If you were reading edgy Star Wars comics in 1991 and 1992, there’s a very real chance you poured over a small smattering of panels featuring the E-wing starfighter, a sleek Star Wars ship that was supposed to be even better than the X-wings of the classic movies. Set six years after Return of the Jedi, the iconic Dark Horse Comics miniseries, Dark Empire, didn’t feature this slick ship prominently, but did posit a Star Wars future in which this ship was the default most powerful fighter around.
And now, 32 years after the first issue of Dark Empire dropped on December 12, 1991, the 2023 Disney+ series Star Wars: Ahsoka has finally brought the E-wings into live-action canon.
Spoilers for the first two episodes of Ahsoka ahead.
E-wing fighters explained
Although not referenced as such on screen in Ahsoka Episode 1, these are 100 percent the same E-wings glimpsed in Dark Empire, though they lack a third elongated blaster that, in the comics, protruded over the cockpit. According to the 1996 EU reference book Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels, the E-wing is: “as fast and maneuverable as the TIE Interceptor, and its heavily reinforced hull allows the E-wing to absorb more damage the New Republic’s famed X-wings can.”
Basically, ships are more nimble than most other Star Wars fighters, but, unlike other ships that can execute sharp turns quickly, the E-wing doesn’t sacrifice power or defense. In literally every way imaginable, the E-wing felt like the best starfighter in the EU New Republic era, which, is now in current canon, pretty much the exact timeframe we’re in. According to this book, the E-wing was “introduced during Grand Admiral Thrawn’s campaign against the New Republic,” and now in Ahsoka, Thrawn is probably gonna come knocking very, very soon.
In Ahsoka, we also see that the E-wing has a new kind of astromech droid. Like in Legends, this is the R-7 droid, which is way more sophisticated than old R2 units.
Does the E-wing foreshadow other EU reboots?
The appearance of two E-wings on Lothal, briefly hassling Sabine, doesn’t have any real major impact on the plot, other than it establishes that the New Republic doesn’t only use X-wings as police craft. (Which is certainly the impression we got in The Mandalorian.) Visually, seeing Sabine swoop under one of the E-wings on her bike is breathtaking, and even if you didn’t grow up desperate to see more of the E-wings, this scene still looks amazing.
But are the E-wings indicative of larger plot points in the rest of Ahsoka? Are we dealing with a classic case of Chekhov’s Starfighter? Why put a cool starfighter on the screen in the first act, if you’re not going to show that same ship in action later? Subconsciously, it seems possible that the existence of the E-wings in Ahsoka’s debut episodes could mean that yes, some aspect of Heir to the Empire is being retconned in a big way. Thrawn may already have the Katana Fleet from the EU, and we’re possibly heading toward a galactic conflict not too different than what Luke, Leia, Lando, and Han faced in Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.
If you squint, the E-wings are already a solid harbinger of the EU returning, even without doing anything. In old Legends canon, the E-wings were pressed into service to fight Thrawn and were still around in Dark Empire and beyond. Which, you know, is the original Star Wars era in which somehow, Palpatine returned — more than once.