In Review: TIE Fighter #3

This is the best issue yet, with plenty of TIE action and deadly repercussions.

The covers: A twosome to pick up for this issue. The Regular cover by Tommy Lee Edwards has two TIEs streaking away from a Star Destroyer. This would be a pretty standard image, except Edwards has the Star Destroyer in a dive behind the ships looking like a massive spear. The fighter closest to the reader has a smashed cockpit window, though it continues to fight with its twin canons powering up in light green. This cover is neat not only for the composition, but the striking colors which has light reds for the color of space. Very cool. Jeff Langevin is responsible for the Variant cover that promotes Alphabet Squadron, the newest Star Wars novel, written by Alexander Freed. This features Chass Na Chadic, a B-wing Rebel pilot. She has her arms crossed and she looks down upon the reader with concern. The character is rendered in black and white. She has a white mohawk and black eyebrows that flare out and look to continue on the sides of her head. Neat, but I know nothing about this character. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant B-

The stories: Writer Jody Houser wastes no time with the book opening with blaster fire between stormtroopers and the members of Shadow Wing who want to escape the Imperial Mining Facility in the Kudo System. One trooper is stunned, another taken down by Jeela’s fist. It looks as though the leads will escape, but they’re surprised by seven troopers from behind. Teso tells his squad to stand down. He addresses the stormtroopers, “I don’t know what Gratloe promised you to get you all to join in on the madness. But I know an officer who sees people as cannon fodder when I see it. The Empire won’t hold it against you for following an admiral’s orders. I’d guess that’s why he’s still keeping the title, for now. Gratloe made his choice. And whatever wealth he thinks is worth facing the Emperor’s wrath…Do you really think he’s going to share it with the grunts?” When they learn that their men weren’t killed, a trooper asks, “What do you want?” A deal is made, with some excellent foreshadowing in the third panel on Page 4, and the squad is in the skies heading for the Celerity. They have to deal with fighters from that ship and the larger threat that appears on 8. The action that follows is really cool and there are surprising actions on Pages 7 and 13. I was impressed that Houser went there; I expected these actions more so in the next or final issue, but putting them here is a good jolt to the status quo. The ending is a good gut punch and seeing Imperials in this situation is long overdue in Star Wars comics. The second tale is a five pager focusing on Teso six months earlier discussing his position with Major Keize. Again, this is long overdue in Star Wars comics and I’m glad Houser focuses on this aspect of the Empire. Given the conclusion of the first story, the ending of this shorter tale is a gut punch. Overall grades: Both A+

The art: The first page by Rogê Antônio is an excellent action sequence of stormtroopers going down to the squad. I love seeing the stun blast in Star Wars comics because it’s used so infrequently; having it here is neat. The blow that Jeela delivers is one powerful punch. Jeela is intense for all of the second page, looking as though she’s ready to start blasting at any moment. The fourth page’s third through fifth panels are excellent at showing loyalty among troopers. Seeing the squad’s TIEs in flight is a beautiful thing and there’s a lot of space action in this issue. I cannot praise enough the way Antônio does the squad’s helmet overlays, giving them a ghostly appearance but allowing the reader to clearly see each character. There’s an explosion of fighters at the top of 7 that rivals the onslaught of TIEs upon the Millennium Falcon in the climax of Return of the Jedi. This would be the strongest panel on the page were it not for the shock that occurs two panels later and the outstanding reaction shots at the bottom of the page. This page is perfection. Another barrage of ships is shown at the top of 8 and their positions and angles make it seem as though they are streaking forward chaotically. The action in space has truly begun! Ships are flying everywhere and their weapons are shooting in every direction. The top of Page 9 is spectacular. I’m really impressed with the way ships are shown speeding about; I often don’t enjoy space battles in comics because they aren’t exciting, but this battle looks great! 13 has a shocking action and I like that when one of the leads is shown in close-up on 14 their head is down. The penultimate panel on 15 is good because it may be foreshadowing the distance growing among the squad members. Geraldo Borges is the artist of the second tale and he’s in a tough position because the story has two Imperials talking and walking. It’s imperative that Borges has the characters emote well, to match what they’re saying, but he’s got to tell the story from several different points of view, because talking heads in panels gets visually boring really quickly. Borges is successful. Teso is shocked, humbled, and angered during this conversation, while Major Keize is solemn and emotional with what he’s trying to get Teso to do. The final image is the perfect way to end this story and it adds enormously to the conclusion of the previous story. Overall grades: Both A

The colors: The first tale is colored by Arif Prianto. Stormtroopers have got to be a colorist’s nightmare because there is a lot of shading required on their shiny white armor. Prianto does an excellent job on the troopers and other characters. I like how the final panel on the third page has the character colored primarily in the shade, increasing the dark turn he seems to be taking. The blast and yell on the next page are spectacularly bright, making them eye catchers. I love the ghost colors done for the squad’s helmets so the reader can see who is speaking and it’s a neat effect. This effect becomes almost like a death head at the bottom of Page 7. I’m also grateful that Prianto makes the starry background violet and blue, because black would have swallowed too much of the artwork. The destruction on 9 is beautiful for all the colors on the page. The highlights in the close-up on 13 are extraordinarily real. Lee Loughridge is the colorist of the closing tale. Rather than have the art dominated by the backgrounds of an Imperial vessel, Loughridge makes the second page pop with a strong orange tint to exacerbate what Teso hears. Notice how the next two pages have this character colored darkly, magnifying his gloom at what is said to him. It’s only at the bottom of the fourth page where he’s on the edge of acceptance does he regain his full colors. Overall grades: Both A 

The letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna is the man behind this issue’s scene settings, dialogue, sounds, yells, and transmissions. The scene settings are cool, done in a squat but thin font that stands out every time it appears. The dialogue is a little thin, though this allows characters’ yells to pop in a thicker, larger font. The yells are even bolder. The transmissions are appropriately in italics for ship-to-ship dialogue. The sounds are the book’s high point as explosions are massive beasts. I would have loved to have seen blaster fire in space, but Joss Whedon’s rule for space combat has sadly become the norm in Star Wars comics. Overall grade: A-

The final line: This is the best issue yet, with plenty of TIE action and deadly repercussions. I enjoyed the characters more seeing them in long scenes of stress, the ship battles look awesome, and the conclusion was a great gut punch. This issue also humanizes the Imperials, something not seen enough in the comics. That said, their numbers are shrinking, so survival is key. Great visuals this time out as well. The space battles really impress with their speed and ferocity. This is a winning issue in every possible way. Overall grade: A

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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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