Top positive review
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My favourite Star Wars comic series. Quite simply awesome.
on 19 June 2014
Even after Return of the Jedi brought closure to the original trilogy with the defeat of the Empire and the death of Darth Vader and the Emperor, there seemed to be much adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and co. following this triumphant victory. In the early 90s, many post-ROTJ stories were brought to life through licensed novels and comic books published by Dark Horse. Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy garnered critical acclaim from fans with its episodic story arc and introduction of popular EU characters such as Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade. At the same time, a comic book series developed by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy surfaced set six years after the events of Jedi in which a new threat almost drives the Alliance (now the New Republic) to destruction. Dark Empire was a terrific continuation of our favourite characters' adventures and makes for a terrific semi-sequel trilogy to Episodes 4, 5 and 6. It remains my favourite Star Wars comic series and a great piece of expanded fiction.
Dark Empire's story is likely going to divide Star Wars fans as it retcons some elements of the original trilogy. The series sees the return of Palpatine who was revealed to have survived his death at the hands of Vader on the Death Star by releasing his subconscious from his corporeal form and has been surviving through cloned bodies yet requires a younger body to survive longer once his clones start to age out. Palpatine's death defeats the purpose slightly of Vader's redemption as he restored balance to the Force by killing his Sith Master. For him to survive that can put off fans for making that important story element irrelevant. Furthermore, Luke temporarily falls to the dark side (though intentionally as a facade) so he can get closer to Palpatine and defeat him from within. Luke falling to the dark side after his ordeal in Return of the Jedi also makes that irrelevant to some. However, once you take that aside, Dark Empire really is a terrific story. It's darker and less flashy than the original trilogy and is perhaps even more morose than Empire Strikes Back. Dark Empire also laid the template for the prequels through its depiction of Palpatine's desire for immortality and how it connects to his battle to survive beyond death. With the birth of Han and Leia's third child Anakin at the end of Dark Empire II, the writers were also ballsy to place the youngest Solo kid in danger when Palpatine eyes Anakin up as a new host for his soul.
The artwork in Dark Empire is very idiosyncratic but weirdly spellbinding. There is a heavy use of green and purple lighting which contrasts greatly and gives an almost gothic feel to Star Wars. Luke's hair looks more punky in this series and Leia's feminine looks are downplayed a bit. It takes a while to get sucked into the artwork because of how bizarre it is for a Star Wars comic but it really is great. Unfortunately, Dark Empire III or Empire's End eschews the artwork for a more 'realistic' look. Strangely, the artwork in that series is much less impressive and more watered down.
Because this is a trilogy, it's best for me to offer my consensus on which is the best of the three stories. Dark Empire I is a great introduction and is a compelling tale that develops the characters well and shows how much they have changed from the films. Luke is more moody and introspective this time around and less sure of himself. Leia's determinism has been magnified yet she also appears more vulnerable but also more aware than her brother. Bringing Palpatine back was a ballsy move but Tom Veitch pulled it off greatly and even Luke's brief descent into darkness worked well into the story. The World Devastators and Palpatine's Super Star Destroyer the Eclipse were also terrific additions to the series and posed genuine threats. Dark Empire II is my personal favourite of the three. Whilst the story is a bit more complicated, the characters are developed well and our heroes face greater danger which makes for greater reading. New characters like Kam Solusar, Empatojayos Brand and the Ysanna siblings are also introduced in this series along with the planets Ossus and Vjun. Empire's End is my least favourite of the trilogy. It's a good series on the whole but as I mentioned, the artwork is inferior to the prior two and the ending is anti-climactic and doesn't offer much closure. Not a terrible end to the series but could've been greater considering how great the previous two were.
Dark Empire is one of the best pieces of Star Wars expanded fiction and a terrific comic book series in its own right. Tom Veitch's writing and Cam Kennedy's artwork compliment the dark tone of the story greatly and make for a great piece of graphic novel reading. It's definitely regarded as a cult classic for Star Wars fans and proves that Star Wars spin off stories shouldn't be ignored. A huge recommendation to anyone who is a Star Wars fan.