Battle of Yavin

Star Wars: On the Front Lines (Review)

Ever since it was published in 2017 I had my sights set on Star Wars: On the Front Lines. I am a sucker for Star Wars reference books, having spent countless hours of my life immersing myself in the minutiae of the Star Wars universe found in these source books. But I did not buy On the Front Lines when it first came out, instead opting to wait to purchase it. Recently, though, the book was gifted to me and needing something new to read I decided to dig in. And, I am happy to report, On the Front Lines definitely did not disappoint. 

Primarily detailing battles from The Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War, but also one from the Age of Resistance, On the Front Lines takes readers quite literally to the front lines of some of the most important engagements in Star Wars. While author Daniel Wallace limits the number of battles that are explored – a perfectly reasonable decision considering how many battles are in Star Wars – he never-the-less chose one battle to examine from every live-action and animated Star Wars story to date. In fact, the only notable exception is Star Wars: Rebels, with no engagement from that series being discussed. Here is a list of battles that the author examines:

The Battle of Naboo (The Phantom Menace)
The Battle of Geonosis (Attack of the Clones)
The Battle of Christophsis (The Clone Wars movie)
The Battle of Ryloth (The Clone Wars animated show)
The Battle of Coruscant (Revenge of the Sith)
The Battle of Scarif (Rogue One)
The Battle of Yavin (A New Hope)
The Battle of Hoth (The Empire Strikes Back)
The Battle of Endor (Return of the Jedi)
The Battle of Jakku (Various Sources)
The Battle of Starkiller Base (The Force Awakens)

That Wallace chooses well-known battles from the Star Wars saga, battles that we have actually seen in film and on television, makes it easy for both casual and die-hard fans to digest and enjoy this book. Interestingly though, the clash I found myself most interested in reading about was the Battle of Jakku. As you can see from the list above, this is the only engagement discussed in the On the Front Lines that has never been depicted on-screen. Putting his penmanship and imagination to work, Wallace pulls from multiple sources (novels such as Lost Stars and Aftermath: Empire’s End) to piece together details about this relatively unknown fight. In doing so, he presents a vivid picture of the final battle in the Galactic Civil War, a brutal slugfest between the New Republic and Imperial Remnant that leaves wreckage and bodies littering the sandy dunes of the remote world.

Jakku-Starship_Graveyard-The_Force_Awakens_(2015)
Want to know how all those derelict Star Destroyers ended up on the surface of Jakku? On the Front Lines provides some context.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

While I found myself intensely fascinated by Wallace’s presentation of the Battle of Jakku this does not mean I found the other battles any less interesting. Far from it! In every chapter, Wallace draws on the source material available – movies, television shows, books, comics, etc. – to craft a unique and fairly comprehensive picture of each engagement. Granted, there are points where Wallace does leave out information, or gives details only a cursory glance. For example, the space battle which takes place above Naboo in from The Phantom Menace is only briefly mentioned, with the focus instead being entirely on the ground battle between the Gungans and the Trade Federation’s Droid Army. As well, the space battle over Ryloth, depicted in The Clone Wars Season 1, Episode 19 (“Storm Over Ryloth”), where Ahsoka Tano uses a Marl Sabl maneuver to defeat the Separatist blockade, is entirely ignored. For some die-hard fans of Star Wars, these and other omissions may prove annoying but for this die-hard fan, I found myself enjoying what was in the book rather than brooding over what was not.

That being said, I can admit that I wish the book had even more in it. This is not a criticism, though. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that I really enjoyed the way each battle is presented, with a combination of big picture information, such as why the confrontation took place and how it unfolds, along with more focused detail on things like armor, weaponry, vehicles and tactics. Every chapter also offers little asides about individuals from each engagement, specific commanders from both sides, and a handful of soldiers and/or pilots who displayed incredible courage during the fight. And, to top it off, every chapter is loaded with captivating and wholly unique images courtesy of four superb illustrators (Adrián Rodriguez, Thomas Wievegg, Aaron Riley, and Fares Maese).

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that On the Front Lines contains a lot of information that I never knew about, or had never even considered,, about each of these Star Wars battles. In closing, then, I thought I would pick just one bit of of insight that I learned from this book. And what comes to mind immediately is a detail about The Battle of Christophsis. Or rather, aftermath of Christophsis. As we see in The Clone Wars movie, towards the end of this fight, Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi tricks the Separatist General Whorm Loathsom into believing that the Jedi intends to conditionally surrender his clone forces. However, this is a ruse, done with the hope of giving Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano more time to deactivate the Separatist deflector shields. Kenobi succeeds in his plan, and actually captures Loathsom moments later, but as Wallace writes,

“General Kenobi’s false surrender at Christophsis was a boon to the Separatist-controlled media, who viewed the incident as clear evidence of the Republic’s duplicity. Almost no conditional surrenders were offered by either side for the remainder of the war” (pg. 31).

Kenobi may have been successful in that moment, but his “false surrender” was not without long-term consequence. As the Clone War intensified, it would be the clones themselves, the actual soldiers doing the fighting on the front lines, who would pay the price for Kenobi’s actions.

Reflections on a Starfighter

“Red Leader, this is Gold Leader.”

“I copy, Gold Leader.”

“We’re starting for the target shaft now.”[i]

Flown by Luke in A New Hope, the X-Wing Starfighter is easily one of, if not THE, most iconic and easily recognizable fighters in the Star Wars galaxy, perhaps only competing for the top spot with the TIE Fighter.

Given the call sign “Red Five,” Luke magnificently piloted his X-Wing through the Death Star trench, narrowly escaping death and destroying the battle station just before it could fire its deadly, planet destroying weapon at the fourth moon of Yavin. Saving the day (with a little help from the Millennium Falcon), Luke flew away in his X-Wing the hero of the Battle of Yavin.

Honestly, who wouldn’t want to be an X-Wing pilot after seeing A New Hope for the first time? I bet kids in 1977 went crazy over Luke and his X-Wing!

Plus, imagine all of the little kids on the planet Aldera…crap, that planet was destroyed. Ummmm, imagine all of the little kids on the planet Chandrila hearing about the heroics of the Rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star! Some of those little ones would surely want to grow up and join the Alliance fleet and be just like that pilot.

And what would they want to fly? AN X-WING!

Little Chandrilan brats! What about the Y-Wing!?!?!

I am just going to come right out and say it: If I was a pilot in the Rebel Alliance, I would want to fly the Y-Wing Starfighter.

Y-Wings of Gold Squadron fly down the Death Star trench Photo Credit - Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

Y-Wings of Gold Squadron fly down the Death Star trench
Photo Credit – Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

Actually, I wouldn’t just say that the Y-Wing is the fighter I would choose to fly for the Alliance, but that it is one of my favorite Starfighters in the Star Wars universe, period. A few others: the TIE Interceptor, the ARC-170, and the Naboo N-1 Royal Starfighter. These are all on a rotating basis as my favorites, but more often than not, the Y-Wing holds the top spot.

Sure, the Y-Wing is slow and lacks maneuverability, making it an easy target for faster Starfighters. In fact, playing the TIE Fighter computer game when I was growing up, I probably shot down more Y-Wings than any other Rebel ship. Yet, this fighter-bomber, with its sleek and somewhat odd looking design, has always held a place in my Star Wars loving heart ever since I first saw A New Hope.

As a kid, while I loved to watch Luke Skywalker and his X-Wing destroy the Death Star, I was equally captivated by these curious, Y-shaped ships that appear for only a few moments. We get to see the X-Wings of Red Squadron dogfight, but it is the Y-Wings of Gold Squadron that initially brave the trench in an attempt to destroy the battle station. We watch as Gold Leader, Gold Two, and Gold Five try to “stay on target” as they are pursued, and destroyed, by Vader and his wing men — and just like that, it is time for the X-Wings to make their runs.

Of course, one Y-Wing did survive the Battle of Yavin, which naturally strengthened my fascination, and always left me wondering how that single Y-Wing survived. Plus, I have always felt that whoever she/he was, that pilot deserved just as much praise as Luke.[ii] Heck, Han Solo got a medal and all he did was shoot down one TIE Fighter. I can imagine our lone surviving Y-Wing pilot did a bit more in the battle than Captain Solo. But I digress…

The survivors of the Battle of Yavin, INCLUDING A LONE Y-WING, fly away from the Death Star before it explodes. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

The survivors of the Battle of Yavin, INCLUDING A LONE Y-WING, fly away from the Death Star before it explodes.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

When it comes right down to it, I hardly need to justify why I love the Y-Wing or any other Starfighter in Star Wars. The fact that I do love it, and think it looks really cool, should be all the justification that matters…which I suppoooose means I should be nicer to those Chandrilan kids who want to fly an X-Wing. If they love it, how am I to deny them?

As for me, I will stick with the Y-shaped craft. And with that, I leave you with this original haiku by yours truly:

Staying on target,

Y-Wings of Gold Squadron fly

Towards their sad demise

Be sure to leave a comment and tell me what Starfighter(s) you like!


[i] Dialogue taken from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

[ii] And so did Wedge Antilles, the other X-Wing pilot who survived the battle.