Wednesday, April 22, 2009


In Star Wars (the first one, Episode IV), Luke very briefly mentions his friends "Biggs and Tank" going away to the Academy. Biggs we wind up meeting later in the movie—having since defected from the Empire. Unfortunately, Biggs' story ends abruptly as he is shot down in the final Death Star battle. Tank? Well, we never hear anything else about him...that is, until the Dark Horse comics Star Wars series—Star Wars: Empire. 

The 'Empire' series takes place during the timeline of the original trilogy, following the stories of several original and obliquely referenced 'background' characters from the movies. One of the most interesting story lines (at least in my opinion) dealt with Janek "Tank" Sunber—the "other" childhood friend of Luke's. Tank had applied for pilot training, like Biggs, but had failed to meet the requirements so he instead opted for the Imperial Army. His story deals with his initial acceptance of the 'New Order', seeing his work as bringing peace and stability to the galaxy. But as things progress, he begins to see the cracks in the facade—the cruelty and corruption at the heart of the system that he has given his loyalty to. Things come to a head, of course, when he encounters an undercover Luke Skywalker and discovers that his childhood friend is now his enemy.

"Tank" is a kind of hero (or perhaps even anti-hero) that I can really relate to—and his story is a very interesting look at the other side of the galactic civil war. In the usually black and white Star Wars universe, he presents an interesting shade of military-grey. He is shown through his actions to be a good person. He cares for those under his command. He is loyal and hard-working, intelligent and capable. He has a conscience and a sense of right and wrong. He has all the qualities of your typical hero—and yet... he works for the Empire. 

I think the reason I can identify so strongly with Tank is that he sides with the status-quo—believing idealistically that it really does stand for what it says it stands for. And even once he begins to see the reality of it all, he tries to explain things away—to justify them. But as the war goes on, justification gets more and more difficult. And then, to find out that two of your best friends actually joined the other side? Yeah, that would give a person a lot to think about.

It was Tank's initial story that drew me into his character—essentially a remake of the movie 'Zulu', only with Imperials versus ferocious Amanin tribesmen. Great artwork and a great Star Wars adaptation of yet another type of plot (again, Star Wars is all inclusive). I was actually rooting for the Imperials! Okay, not the self-involved and cowardly officers, but the grunts and the 'worthy' guys, like Tank and his commander. 

As much as I enjoy 'true villainy' in my bad guys, it is nice to explore the whole aspect of 'humanity' and even 'nobility' among their ranks. It makes the whole thing all the more tragic to know that good people on BOTH sides of the conflict are dying because of the manipulations of a core of evil men (with Palpatine at their head). But then, that's the tragedy of real war, too—especially civil war. Tank's whole storyline really brought home to me the fact that Star Wars really is brother versus brother.

Unfortunately, it seems as though Dark Horse has cancelled any further comics in this setting. Seems they're going to be concentrating on the Clone Wars now. Sigh. Well, in any case, Tank has taken a large place in my personal mythos of the Star Wars galaxy. 

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I miss the Star Wars: Empire series of comics. I enjoyed those stories immensely! Some of the best writing in the EU, in my opinion.