We’re continuing with the Dark Horse Comics take on the Star Wars universe this time, with Rogue Squadron: The Phantom Affair.
Rogue Squadron: The Phantom Affair
Published from February to June 1996
Written by Michael A. Stackpole & Darko Macan
Pencils by Edvin Biukovic & John Nadeau
Inks by Edvin Biukovic & Jordi Ensign
Lettering by Steve Dutro
Colors by Dave Nestelle
Cover by Mathieu Lauffray
Rogue Squadron is escorting a convoy to the planet of Mrlsst, as part of a diplomatic mission. Mrlsst is a university planet, and several of the scientists there had developed some technology that had been used in several major Imperial projects, from big stuff like the Death Star, to more mass-production stuff like the Gravity Well generators on Interdictor Cruisers.
The latest piece of tech to come out of Mrlsst is a cloaking device that can also allow ships to bypass gravity well generators – making it the perfect device for the New Republic, so Wedge is put in the position of having to make the NewRep’s case. There’s just one problem – the Imperial officer sent to argue the Empire’s case is Loka Hask, a former space pirate who was responsible for the attack on Wedge’s parents’ refueling station that killed them and left Wedge an orphan – and who Wedge thought he had killed in revenge back as an adolescent.
There’s a growing political movement on Mrlsst called the AEA (Anti-Endor Association) made up of Imperial Sympathizers who are, basically, “Endor Truthers” – people who argue that the Battle of Endor didn’t happen, and the Emperor isn’t actually dead. (Considering Dark Empire – they’re not entirely wrong). Tycho gets in a fight with them over this (for multiple reasons) and is saved by the “Ghost Jedi” – a spectral figure that haunts the city.
While Wedge and Loka each present their respective government’s cases, a group of members of the AEA who steal the plans, and frame Tycho Celchu and the Rogues in the process. This leads the Rogues to have to flee with Wes Jansen in his hospital bed (he was injured in an earlier adventure) from the hospital to the “underground” – which is actually in the trees above the city, where various counter-cultural figures and drop-outs live.
It turns out that shortly after the AEA steal the plans, the plans are in turn stolen from them by a mysterious group of robots – the robots that are owned by an enigmatic scientist and musician who has sequestered himself in an Asteroid – the scientist, Dr. Falken, had developed some technology that was used in the Death Star, and chose to become a hermit after the destruction of Alderaan. He stole the plans to keep them out of the hands of the Empire.
Meanwhile, Wedge reveals to the rest of the Rogues that the plans are, in fact, a fake. They were done to draw cash from the Imperial coffers initially, and now that the Empire wants them delivered, they were retooled to require special materials that Republic Intelligence could track, leading them to the Empire’s top R&D facility. Wedge was sent to make it look good. However, things went out of control.
Ultimately, nobody quite gets what they wants – the Empire carpet bombs Mrlsst until they are driven off by the Rogues. The plans for the “cloaking device” are destroyed with Loka Hask and Dr. Falken – at the cost of Elscol Loro’s Wookie companion Groznik’s life – as he stayed at the lab facility to keep Hask from escaping.
We learn the Official Imperial Story on what happened to Alderaan – it was destroyed by the Rebels in a research accident.
We’re introduced to the “Endor Truther” movement – presumably, there are similar movements being carried out throughout the galaxy, possibly sponsored by Imperial Intelligence to make local populations more reluctant to join the Rebel Alliance.
The gravity field generators used in Interdictor Cruisers can be further weaponized into a “Gravitic Polarization Beam” – however the knowledge on how to do that was lost with Dr. Falken, when he used the technology to destroy his own lab, himself, Loka Hask, and a nearby Interdictor Cruiser.
Wedge Antilles: We see how his parents died, and how with the help of Booster Terrik, he took revenge on the pirates responsible for their death.
Escol Loro: We see her finding her husband after his death.
Groznik: Killed keeping Loca Hask from escaping from Dr. Falken’s asteroid lab.
The art in this comic is fantastic – there is some fantastic framing with the art in some of these pages, particularly everything related to the flashback to Wedge’s search for revenge in issue #2. There’s also some pretty good comic timing with the panels involving the Rogue’s leaving for the “upper underground” later on in the series that is absolutely stellar.
Those particular pages are done by Biukovic and I’d say that this is some of the best art in a Star Wars comic since Walter Simonson’s run at Marvel. This is made somewhat tragic due to Biukovic’s death from cancer shortly after his diagnosis in 2000.
I do like the variety of college life jokes that come up with the student population, both of the light and dark humor variety. In particular, the students who work in the detention center as a student job and are too busy studying to pay attention to Wedge rings very true to me.
I really liked this story, and I think it makes for a solid science fiction comic book story. I definitely recommend picking this one up.