to be released Star Wars novel Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed. This is a cool frontpiece and part of it is used as the cover of the novel. A little bit of cross promotional hype, but it works. She looks great! The Photo Variant cover features a trio of TIEs above a planet. It looks fine, but is boring. I would have preferred to see a ship in close-up firing, rather than three just speeding along. Overall grades: Regular B, Action Figure Variant A, Alphabet Squadron Variant A, and Photo Variant C

The story: There are two stories in this issue. Both are written by Jody Houser. The first is 16 pages long and is titled “The Shadow Falls.” The second is only five pages and had a confusing ending. The first opens with Squadron Shadow Wing taking down a final X-wing fighter in a very unpredictable maneuver. Aboard the Star Destroyer Pursuer, the pilots speak with others before receiving a new mission from Commander Nuress, aka Grandmother. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Zin and Ganem, as I can’t recall ever reading about this type of relationship before. What Shadow Wing has to do may seem like a cake walk, but naturally something unexpected occurs. Before the action begins Houser again focuses on the characters, with a very telling opinion given at a meal and a solemn drink in front of a TIE. The final five pages focuses on one of the characters, but what is she exactly doing at the end? Is her action revealed by the icon shown at the end? If so, that’s not exactly the clearest way to communicate the ending. I enjoyed the first tale, but was left hanging by the second. I’m hoping that all the following issues just focus on one tale. Overall grade: B+ 

The art: Rogê Antônio is the artist on the first story and Michael Dowling is the artist of the backup tale. For a book titled TIE Fighter I was expecting some big space battles and Antônio gets a quick one on the first three pages. The fighting is good and it was exciting to look at. Sometimes space battles are dry, but this one starts furiously with an incredible amount of fire hammering at the X-wing. The explosion on Page 2 looks great. The TIEs look great. I can’t tell what the Pursuer is destroying on the next page; I assume it’s a Rebel ship, but it doesn’t look like any ship I’ve encountered before. The hanger bay is really well illustrated. The character work by Antônio is really strong. I love the character introductions on Pages 4 and 5 with their expressions adding to their words and unspoken thoughts. Grandmother is terrific looking and I hope to see more of her. Pages 9 and 10 is an excellent conversation where neither of the characters is moving too much. The emotion of the moment is captured well. The final three pages return the characters to their fighters and it looks good. There’s a neat visual on the penultimate page followed by a jaw-dropping one on 16 that will remind the readers of a famous scene from Return of the Jedi. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Antônio does for this series. The final five pages also start with a great action scene, but after that it focuses on two characters and then onto one. Pages 2 and 3 are talking heads until one character leaves and the reader follows her walking into a room. Not really exciting visuals. There are some images that show her memories as she walks, but they’re not exactly clear. The last page is nice, but I have not clue whom she is speaking with. She’s obviously determined, but I’m left wondering what’s occurred. Overall grade: B+

The colors: I was not expecting bright colors on a story focusing on Imperials, aboard a Star Destroyer, who are TIE Fighter pilots. Arif Prianto’s work on the first story is fine. The first three pages are beautiful, which is ironic considering it’s a fight to the death for the X-wing. I really like the exhaust from the Rebel fighter. With all the dark colors on the Pursuer, the characters’ faces really stand out. The hologram on 6 is a gorgeous blue, which is employed in the films. The blast of color on 15 is fantastic and the contrails from the TIEs that follow it are cool. The large panel that ends this tale has some exceptionally beautiful work. Lee Loughridge is the colorist of the second tale blues are employed more often than blacks or grays for the interior of the Destroyer. This story is fine, but doesn’t give much for the artist or colorist to show off with. Only the sounds get some bright colors, as does the familiar icon at the close of the story. Overall grade: B

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna is responsible for the text of both stories. He creates transmissions, scene settings and character identifiers, dialogue, and sounds. I really like the font used for the scene settings and character identifiers. I’ve not seen it before in a Star Wars comic and it looks awesome. It’s futuristic, easily readable, and comes off as wholly Imperial. I’m not a fan of the thin dialogue font, which makes every character’s speech sound faint, but I’ve been stating that for some time. The sounds are few, with their absence on the opening pages painful. Why are sounds present at the start of the second tale, but, in the same situation, none in the opening tale? This isn’t Caramagna’s fault, but an editor should have caught this. Overall grade: B

The novel preview: There are two pages from Alphabet Squadron in this issue, hoping to temp fans to pick up the novel. It’s neat, but incomplete. Want the full story? Buy the book! Overall grade: B

The final line: I’ve never been a fan of the pilots of Star Wars. It’s difficult to capture the thrills of the films’ ship combat into comics, and this book doesn’t really try. Instead, the focus is on the pilots. I’m liking what I’m getting with them in the first tale, but I do hope there’s more action in future issues. The second tale left me cold, wondering what I had just read. The visuals are fine throughout, but with so little action, there’s not really much opportunity for the artists to wow the reader. This is Star Wars, so I’ll be back, but my hopes won’t be high. Overall grade: B

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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