Now that Dark Horse Comic’s tenure with the Star Wars license is starting to wind down, I wanted to take some time to go back and reread some of the bigger, bolder titles that have seen release throughout the years. Like many longtime readers, I’m immeasurably bummed about the move of the comics from the Horse to the Mouse House of Marvel (I’m really not looking forward to the Vader/Wolvie crossover); and – in order to keep it real – I’m revisiting some of the yarns that made waves.
One of the first big breakthroughs was something called DARK EMPIRE. It went on to have a few sequels, but – for my tastes – I honestly didn’t much care for this tale even when it first hit the shelves. It isn’t that I disliked the idea of exploring an Emperor Palpatine resurrected in the days of the New Republic fumbling to establish a firm footing; it’s just that so much of Tom Veitch’s story felt like character retreads.
More after the break …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Essentially, the story that unfolds here is that the Empire isn’t quite as dead as our heroes – Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa-Solo, Han Solo, and more – long believed it to be. In fact, some lingering elements in the inner galaxies have gone a long way toward re-establishing their own union, putting the New Republic back on its heels and having to fight in smaller isolated conflicts once more. Naturally, this brings our gang back together, and they’re rushed to the front lines in order to give yet one more ‘New Hope’ street cred with faltering worlds.
Lo and behold, our young Skywalker – now a bit older – discovers that the Emperor (aka Darth Sidious) has been resurrected (in a sense). It would seem that his life essence has become a part of the living Dark Side – much like Obi-wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker have merged with the Light Side elements; all the former Palpatine need do is pull a younger version of himself out of a clone canister and – viola – new Emperor! Now, he’s using some massive new weapons known as ‘World Devastators’ to crush planets that won’t bend to his will.
Just as was the thematic undercurrent for the Luke Skywalker character in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI (and many, many Extended Universe tales since then), this new Emperor wants to turn our hero to the Dark Side. What makes this tale a bit different is that the Jedi seemingly does embrace it, though he admits to readers over and over again that he’s done so only to get closer to Palpatine so that he can inevitably defeat him. Leia, Han, and the others don’t see as clearly what Luke’s motivations are, so they spend the bulk of their time trying to contact the Jedi Master so they can ‘reclaim’ him for their side … and, so far as I can tell, that about wraps it up.
DARK EMPIRE is a worthy read, but it’s nothing that really smacks of originality or epicness (if you’ll pardon my creation of the word). The Emperor is the same – as are all of our regular players – so nothing new added to the mix pretty much leaves this tale tasting like something we’ve all had before. That in itself isn’t enough reason to resist the story’s obvious temptations – could it be that Luke won’t survive the Emperor’s machinations this time? – which is why I basically deem it worth a read but little else. Plus, DARK EMPIRE has a weird artistic template; it’s almost as if illustrator Cam Kennedy (who does terrific work) made some curious decision to color the worlds of George Lucas monochromatically, and, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how anyone thought that was a good idea. (???) One of the most enduring qualities of STAR WARS is how different the various worlds and machines and droids look from one to another, so casting so very many panels in as few color choices as possible makes no narrative much less commercial sense.
Heck, even the long-rumored dead Boba Fett shows up for what plays out like an almost obligator appearance, one meant to recapture the magic of the bounty hunters glory days instead of adding legitimacy to the web being spun here. I like Boba Fett. I get most fanboys like Boba Fett. But his appearance here? It just didn’t need to be.
RECOMMENDED. I’m smitten with most of the Dark Horse’s adventures from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away; still, there’s something about DARK EMPIRE that just underwhelmed me. There were a few moments of greatness – Luke’s commitment to kinda/sorta bringing the Force into balance; Leia’s love for family despite the obvious hardships; Han’s ribbing of his brother-in-law; etc. – but most of them underscore relationships already so firmly established that there was little new brought to the game. Otherwise, much of this tale flew on autopilot, and it was hardly as DARK as it could’ve been. Good – worth a read – but far from great.
I remember reading this when it first came out. I thought the artwork was beautiful and it had a really dark, gritty feel. Even looking back, I have to say Dark Empire really produces an emotional response like no other work in the Expanded Universe timeline. Some moments were really wonderful, such as Leia's use of the holocron and the approach of the Dark Side guards on Byss. They really brought back some of the sense of "ancient mysteries" in the Star Wars universe. Unfortunately, … more
Join Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie as they battle the Empire's latest super-weapons: the gigantic, planet-destorying World Devastators! Six years after the Battle of Endor, the Empire has been reborn, guided by a mysterious new leader. With a price on their heads, our heros are on the run. Han and Leia struggle to protect their unborn child from the bounty hunters and Imperial troops that dog their steps. But their greatest danger my lie in the troubled heart of a hero - as Luke succumbs to the lure of the dark side!