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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