Saturday, 17 May 2014

Star Wars Omnibus: The Other Sons of Tatooine review

Dark Horse has been releasing omnibus collections of their Star Wars comics for a few years. I’ve read a couple before and unfortunately, they just weren’t anything worthwhile. The quality of the book was rather nice. The binding is pretty good for comics so thick and they collect about three to four regular sized trade paperbacks worth of comics. You can’t really go wrong unless you buy the Boba Fett or Early Victories trades which I didn’t really enjoy. At the end of the collection, there is a note regarding the omnibus books:

Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars omnibus collections were created as a way to showcase actual novel-length stories or series, and to provide home for “orphaned” series, single-issue stories, and short stories that would otherwise never be collected.

The idea works well and the previous collections I read really showcased the idea of collection smaller stories that are still linked in some way, either by focusing on a character or a timeline. This particular collection groups together stories from three other characters native to Tatooine, other thank Luke Skywalker. Most of the stories were originally serialized in Star Wars: Empire and Star Wars: Rebellion.

X-Wing: Rogue Squadron ½
Credits: Michael A. Stackpole (story), Mike W. Barr (script), Gary Erskine (art), Dave Nestelle (colourist), and Annie Parkhouse.

This is a single issue story that takes place just before the Battle of Yavin. Members of Rogue Squadron are on a mission on Commenor to pick up several R2 and R5 units from a smuggler. The droids are for the Alliance’s X-wing starfighters which currently aren’t capable of travelling through hyperspace due to the lack of astromech droids. It’s interesting just how important droids are to the use of a starfighter. A pilot is several limited without one. Not only do they play a crucial role as a navigation computer, they also assist with repairs. Pilots can do pretty well without a droid when travelling short distances but for long distance they absolutely need an astromech.

It was interesting to see that there was a female pilot, Cesi "Doc" Eirriss, a Twi’lek. I’m not sure if this is a commentary by the writers on the complete lack of female pilots in A New Hope? You have to hand it to Stackpole as he’s done a good job incorporating a wider variety of aliens in addition to balancing out the genders of important characters in the Expanded Universe. Overall this story was short and sweet and it didn’t overstay its welcome but it feels in dire need of context. I preferred the story when it was retold in “The Saga of Biggs Darklighter”.

The Saga of Biggs Darklighter
Credits: Paul Chadwick (writer), Douglas Wheatley (penciler), Christian Dalla Vecchia (inker), and Chris Chuckry (colourist), Digital Chameleon (letterer). Originally published in Star Wars: Empire #8-9, 12, and 15.

The second story focuses one of the characters that appeared briefly in A New Hope, Biggs Darklighter. In the movie he only appears near the end, during the briefing before the attack on the Death Star but Biggs gets an earlier introduction in the novelization of A New Hope. While Luke is still on Tatooine he spends some time talking with some of his friends and Biggs was among them. “The Saga of Biggs Darklighter” takes the character and essentially shows his point of view story happening parallel to the events of the first Star Wars movie. There is a part of the story that takes place several months (maybe even a couple of years) before the fateful day two droids came crashing down on Tatooine’s surface.

Biggs’ story is interesting on its own but the creative team kicks it up a notch by telling the story as a serious space drama. Everything feels so important and there is a sense of gloom to the whole thing because anyone who’s watched the movies knows how Biggs’ story ends. It’s surprising just how much happens in just four issues. Paul Chadwick uses his narration boxes to great effect. It blends well with artist Douglas Wheatley’s work and it contributes to filling the comics to the brim with action, mutiny, and space battles. It’s just so well done. I can hardly believe that something so good could have been made based on a character that doesn’t spend more than a few minutes in the movie. His comic story meshes so well with this movie story that it feels like a series of deleted scenes that should have been part of A New Hope. Biggs as a good a main character as Luke was during Episode IV. Sure, Luke was later developed and grew more interesting but his wide-eyed innocence and know-it-all attitude didn’t give him much during his first adventure. I’m a bit upset that there won’t be more Biggs Darklighter stories. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that because there is a shit ton of Star Wars comics in the long boxes and on the shelves but for me, this is the definitive version of Biggs’ story.

There was only one thing that bugged me about the story. There is an editorial note that appears about three or four times which explains that although the creative team was aware that TIE fighter pilots wear a helmet and suit that is under pressure. The note is there because in the story, Biggs along with all of the other pilots wear a helmet with no visor or faceplate. The reason being is that they wanted to be able to show facial expression. I can’t decide whether or not the decision is lazy or simply uncreative. I think that a more interesting solution could have been found. Anyone who’s ever read an Iron Man comic could have offered a least a couple different options. It soils what is one of the best Star Wars comics I’ve ever read.  

The Bravery of Being Out of Range
Credits: Jeremy Barlow (writer), Brandon Badeaux (artist), Michael Atiyeh (colourist), and Michael Davis Thomas (letterer). Originally published in Star Wars: Empire #23.

“The Bravery of Being Out of Range” is a throwaway story. It’s about another character who hails from Tatooine, BoShek, and the entire issue is just a chase comic. It ends by showing the reader that regardless of whether you’re a supporter of the Empire or the Alliance, the galactic civil war will find a way to suck you in. You can’t avoid the conflict because it can be found everywhere in the galaxy, even on backwater planets.

The Last Man
Credits: Welles Hartley (writer), Davidé Fabbri (penciller and colourist), Christian Dalla Vecchia (inker), Sno Cone Studios (letterer). Originally published in Star Wars: Empire #16-18.

The Wrong Side of the War
Credits: Welles Hartley (writer), Davidé Fabbri (penciller and colourist), Christian Dalla Vecchia (inker), and Michael David Thomas (letterer). Originally published in Star Wars: Empire #36-40.

My Brother, My Enemy
Credits: Rob Williams (writer), Brandon Badeaux (penciller), Wil Glass (colourist), and Michael Heisley (letterer). Originally published in Star Wars: Rebellion #0-5.

The last three stories in the collection focus on yet another Tatooine native: imperial Lt. Janek “Tank” Sunber. They’re presented here in chronological order and it’s quite nice because it gives you a pretty fair assessment of what it’s like to be an imperial during the galactic civil war. “The Last Man” takes place on the world of Maridun where they are attacked by the Amanin. Outnumbered, Sunber finds himself clashing with his superior officers and trying to survive the battles with the natives. It’s Janek’s first time questioning the efficacy and the values of the Empire. “The Wrong Side of the War”, reinforces the internal struggle Sunder is having by having him meet up with Luke. It becomes quickly apparent that both young men have chosen different paths and while Luke is confident in his allegiance with the Alliance. Sunder on the other hand has his faith shaken. Everything comes together in “My Brother, my Enemy” in which Sunder strongly considers joining the Alliance and everything ends in bloodshed.

While I enjoyed Sunber’s story, the real highlight of The Other Sons of Tatooine is The Saga of Biggs Darklighter. But Sunber’s portion of the collection is still a very good read. You seldom get a story which focuses on an imperial but the writers take it one step further. Sunber is questioning his loyalty to the Empire and he’s also questioning the validity of the Alliance’s war. Part of it has to do with his childhood friendship with Luke and the news of Biggs’ story and the sacrifice he made during the Battle of Yavin struck a chord with him. What makes his story work though is how it ends. He easily could have become a member of the rebellion but instead he chose to stick with the Empire because of what he believes is right. It’s not an easy ending and that’s what makes it work. The Empire isn’t entirely made up of bad individuals. Certainly there are bad men in power, but some of these other guys are just trying to earn a living in a confusing and war torn galaxy. Naturally, not everybody born on Tatooine is a hero but The Other Sons of Tatooine clearly demonstrates that many other inhabitants of the Star Wars Universe have a story worthy of being told . . . and read by any self-respecting fan of the franchise. 


  1. Excellent and comprehensive review. I may pick this up rather than buy the Empire TPBs for the Janek Sunber stories particularly.

    1. Thanks! Whatever you decide to buy, this is one of the best Star Wars omnibus I've bought so far.