Script: John Ostrander
Art: Travel Foreman
Coloring: Brad Anderson
Lettering: Michael David Thomas
Cover: Jan Duursema, Brad Anderson
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (07/09/2007)
At the Imperial base on Yinchorr, the 407th stormtrooper division is welcoming a new recruit: "noob" Anson Trask. He is introduced to Joker Squad by their commander Sergeant Harkas and they are immediately given a mission by Lt. Gil Cassel. Another stormtrooper division, the 908th, have been stranded at their base on Borosk while trying to join with former Emperor Roan Fel, the biggest enemy of the Empire led by Darth Krayt. Joker Squad and the rest of the 407th are to attack the traitor's fortress and make an examle of them, with Darth Maleval leading the assault while making sure loyalties are kept in check. After the battle, Maleval puts Joker Squadron's remaining members' loyalties to the test and pays with his life after he kills Lt. Cassel. A cover story is made up and Trask is left to take charge of Joker Squad while Sgt. Harkas recovers from injuries received in the battle.
This is the first fill-in issue, right in the middle of the 6-part "Broken" story arc, but it somewhat ties in with the main story. In issue #3, Roan Fel is informed that "the 908th has been delayed" from their arrival on Bastion. In this issue, we find out why they were delayed and what happened to the 908th. Te opening scene might be a homage to Randy Stradley, since he was the creator of the planet Yinchorr, and he also wrote the first-ever story featuring a stormtrooper in a major role back in Marvel's Star Wars #86. In this time period, Yinchorr is now the headquarters for the 407th Imperial stormtrooper division instead of a training base for Royal guardsmen (from Stradley's classic Crimson Empire series). The story is told mostly from new recruit Anson Trask's point of view as he is also the narrator. Through him, we find out how veteran troopers view "newbies" and what the first time on the battlefront is like.
He meets Darth Maleval when looking for directions to find his squad, Joker Squad, not knowing who he is speaking to at first. Trask finds himself in a very bad position, but he is inadvertently rescued by Sergeant "Hardcase" Harkas, who leads him back to the rest of the squad. Each is introduced, Jes Gistand a lady in charge of the "big gun", Hondo Karr a laconic knife-wielder, and Vax Potorr a thief from Coruscant. After some brief introductions, the lieutenant in charge of the 407th, Gil Cassel joins in and immediately puts everyone at ease. We feel right away that Cassel is a good hearted man but loyal to the Empire which unfortunately for now is led by a Sith. He explains the squad's next mission: the 908th legion on Borosk were going to defect and join the former Emperor Roan Fel, but they got stranded. The 407th is to attack and take them out, leaving their base as intact as possible as decided by the higher ups on the Moff Council led by Grand Admiral Veed.
So this is not going to be an easy one, especially since the battle is going to pit stormtrooper against stormtrooper only because they have different loyalties. Because of this, the Empire sent Lord Maleval to make sure the job gets done (and to see that no one hesitates to kill or tries to defect). The first assault on the base is hard, but no one in Joker Squad gets injured and the remaining 908th retreated deeper into the fortress. Hask takes advantage of the reprieve to get to know Gistand a little better and learn about the rest of the squad. A visit by Lord Maleval inspires some to consider joining Fel's side, but Sergeant Harkas reminds them of their duties.
The next day is the final assault, and despite Vax and Gistang getting killed, and Harkas getting seriously injured, the 407th is successful. But one last fight has to be fought: Lord Maleval brings in a prisoner from the defectors, Captain Jared Cassel who happens to be Lt. Cassel's brother. Maleval wants to test Cassel's loyalty by having him kill his brother, but Cassel fails the test. Then events turn for the worse. Maleval kills both Cassels, then Honda Karr attacks him. But as Maleval is electrocuting Karr with his shock whip, newbie Trask shoots the Sith Lord in the back. Then it is explained that a cover story was made up to explain Maleval's and Karr's deaths. But Karr actually disappeared and no one has heard from him since. With Harkas going to a med facility, Trask is the only member on Joker Squad now and is instructed to take care of the new recruits.
The story is very well written and is a very nice change of pace for the series. It's high drama about loyalty and duty. I'm not a big fan of having the word "noob" in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, though. This term is so Earth-based, it feels very out-of-place. I'm sure an explanation could be made up, but what is next a troopers shouting that he got "pwned"? Same thing with the term "Joker" which is part of our Earth deck of cards, and not part of any sabacc or any other games that I've read about in the Expanded Universe. Anyway, I would love to see more occasional fill-in issues featuring some of the peripheral characters or organizations, especially if they're written by Ostrander. This issue is the one I use when recommending the Legacy series to friends.
Jan Duursema takes a break from writing and penciling duties, although she did the cover. It is designed to fit in seamlessly with the "Broken" covers by Adam Hughes, with the three characters and grey background.
For the interior art, I just love Foreman's sketchy style! It's a bit blocky and has a lot of blacks and shadows and reminds me somewhat of a Ryan Sook. Foreman's only previous Star Wars work was in Knights of the Old Republic #5 as a fill-in for Brian Ching. He gets to design the first and only appearance of Lord Maleval and he makes him look very sinister and dangerous, like a Sith Lord should. The stormtroopers all look great, with or without helmets. The backgrounds are very minimal, some panels having none at all, but in this case it puts emphasis on the actual characters and the drama. Did I mention Lord Maleval is cool? I think it's a bit lazy on Ostrander's part to create a bunch of Sith Lords, one from each alien species (so far a Rodian, a couple of Twi'leks, a Chagrian, a Devaronian and a Gotal) all wearing Darth Maul-like tattoos. But for Maleval the Quarren, I think he looks appropriately evil especially with the angles and postures Foreman's draws him in. My favorite pose is a closeup of Maleval's evil eyes on page 8.
A break from the main story, which shows a slice of what's happening in the rest of the galaxy. A gripping tale of the hardships of being a soldier, Ostrander at his best.
Rating: 8.5 / 10 Highly Recommended