Tie Fighter is the graphic novel tie-in prequel to the novel Alphabet Squadron. Originally published as a mini-series, the 5th and final issue of Tie Fighter did not actually come out until after Alphabet Squadron was published. So, it is hard to argue that reading Tie Fighter beforehand is really a requirement. Whereas Alphabet Squadron is about a ragtag group of pilots still more used to being Rebels than New Republic, Tie Fighter tells the story from the other side. This mini-series focuses on the Imperial fighter squadron that Alphabet Squadron spends their story hunting: Shadow Wing.
Being a mini-series, Tie Fighter is fast paced. There were only 5 issues to tell a story and the author knew that going in. Normally this would raise my hackles a bit, but Tie Fighter also has the benefit of being a prequel comic. It was never the intention of this mini-series to tell the whole story. It is distinctively not supposed to do that; that is the Alphabet Squadron trilogy’s job. Instead, it is a rare look at things from the Imperial side of the war. And it takes place in one of the most interesting time periods in Disney’s new canon: the immediate years following Return of the Jedi.
Star Wars as a franchise has a very impressive cast of villains. From Tarkin to Thrawn to Darth Vader and the Emperor, the villains are often much more interesting than the heroes. But not all the baddies are big bads. There are also the boots on the ground (or in this case, wings in the air). Seeing how the common, everyday soldiers do things is rare in Star Wars. And rarer still to see it from the Imperial side. It is always fascinating to see how these people justify their actions when we, as the audience, know how evil the Empire can be.
These stories taking place after Episode VI are amazing for how quick the Empire fell given the scope of it. Just a few years prior to this, the Empire reigned supreme. The largest military in galactic history, ruling from one side of the galaxy to the other with an iron fist. And now…they are dying. Things started to fall apart from the moment the Emperor died. And some Imperials are struggling to cope with that. Shadow Wing knows they are part of a dying breed, but they will do their duty. Like the more common Rebel protagonists, they are still people. With hopes and dreams and aspirations and fears. And villains who seem more human are always better for it.