It has been one standard month since the destruction of the Second Death Star at Endor. Former Rogue Group Commander Luke Skywalker has left the military to become a Jedi Knight, so the leadership of Rogue Squadron has passed to Wedge Antilles–the only pilot to survive both Death Star assaults.
Wedge, now a Captain in the newly created New Republic Starfighter Command, is leading the Rogues on a supply mission. They stop at Cilpar on the way to Mrlsst, escorting a freighter carrying foodstuffs, and get caught up with a local resistance movement fighting against both the Empire and the Alliance.
This book collects issues 1-4 of Star Wars: X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, in which we are reintroduced to a handful of characters from the Classic Trilogy, and presented with some new faces as well.
It's a classic in media res opening: Wedge and the handful of other Rogue Squadron members have been ambushed by a number of TIE fighters while escorting a supply convoy through Cilpar. During the skirmish, Wes Janson has his fighter shot out from under him, and Tycho Celchu volunteers to set his own X-wing down to make sure Wes is alright. This setup–splitting the Rogues into two groups right from the very beginning–creates a sort of "A-story/B-story" dynamic for The Rebel Opposition. Tycho & Wes try survive the local flora and fauna, while Wedge and the others deal with the planet's local resistance movement.
The resistance is led by Elscol Loro, who asserts that she represents "the only legitimate local government." She and her partisan fighters take Wedge to the nearby town of Tamarack to view the devastation caused by the Imperial attacks on the locals. Elscol and Wedge salvage what they can from the ruins of her former residence, and he tries to convince her to throw in with the New Republic. Elscol and her people are suspicious of the rebels, however: they were supposed to meet up with an Alliance agent, who was the only person outside of their group that knew they were hiding in this town. She suspects that their contact betrayed them to the Empire, placing total faith in her own people. Wedge insists that there must be another explanation.
Tycho drags Janson out of his cockpit with only seconds to spare before one of its engines explodes, and they take shelter in a cave. Inside, they are confronted with three antagonistic forces: hostile indigenous wildlife, Tycho's cooking, and a woman training a blaster on them.
Fortunately, the woman turns out to be an ally: Dame Winter of the royal house of Alderaan, childhood friend and personal aide to Princess Leia Organa. Winter is a covert operative for the Alliance, sent here to make contact with the local Moff and get him to defect & hand the planet over to the New Republic. The deal fell through, he turned on the rebels, and Winter was forced to go into hiding.
Upon seeing the two pilots, she comes up with another plan. Winter sticks Tycho in a stolen Imperial Captain's uniform and sends him to the capital city to gather intelligence. Lieutenant Celchu, being a former Imperial officer who defected to the Alliance shortly before the Battle of Endor, is well equipped for this undercover assignment.
While exploring the wreckage of Tamarack, Elscol divulges a few personal crumbs to Wedge, who she seems to want to trust in, despite herself. She tells him a bit about her fallen husband, Throm, and how her Wookiee companion, Groznik, was saved by him from execution by Imperial Stormtroopers. It's a tale very similar to the origin of Han Solo & Chewbacca's partnership: Groznik decided he owed a debt to Throm for saving him. After he died, the Wookiee's responsibility was transferred to Elscol.
Wedge recounts the assault at Endor, where he was instrumental in destroying the Death Star. He continues to lean on her–in his earnest, open-hearted, but stubborn Corellian way–to get her to abandon her grudge and allow him and his people to help her fight against the Empire on Cilpar.
Their attempts at bonding are interrupted: Dllr Nep, the Sullustan Rogue, hears armored vehicles incoming. Even though the resistance fighters don't believe him, moments later a detachment of Imperial Walkers bursts onto the scene. Wedge and Elscol are forced to lead a headlong retreat into the forest, their respective teams in tow.
In the forest, they stumble upon one of Cilpar's many ancient stone temples, and hide inside is thick walls. (Here, author Michael A. Stackpole drops in a side reference to Talon Karrde, one of Timothy Zahn's major additions to the Expanded Universe mythos.) Wedge finally convinces Elscol to let the pilots have their sidearms back, and they manage a bit of blaster trickey and take down one of the Imperial walkers, giving them a window to escape further into the forests.
Moments later, the Rogues have another surprise in store: backup. Their X-wings, summoned via comm by their onboard slave-circuitry burst onto the scene. Wedge and Plourr get airborne, and decimate the Stormtrooper column and allow the rest of the pilots and partisans get safely away.
Back at the secret rebel base, both Wedge and Elscol have decided to work together–if only temporarily–but have trouble keeping their own groups in line. Elscol and another opposition fighter, Vance Rego, take the Rogues' leader a few hours' speeder-ride away to another ancient temple which they have been using as a supply depot. Inside, they find what Wedge calls "enough ordinance to take out the whole planet."
In the capital city, Tycho, wearing the Imperial Captain's uniform, manages to stumble upon/infiltrate the local garrison. The Imperial officers there basically take his word for it that he is a pilot and assigned to their unit, and give him a TIE to fly. Not a moment too soon: the squadron is on its way out to destroy a rebel supply depot, on intelligence that "Elscol Loro and her pet Wookiee" will be there. Clearly, the resistance has been compromised.
While in flight over the forest canopy, Tycho uses a special comm trick to contact his R2 unit. The droid receives the transmission, and powers up their X-wing fighter. Moments later, the TIEs find themselves confronted with a fully armed and armored snubfighter, which makes quick work of them. Tycho marvels from the inside of his Imperial fighter how the astromech droid maneuvers the X-wing–until it sets its sights on him. He parachutes to the ground, shot out of the sky by his own fighter.
Elsewhere, as Tycho finds himself back in the arboreal nightmare of Cilpar, his X-wing touches down again. The canopy pops open to reveal that it was not in fact the R2 unit controlling the lithe craft, but Winter, who was using its comm system to contact Wedge when the beckon call came in.
Wedge, Elscol, and Vance, having heard the fighters coming, barely escaped the depot with their lives. Retuning again to Rogue Squadron's base, they proceed to again point fingers around the table about who is tipping off the Empire to their movements.
Winter's message got though to Wedge, and Vance Rego volunteers/is assigned to bring her back to the base. He finds the cave where she and Janson are sheltering easily enough, and makes two common mistakes: he thinks Winter is Leia, and he takes Winter and Janson hostage, a platoon of Stormtroopers at his back.
Having been betrayed by their supposed ally, Wes and Winter are taken by APC back to the capital, now prisoners of the Empire. Tycho runs across the convoy, still maintaining his guise as an Imperial pilot. He supports Winter's masquerade as Leia Organa to keep. Back in the capital, Tycho returns to his squadron. Winter is taken before Governor Norquist, and strongarmed into formalwear.
Vance returns to the Alliance's base alone and injured, pretending he is still with them. He tells them that the Imperial forces have picked up Wes and "Princess Leia" and that they should all go mount a rescue. It's at this point that Wedge fingers Vance for the traitor, knowing full well that Leia is not on-planet. For now though, he keeps this information to himself. He orders the Rogues to suit up, despite the probability of a trap; they will provide air cover for the partisan forces as they make a ground assault on the Moff's stronghold.
En route to the Imperial base, Vance gives himself away from his excessive knowledge of the Empire's movements and resources. Elscol, savvy & edgy in nearly equal measure, draws down on him in their moving airspeed, but he momentarily gains the upper hand over her. Fortunately, Groznik is there to toss the traitor out of the speeder, where he dies unceremoniously in a ditch, and is subsequently digested by the local fauna.
The Imperial defenses crumble under the combined air & ground power of the combined Alliance and opposition forces. The Rogues fly circles around the remaining TIE fighters after Tycho turns on them, while Elscol and Groznik capture Moff Tascl, who had been holding Winter at gunpoint.
The story ends a bit abruptly; Cilpar's liberation has left no further need for the Rogues, Winter, or Elscol to remain onworld. Wedge offers Elscol a spot in the squadron, and they all depart for Rogue Squadron's original destination: Mrlsst.
Though the Rogues absolutely dominate the TIE fighters of Cilpar's garrison, some of the most spectacular flying is done not by one of the squadron members, but by a combination of Tycho's astromech and Dame Winter. Tycho witnesses his fighter take out an entire flight of TIEs, including their flight leader (and himself.) He, Janson, Plourr and Dllr all have opportunities to distinguish themselves in combat, but Hobbie is tragically underutilized.
The Rebel Opposition features some of the most ineffectual antagonists in the entire X-wing series. Moff Boren Tascl is a rather thinly sketched caricature of a type of Imperial Officer that will rear its ugly head throughout the next decade of EU continuity. He is aware that the Empire has been dealt a fatal blow with the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, but committed to selling the lie of the eternal destiny of the Imperial system while making back-room dealings to secure his own future.
The other Imperials we see are the pilots that Tycho flies with. They are utterly worthless in combat, and unburdened by charisma or common sense on the ground. When Tycho saunters onto base, he has no apparent credentials whatsoever–save the uniform Targeter had stashed away–and they immediately give him not only a TIE fighter, but, later, his own command. Clearly these officers hail from the Admiral Ozzel school of operational security.
As of the first volume of our reread series, the Rogues are one-for-one. They visit one planet, they take down it's occupation government. Not a bad start. The opposition forces on Cilpar take custody of Governor Norquist and Moff Tascl, and Elscol insists that they are kept alive and "left for the courts to deal with."
The post-Endor Rogue Squadron Roster is fairly thin, and they don't utilize their numerical designations while on Cilpar. The squadron is only at half strength at the beginning of the story, but they do pick up an additional flyer on the final pages of issue#4.
Lead: Wedge Antilles
Veterans: Derek "Hobbie" Klivian, Wes Janson, Tycho Celchu
Recent Additions: Plourr, Dllr Nepr
New Recruits: Elscol Loro
This story features two new (male) non-human characters and three new female (human) characters.
Dllr, the diminutive Sullustan pilot, is portrayed as having his own unique physiological strengths & peccadilloes that make him a valuable addition to the squadron. His flying skills at this point are left mostly implied, as the Rogues spend more time in ground action than in the air.
Groznik is unfortunately a bit of a Chewbacca ripoff. He is under a life debt to Elscol, who cannot understand Shyriiwook and therefore cannot have the same close partnership relationship that Han & Chewie enjoy. In fact, it seems that no one on Cilpar understands the Wookiee, so his internal life remains unexplored, and Groznik's character is defined solely by his actions & inferred motivations.
Elscol Loro, in contrast, is rarely not revealing her internal motivations–either implicitly or explicitly. Though she is a widow, and the last surviving member of her family of origin as well, she is allowed to mourn while still being a very forceful commander. She is passionate and authoritative and–excepting the one spy in the midst–inspires loyalty in the resistance fighters working with her.
This series presents a slightly different side of a pivotal member of the Expanded Universe pantheon: Winter. Originally introduced by Timothy Zahn in Heir to the Empire, Winter is a who fills a variety of roles through several decades of EU chronology. Orphaned at a young age, she was adopted by Bail Organa and raised alongside Princess Leia in the royal house of Alderaan. In the X-wing comics series, she is shown to have an exceptional professionalism, a wide range of abilities, and a dry, sardonic sense of humor. She's a good shot with a blaster pistol or at the stick of an X-wing fighter, and has enough undercover skill not to balk at being forced into a ball gown for the entertainment of her Imperial captors.
Her future relationship with Tycho Celchu is only hinted at here: they have a multifaceted bond deriving from their shared heritage as Alderaanians and their common cause fighting against the Empire. However, Targeter is no damsel. Like Elscol Loro–and Princess Leia–Winter is accustomed to her orders being followed and for everyone to pull their own weight and get their fair share.
Plourr is a character with a lot of secrets that have yet to be revealed, so it's easy to fall prey to the misguided assessment that her hostility and suspicion just make her a "bitch." She squares off with Elscol, accuses everyone in the resistance of selling the Rogues out to the Empire, questions Wedge's orders more often than not, and just generally seems hard to get along with. Like Dllr, her piloting skills are mostly implied–she is a member of Rogue Squadron, and unit commanders typically picked their own members during the rebellion, so there must be a good reason she's here with the heroes of Hoth and Endor.
Knowing as we do, that this is only the first four-issues of a long-running series, it is necessary for us to give Plourr the benefit of the doubt when assessing her character development. Why is she so angry and prickly? What's up with her baldness/headdress combo?
Some of these questions may be answered in the next installment of our reread series: The Phantom Affair.