Tie Fighter #1 Review: Imperial Pilots Take the Stage

In the Star Wars universe, the aesthetic of the Empire is unmistakable. Imperial ships are gray, angular, and easy to recognize. This look helps them strike fear into their enemies and present a unified front. Unlike the Rebels, the Empire announces its presence. However, this unity also makes the Empire seem like a faceless mob of people, which is effective. What could be scarier than a faceless death machine? Here, I review how Tie Fighter #1 attempts to address that style, and answer how well it succeeds in its task.

The image shows the cover to Tie Fighter #1, the focus of my review. We see a tie pilot on the inside of his space ship.
Tie Fighter #1 Cover. Click image to enlarge

The Empire is without a doubt an evil organization, and they have proven this time and time again. First, they build a weapon of mass destruction. Then, they take a Princess and a diplomat hostage and torture her for information. Next, they use their weapon to destroy her home planet. All of these things are terrible actions taken by a terrible and oppressive government. This issue attempts to add some context to these actions, and present the other side of the coin. For example, are the Rebels really terrorists? Do they deserve what the Empire is doing to them? When thinking about my Tie Fighter #1 review, these were questions I had to grapple with.

Tie Fighter #1 Review: Sympathy for the Empire

Due to the fact that the Empire is evil, one could easily assume that its troopers and pilots are also evil. This is not a bad assumption to make. When I read this comic, I wondered how the creative team would make me sympathize with its protagonists. How would they develop these characters and present them in a sympathetic light? It is a dicey question, to be sure, especially considering the current real world political climate. “Fine people on both sides,” and all that.

I am not here to talk politics, much, but it bears keeping in mind that this comic asks the readers to side with a government that murders citizens by the billions and rules with fear. This is not the first time a Star Wars comic has tackled such issues. In fact, Dark Horse had an ongoing series called Empire, and it was great. Why? Well, first of all it came out in the early 2000s. a simple time, and it never tried to make the Imperials sympathetic. Instead, it showed the whole Empire as conniving and paranoid and evil. In classic Star Wars fashion, it presented the galaxy far far away in the moral absolutes it so often deals .

Anyway, back to my Tie Fighter #1 review. We first meet Squadron 5 (Shadow Wing) as they blast some Rebel ships to hell. After a job well done, they return to their capital ship, the Imperial Star Destroyer Pursuer, where the reader catches the first glimpse of some of these pilots.

The image shows two shadow wing pilots, Lyttan Dree and Jeela Brebtin talking after a space battle. Jeela has an intense look on her face.
Click image to enlarge

Characterization Through Artwork

I like this page for a couple of reasons. One, the artists do a good job of capturing the vastness of an Imperial Star Destroyer. These things are huge, and that size is not easy to capture on the page. However, Roge Antonio and Michael Dowling do a fine job of translating that feeling to the page. Additionally, the art immediately tells us what we need to know about the two characters on the page.

Dree stands with his head at a near level angle, and has soft edges. These two elements combine to demonstrate a sense of naivety and inexperience. He is a lieutenant so he can’t be that inexperienced, but the art helps convey that he maybe isn’t strictly by the book. Actions he takes later in the issue confirm this suspicion.

Brebtin, on the other hand, is dark colors and angles. She is severe and serious. The art and her words tell us this. The difference between how Antonio and Dowling present these two Imperial pilots tells the reader all we need to know. One of them follows the book and takes their job quite seriously while the other has a more relaxed attitude towards things. If we had to choose one of these characters to be sympathetic to, it would most likely be Dree. He seems like a nice guy caught up with a bad organization, whereas Brebtin appears fully committed to the Imperial cause.

Politics of the Empire

As an organization that relies on fear to hold power, the Empire should suffer from a large amount of paranoia within its ranks. Thankfully, this issue addresses that fact, showing the fear and paranoia of the Imperial pilots on several occasions. Why is this important to me? One, it helps add an aspect of humanity to the cast. If they were all good little soldiers who never questioned the Empire or orders they would feel unrealized. Even the best soldiers have questions. Whether they ask those questions is another matter.

Imperial Paranoia. Click to enlarge.

Second, having the characters question their superiors, and each other in some instances, the creative team establishes that not all is right in the Empire. If its troops and pilots have doubts, Imperial leadership will have trouble keeping things together. As a bit of foreshadowing it works quite well.

Finally, the paranoia gives the comic a great way to further characterize Imperial forces. We see that they have to navigate an extremely rigid and authoritative system where one slip up could result in severe punishment. As readers and Star Wars fans we know this, but it helps to see it there on the page.

These elements work together to assuage the idea that you are reading about, and supposed to root for, the villains.

Tie Fighter #1 Review: Should You Read It?

If you are interested in a different perspective on the Imperial vs Rebel conflict, then this issue is a good place to start. It’s got some space battle action, some intrigue, and some good characterization of the galaxy’s villains. As this is a first issue, it is mostly set up, but there are a few good surprises in store.

Of course, if you have no interest in seeing the Empire in a sympathetic light, then stay away from this book. There are, however, hints that traitorous activity is afoot. A defection plot, maybe? Or possibly, rebel infiltration? Either of these choices would add a new layer to the proceedings and offer real reasons for reader sympathy. All in all, I was entertained by it, but your mileage may vary.

Have you read this comic?

Did you love the Tie Fighter game from Lucas Arts? I did, despite playing as a bad guy. Y-Wings were just so much fun to shoot down.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about this book, this post, or Star Wars. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.

The image shows the credits page from Tie Fighter #1, which I review in this blog post.
The ones responsible for this. Click image to enlarge
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Glow Comic from IDW Shines on Page

Glow, the Netflix series based on the real life Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is on break right now. However, we are not without their hi-jinx, thanks to the Glow Comic from IDW, which tells a new story. Now, adaptations like these often leave me cold because the translation from screen to page doesn’t always work.

The picture shows the cover for the first issue of the new Glow Comic. Featured are the cast of characters in all their glory.
Glow #1 written by Tini Howard, Art by Hannah Templer, and Colors by Rebecca Nalty. Click image to enlarge.

In this case, however, the creative team behind the comic does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the show and characters’ voices. Sure, it is not the same as watching the show, but comic book Glow is better than none at all.

Ruth, as always, is the character that shines the most. She has the perfect mix of sincerity and gumption that makes for a sympathetic and pathetic character. Additionally, she often tries to get thing s done, but usually just makes them worse.

The first example of Ruth’s over-zealousness is when she goes into Sam’s office to make sure that the team really has a free weekend. Unbeknownst to her, Sam is sleeping in the office. He wakes up, catches her, and then announces that the team has a weekend gig.

Sam is quite often the equivalent of human garbage, and that characterization continues. Not only will the ladies not earn any money for the weekend job, they actually have to pay him money for the privilege of going. Unless, of course, they want to lose their jobs.

A page from the glow comic that demonstrates how awful Sam can be. The picture shows a promotional poster and the ladies arguing about the money.
Sam showing he is awful. Words by Howard, art by Templer, Colors by Nalty, and letters by Christa Miesner. Click image to enlarge.

Glow Comic Ladies Raise Money

The need for 75 dollars each is the inciting incident for this issue as the women must raise the money or risk losing their jobs. Raising money is not a new concept for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

In order to raise cash, Ruth and Debbie don their wrestling outfits and try to solicit cash from passerby. Debbie isn’t into it at first, but Ruth tackles her, starting an impromptu wrestling match on the street. As you might expect, they get the money.

Other schemes include Melrose, Beirut, and Fortune cookie making and selling pot brownies. Britannica enters a barroom quiz contest, in which she does horribly.

The rest of the team also manage to raise the money, and the team is ready to go to the big event.

The picture shows Britannica getting every answer wrong as she tries to earn money by answering quiz questions. Bash looks on in confusion.
It’s an easy joke to make, but it lands anyway. Plus, the art is so cute and whimsical that it assists with the laugh. Click image to enlarge.

Why Should You Read Glow?

You might be asking yourself why you should read this comic. The answer is simple: it’s fun to read and pleasure to look at. The art has a manga feel to it, which some people don’t like. Those people are wrong, but I digress. The look of the artwork helps capture the silly spirit of the source material, and the bright crisp colors pop on the page.

Every element of this issue works well together. The creative team clearly knows what they are doing. Plus, there is an ominous cliffhanger that sets up the next issue.

If you need more GLOW in your life (and who doesn’t?) pick up this comic.

Have you read it? Got something to say? Leave me a comment.



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A Darkened Wish Brings D&D to Comics

Written by B Dave Walter with artwork by Tess Fowler, Dungeons and Dragons A Darkened Wish is a D&D campaign in comic book form. Jay Fotos provides the colors, and Tom B. Long does the letters. The grand daddy of table top role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons has seen a resurgence over the past decade.

Rat Queens, which Fowler provided artwork for, was an original story set in a fantasy world. Its characters included a fighter, cleric, wizard, and thief. All of which are staples of the standard adventuring party.

A Darkened Wish exists as an official D&D product, letting readers know what to expect. The story opens with the coming of a large battle. We don’t know the reasons for the battle, but we know it will be epic.

The picture shows the first page of A Darkened Wish. We see three boats carrying many monsters ready for battle.

I love the look of this page. The action flows upward from the large figures in the foreground toward the back, pulling the readers focus. The triangular design of the page greatly assists this effect. As the scene recedes, the detailed artwork becomes fuzzy, however; the details we can see are gorgeous. Fowler does an excellent job of making the reader feel the tension and excitement of the moment before the bloodshed starts.

Questions about the scene are many? What is going on? Who are these armies? Why are they fighting? These questions do not get fully answered in this issue, but if they did we wouldn’t need the rest of the series. While A Darkened Wish #1 doesn’t answer the many questions about the nature of the battle, it does provide plenty of intriguing history, and builds suspense. This causes us to want to read further in order to discover the answers.

A Darkened Wish Adventuring Party

Before the battle begins in earnest, we meet a few of the book’s main characters, but we still know next to nothing about them. After this brief introduction, they join the battle, demonstrating considerable power. Still, we don’t know enough to say much about them, other than they seem heroic.

Enter the flashback, which also happens to be the bulk of this issue. First, we meet Helene arguing with her grandfather about her life. He wants her to stay and undergo something called the Ascension, but Helene wants to live her own life. Begrudgingly, her grandfather lets her go, giving her a necklace. Helene leaves and soon encounters her two best friends: Aiden and Xander who decide to join her on her adventure.

The picture shows the three main characters of A Darkened Wish agreeing to adventure together.
Never Split the Party. That’s how the DM gets you.

The rest of the issues tells of their first adventure and friends they meet. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say this issue feels very much like how a Dungeons and Dragons campaign goes. You start off young and a little powerful. Then, you go on adventures, meet friends, make enemies, and gain more power.

Role Playing as a Visual Story

The creative team has done a wonderful job of making this feel like a role playing adventure without having the characters name spells or classes. No one says, I’m Helene and I’m a sorcerer, which is something that they could have easily done. All of the characters are fully realized and distinct. This book is accessible to those who like fantasy comics but know nothing about Dungeons and Dragons. Plus, the artwork is consistently fantastic and contains amazing detail.

If you like fantasy comics and/or table top role playing games, check this series out. Issue 1 came out today, so check with your local comic book store. It’s also available on comixology if you prefer the digital experience.

Have you read this? Do you want to read it? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for visiting.


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The Sinister Story of Mr Obdurate

The sinister story of Mr Obdurate; written by Juan Manuel Ponce @ElOzymandias, with art by Craig Cermak @craigcermak. Dee Cuniff @deezoid provides colors, and Micah Myers @MicahMyers letters. The four team members work together in seamless fashion to tell a story that is provocative, implicitly violent, and more than a little spooky.

The first page sets the stage nicely. As readers, we don’t know what is going on, but we know it’s no good. ‘Fuck.’ It can mean so many things, and evoke so many emotions. Here, placed in the darkness and coming from a solitary figure, we feel the badness of it. We sense the isolation of the man in the car, and his pain. Cermak’s art paints a picture, focusing on the man’s grimace and closed eyes. He has to do something he doesn’t want to.

The next panel continues to build the sinister feeling of the story of Mr Obdurate by showing us a small diner, Mel’s at night. Christmas decorations fill its windows. The man from the car approaches the diner. We still don’t know what’s going on, therefore, our sense of unease increases.

The bottom panel doesn’t provide much more information, only that the man is meeting someone. However, the caption blocks inform the reader that there is danger, and they belong to the sinister story of Mr Obdurate. In addition to building the suspense of the story, the bottom panel also lets us in on the twist of the comic. The man in the car who we watched enter the diner is not the main character.

Mr Obdurate page one, it shows a man in a car in top panel, a diner in a darkened parking lot in the second panel, and the inside of the diner in the third panel

Sinister Images Tell Compelling Story

Comic books are static works. They have no movement or motion, and thus they often require a lot of action to keep the reader’s interest. If they don’t have action, then they need snappy dialogue. Mr Obdurate leans heavily on the latter, and somehow makes it work.

The comic is a series of conversation snippets, told mostly in a nine panel grid that confines the artwork, and produces a sense of claustrophobia in the reader. This design choice serves to increase the uneasy feeling the story wants to establish in its readers due to the limits its places on the information we have.

Another affect of the panel construction is we don’t get to see the narrator as he meets and speaks with his victims, making him difficult to connect with, and creating distance. The only time we see him is at the bottom of page one, so we have a sense of who he is, but only. We know he has a beard, and a creepy smile. We also know he wears his hat low to hide his eyes.

Part of the success of the sinister story of Mr Obdurate is how well it flows, even though we only see one half of the participants.

This page shows a series of panels in a 9X9 grid of people speaking with the sinister Mr Obdurate. We see a slim man, a bald man, a woman, and a man with a baby.

We don’t know who these people are, but that doesn’t matter. We see and read their reactions, and know they are nervous, jumpy, unsure of themselves. Only Mr Obdurate seems sure of himself in this sinister story, which makes sense as he is in control. His viewpoint is ours. He tells the people what to do, and they listen. The nine panel grid contributes to this, perfectly illustrating the absolute sense of control he has.

Slow Build Up to a Sinister and Satisfying End

The third page continues the panel construction, and amps up the tension. Mr Obdurate mentions that the people knew this was coming, and that they will try to stop it. Some of them, like the woman, beg. The bald man says he’s sorry and can’t do this. As readers, we still don’t know what is happening, and for that reason we are scared, too. The questions raised have no easy answers. However, rather than harming the work, these unanswered questions only build the mystery of the sinister story of Mr Obdurate.

We witness the desperation of these players as they realize their time is coming to an end. We don’t know how they will die, and it is unclear if they know that either. However, they are going to die.

Who is Mr Odburate? Is he death incarnate? A serial killer? A hired man sent to collect people? The question is left unanswered, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that he has his role to play, as do we all.

I really enjoyed how this sinister story of Mr Obdurate doesn’t leave the reader with easy answers. Another thing that stood out to me was the creators’ ability to tell this creepy and atmospheric story without putting a lot of big action on the page. Despite the lack of big motion, there is still a definite sense of forward momentum along with the feeling of moving inexorably toward the ending.

If you enjoyed this comic, find the creators through their twitter links above and give them a follow and a shout out. And if you liked this post, leave a comment and let me know. Thank you for reading.

If you want to read more of my writing about comics, click here.

Edit

Juan Manuel Ponce contacted me on Twitter, and while he loved what I wrote about his and the team’s comic, he told me I was wrong. The character at the end of the first page in the diner is not Mr. Obdurate. He did think it would have been a cool twist, though. So, I got that one wrong, but what I said about how the nine panel grids gives the narrator absolute control still stands.

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Coloring of Wizard Beach is Wonderful

When people think of comic book creators, they usually think of pencillers and inkers. But, another important member of the team is the colorist. Color helps inform the emotional status and general atmosphere of the page. Wizard Beach from Boom Studios is an example of how coloring helps to dictate the mood by enhancing the artwork.

Colorist as Composer

Comics is a silent medium. But, in a sense, the colorist acts as a musical composer, adding emotional heft and connection to the page. A good colorist brings out the emotional beats of the story, adding boldness where necessary, and softness where appropriate.

Wizard Beach is a great example of how the colorist helps to dictate the mood through enhancement of the artwork.

The first issue opens on an icy plain with snow covered mountains in the background. The art demonstrates that we are in a cold and desolate land, and Meg Casey’s colors reinforce the idea.

The pale blue, the dark green, and the charcoal gray set a chilly scene. The splashes of color, indicate life and heat in this wasteland; this place is not as deserted as it appears.

The coloring on this page does a lot of work in a little bit of space. We feel both the cold of the land and the heat of the energy bolts crashing together. Casey’s colors elicit an immediate emotional response from the reader. Thinking of colorist as composer, you can almost hear the music swelling as the battle begins.

The next page is where we reach the full crescendo of the battle. Hot and cold colors combine and bring the battle to life. There are no sound effects on the page, but we can still hear the zap of energy bolts. We can still feel the heat of the phoenix and the icy air of the mountains.

The battle is hectic. Pegasi fight dragons. Giants swing large hammers. Giant bats dropping foes to their deaths. There is and magic galore, all of which the color helps bring together.

Coloring Makes Details Pop

If Casey’s coloring were not so precise, the reader could easily lose track of the events of the fight, which would make Wizard Beach a chore to read. However, the splashes of hot color show us the violence and its consequences, and it helps guide the reader’s eye. The skeleton engulfed in yellow electricity is a prime example of this.

That leads us to the darker, and colder, image of the purple foot coming down on the wizard. Finally, at the end of that panel progression we see the black bats dropping the warriors to their doom. We go from hot to cooler to cold in those three panels, which help to tell the story of the battle itself. It starts of hot and passionate, and becomes colder and bleaker as it progresses. The other colors on the page also help us to process the chaos of the battle.

The snaking red of the fallen dragon. the fiery orange phoenix in the background battling a gray elemental. The cool reds and purples in the foreground all tell the story of the ebb and flow of the fight that the artwork alone cannot quite accomplish.

The coloring in Wizard Beach makes the artwork pop, emphasizing and highlighting linework that may otherwise be hard to see.

Emotional Color

In addition to helping convey the story of the battle, the colors also inform the reader’s emotional response, an idea especially apparent in the foreground. Looking at the left side of the page, we see people dressed colorfully in green. In our minds, they are immediately the good guys because green is the color of life and the forest, and it stands in stark contrast not only to the cold blues and purples of the setting, but also to that of their opponents, monstrous looking humanoids robed in purple , blue, and black on the right hand side of the page.

These darker colors mimic those of the setting, and are opposite to the vibrant and vital green on the other side of the page. Thanks to the colorist’s choices, we know at a glance who is on the side of life and who isn’t.

Quieter Moments of Wizard Beach Coloring

The importance of coloring to the mood and story of Wizard Beach is not limited to the battle that opens the issue.  When we first meet Hex, the series’ protagonist, he is sitting in a small hut, the interior of which is bathed in warm light, and the color choices reflect this warmth. Yellow and brown are warm, earthy colors meant to evoke a sense of calm and comfort, which is exactly how the hut feels, especially in comparison to what came before.

Not everything is perfectly cozy in the hut, though, as evidenced by the snowy wasteland in the top panel. We are near where the battle is raging, indicating that while we may be safe for the moment, we won’t stay that way.

The idea of temporary safety is further reinforced by the purple shadows in the foreground and background of the middle panel. There is warmth and safety in the cottage, but also tension and unease. The artists tell us that with the look on Hux’s face, and the colors, straightforward and simple as they may appear, drive the point home.

More Examples

There are several other instances of the coloring in Wizard Beach enhancing the artwork. One such example is the dinginess of the train station, which is conveyed through muted browns and light grays. The place looks dirty, thanks to the artwork, and it feels dirty thanks to the palette choices.

Another example of the coloring bringing out the best in the art is when Hex reaches Wizard Beach itself. As to be expected, the scene is bright and sunny, and the colors reflect that. Even on the beach, though, there are darker shades and cooler colors, indicating that not everything is peachy keen in paradise.

If you have something to say about this post let me know in the comments. I am always delighted to hear from readers, but please if you’re going to be a jerk, just keep your thoughts to yourself.

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