“Retreat? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances.” Twenty years before Governor Tarkin spoke these words in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Clone Trooper Heater (not to be confused with Jabba’s henchmen in the radio drama) repeated the same sentiment, although more forcefully, to his brother Twitch as the Separatist droid army approached in greater numbers. Star Wars Adventures The Clone Wars Battle Tales #4 (8/26) is here from IDW. The obligatorily named penultimate issue of Battle Tales was written by Michael Moreci, with art by Derek Charm and guest artist Davide Tinto. Colorists are Luis Antonio Delgado and Thomas Deer.
Battle Tales 4 introduces some new clones, including Heater, Twitch, Racetrack, Sync, Slim, and Charlie. It’s nice to get adventures with some new clones instead of seeing the same one’s time and again. Even if they do sound like Transformers. Like in Dragnet, the names were changed, but the themes are familiar—freedom of choice, sense of self, and abandonment. The story starts with a group of clones getting overrun by an advancing battalion of battle droids. Twitch thinks it better to fall back, while Heater, rotary guns a-blaze, strongly disagrees. Visibly upset, Heater grabs Twitch by the breastplate just as a commanding officer intervenes. The thought of retreating/abandoning a post is a sensitive issue to Heater and not one he takes lightly.
Know When to Hold ’em, Know When to Fold ’em
In his past, Heater had a reputation for abandoning his brothers, or as he put it, “I thought for myself.” For some clones, self-awareness, purpose, and freedom of choice are essential issues, and rightly so. In The Clone Wars episode The Deserter (S2E10), Cut Lawquane was found to have abandoned the clone army to live a quiet life away from war, raise a family, and, most importantly, think for himself. The flashback in Battle Tales 4 tells the story about a group of clones who had deserted their brothers, were re-captured by the Republic and given a second chance. And it goes a little something like this…
Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run
On Kamino Heater overhears someone say the word “deserters” in his direction. Heater confronts a clone named Slim, who had called Heater and his friends deserters. Heater doesn’t mind being called a deserter, but he won’t stand being called a coward. They get into a scuffle that’s soon broken up by Commander Wolffe. Heater gets pulled into Woffle’s office to talk about what happened. Heater is struggling with what it means to be a clone. He understands he was made for war but can’t help but wonder what he’d do if he had a choice. Was his desertion a smart decision or a terrible mistake?
Wolffe allows Heater to redeem himself and his friends by offering them a mission that Heater gladly accepts. It’s assumed Wolfee already asked the others, otherwise isn’t Heater taking that choice away from Sync, Racetrack, and Charlie by speaking for them? They chose to accept the mission to cut off a Separatist supply line to a world the Republic is trying to liberate. Easy enough. Things don’t exactly get off to a smooth start. Racetrack is convinced the mission is a one-way trip—just a way for command to fix their deserter problem.
Hello, My Name Is…
The panels where this conversation takes place are a little tricky to follow because all of the troops are in their armor, and there aren’t any markings to tell them apart. You have to pay close attention to the names and who’s saying what. And to add to the confusion, one of the panels is from a different angle. I definitely had to read these panels a few times to understand who was speaking. Some distinction on their armor would’ve helped for sure.
Of the four, Racetrack is the only one having misgivings about the mission. Heater, Sync, and Charlie all see it as a way to redeem themselves. As they’re making their approach, their gunship gets hit by a surface-to-air missile, and they crash near a town center. They fan out relatively uninjured in the crash, leaving the dead pilot who was conveniently never seen anyway.
Never Tell Me The Odds
Meanwhile, in a nearby Separatist base, a tactical droid is made aware of the incoming Republic assault but believes one gunship will not provide much of a threat, which means they must be up to something more elaborate. The tactical droid orders an alert to all units that their enemy is about to make their move. Tactical droids deserve some love. They at least have the capability to give the clones some trouble as they specialize in strategy based on typical behavior. The problem is, they don’t account for ingenuity. And that’s where it goes wrong for the droid army.
Racetrack, carrying a pair of buckets (helmets to you civilians), approaches two battles droids standing guard outside, claiming that he’s the lone survivor of the gunship crash with the buckets as proof. He’s surrendering and says there’s a gift inside one of the helmets. The gift is a thermal detonator that blows the droids to smithereens. You don’t know which clone delivers the “gift” until the next page when Heater says his name. For Racetrack to put aside his doubts for the team shows that he is attempting to work as one unit.
The Ole Bait & Switch
With the bomb as a distraction, the clones can now get inside the weapons depot to plant more explosives. However, Racetrack is nowhere to be found, and it doesn’t take long for the other clones to assume he’s deserted them. From around the corner, to the clones’ surprise comes the tactical droid and several battle droids ready to capture the clones. Things are looking grim for the clones until high above, a sniper bolt takes out a battle droid. Who is it? Racetrack to the rescue! There’s that clone ingenuity the tactical droid didn’t factor into the equation.
The droids quickly dispense of the remaining droids and destroy the weapons depot. After the battle, Heater asked why Racetrack had a change of heart, to which he replied, he came back because they were his ride home. The others didn’t buy it, but all differences are put aside for the moment while they enjoy their victory.
Back to the present day, Siege on Hisseen, Heater makes sure Twitch understands that clones fight together as one until the end. Just then, a blaster bolt hits Heater square in the chest. Wounded but not fatally, Heater implores Twitch to leave him, but Twitch refuses. When all seems lost, Commanders Cody and Wolffe arrive as support. But it’s not over yet. In the last panel, Captain Rex calls General Skywalker requesting backup.
What’s to Come
The preview for the next/last issue ominously shows General Grievous wielding four lightsabers on the attack. Battle Tales 4 was an exciting issue overall. Revisiting the clone that wants something more out of life trope is getting a little worn out. It makes total sense, and it’s a serious topic for sure. Moreci does take it in a different direction with Racetrack returning and giving the group a second chance, but most of that is probably due to this series’s younger audience. Which is perfectly fine, no complaints here at all. It’s vital to deal with the inner struggle each clone has when it comes to their purpose and what it means for them as individuals. They all deal with the issue in their own way.
Davide Tinto did a magnificent job illustrating the clones without their helmets; it was much easier to tell them apart that way. With their helmets on, you had to rely on Moreci’s dialogue to differentiate between them. Battle Tales 5 is due out 9/23 and is sure to be filled with loads of exciting action and intense battle scenes. Obviously, none of the major characters will be in any harm, but it’ll be great fun regardless. At ease, soldier!