There have been countless additions to the stories in the Expanded Star Wars Universe over the last couple of decades, and Dark Horse has long touted some of the finest comic stories of the galaxy far, far away. However, very few come along that have the power and potential of being so good that it could be conceivable to imagine a film or television version of the tale. The compendium represented in The Other Sons Of Tatooine is one of these rare pleasures, showcasing some of the exceptional storytelling focusing on Star Wars.
The conception behind The Other Sons Of Tatooine is simple: to focus on the characters from Tatooine other than Luke Skywalker who have had major impacts on the in-universe history of the saga. The first, an obvious selection to adapt, is Biggs Darklighter, first performed by Garrick Hagon in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The second, a creation within the Expanded Universe, is Janek Sunber aka Tank – who does not appear in A New Hope, but is mentioned by Mark Hamill in the scene where the Lars Farm purchases the droids.
Before the first special edition re-release of Episode IV in 1997, Biggs Darklighter was simply known to fans by his appearance in the film piloting an X-Wing making the run on the Death Star – and through rumors of deleted scenes from the movie. Since this time, we’ve seen some additions of Darklighter to the movie collections on DVD and Blu-ray, and more information on the Darklighter family provided via the Expanded Universe.
The initial part of The Other Sons Of Tatooine focuses, however, on Biggs’ journey during Luke’s events we see in Star Wars. It is provided to us as an alternate telling of the story of A New Hope, in some way given to the readers as “What If Biggs Darklighter was the main character of Star Wars?” The account follows his acceptance into the Imperial Academy, in which he meets another pilot named Hobbie.
The narrative is shown from the perspective of the Empire, with Tarkin giving troops hints as to the coming weapon that would become known as the Death Star. Biggs and his colleagues begin to share their doubts in the rationales and actions of the Empire, and begin striving to escape the Imperial life and somehow find a way to join the Rebel Alliance.
After their defection, the relationship between Biggs and Hobbie mirrors that of Luke and Han from the entire Original Trilogy; displaying a wondering character and relational development that is not often seen in graphic novel presentation. The tale concludes with Biggs joining the Rebel assault on the Death Star, and finalizing with his tragic demise while trying to protect Luke during the battle.
The subsequent part of The Other Sons Of Tatooine focuses on Tank. Unlike Biggs and Luke, his career begins and stays with the Empire, and his tale begins set on the planet of Maridun, where the native species begin taking out his Imperial forces he is with. Remarkably, the species (known as the Amanin) seem to be designed as the original inspiration for the Droidekas, a flat-faced alien life form that curls and rolls at the enemy during formidable attacks.
Tank, or Lieutenant Sunber as he is identified to the Empire, is commonly the brunt of Imperial elitists and ignorant brutes. He begins to form distaste for the Empire after his time at Maridun, where he witnesses the human prisoners from Jabiim used as slaves at his new post. On an undercover Rebel mission, Luke Skywalker, disguised as Lieutenant Jundland, comes across Tank – and tries to encourage him to join the Rebels.
But regardless of his distaste, Tank has a heavy sense of duty, and remains with the Empire – but his decisions will have ramifications that will see him face-to-face with Luke again. The only question is – will it be as friend or foe?
The writing throughout The Other Sons Of Tatooine is extraordinarily solid all the way through. Curiously, there is a small interlude story focusing on the smuggler known as BoShek (also from Episode IV, played by Anthony Lang), which has nothing to do with Tatooine; but it functions nicely as a minute diversion and separator between the Darklighter and Sunber stories.
The Biggs yarn is a wonderful alternate focus of the A New Hope timeline, with a solid effort made to cement his position even further in Star Wars lore. His efforts following his defection are instrumental in allowing the Rebels to acquire more X-Wing fighters, especially crucial with the impending battle with the Imperials on the Death Star.
But undoubtedly, the golden element of this omnibus is the saga of Janek Sunber. Tank’s journey as an Imperial is a fantastic display of some of the best writing seen in comic books; and is so well done that the installments would make for a captivating television series if ever made. Set after the destruction of the Death Star and before the events of The Empire Strikes Back, Randy Stradley (writing under a pseudonym) begins on Sunber’s trial by battle within the Empire, but as actions progress, we jump around and zone in on the stories surrounding key members within the Rebel Alliance as well.
This climaxes into a breathtaking conclusion that rivals some of the best battle sequences in the Star Wars films. While the space battle images are spectacular and force you to imagine what they would look like on-screen, it is the commotion and relationships between the characters during these moments that quite literally have you on the edge of your seat. Damn it, you CARE about these characters – and Tank especially gives you a new, and conceivably previously unthought-of, perspective of Imperials.
There are several other key characters worth mentioning in this collection as well. Captain Nera Dantels shows up in the Biggs Darklighter story, a character I’ve enjoyed reading in several Dark Horse publications. Sadly, there is not much of her in Star Wars overall, and needs to be. Her character intrigues me, and I would love to see more of her.
Nevertheless, Deena Shan steals the show as a secondary character, as far as I am concerned, during the second Janek Sunber section. Shan is a young Rebel member, who is essentially a Force-less female version of Luke Skywalker. She is vigorous, confused, whiny, and making her way in a difficult war-dominated galaxy. Her presence in the story is an enjoyable one. She’s also incredible sexy as well, and makes a move on Luke that he knocks back!
If there’s any criticism I have about The Other Sons Of Tatooine, it is a microscopic one, and only out of consideration to new readers: there’s a few small sequences involving some minor characters attempting to transfer Tank’s coded message to Luke Skywalker. These individuals, while having an impact on the Rebellion and Empire comic books outside of this collection, have very little bearing on the overall story. It might have been a benefit for new readers to excise these scenes from the omnibus; but obviously in the interest of keeping the original material intact, they have been included. Perhaps it may encourage new readers to follow up on these characters’ untold tales.
But this is practically a criticism not even worth mentioning. The entire collection is one hell of a ride, and an extremely thrilling read. Believe me, this one is not only for Star Wars fans – your average comic book reader will get a kick out of this one, and I am sure even casual readers would thoroughly enjoy it. The conclusion is shattering and brilliant, and makes for some of the most compelling comic reading you could every experience. Get your hands on this one, and read it as soon as you can.