The Star Wars comic book canon has grown to the point that it’s almost as intimidating as the Star Wars novel canon. The Expanded Universe has, well, expanded, so much over the last two decades that if you didn’t jump in right at the start and keep up with everything as it developed, you’ll find yourself in a very big hole if you start now. Therefore the trick is to find the really good stuff, the essential stuff, the stuff that even someone peripherally interested in Star Wars would have fun with. If we’re talking comics, that means it’s time to talk Dark Empire.
In the years after the death of Emperor Palpatine at the end of the Return of the Jedi, the leaders of the Rebel Alliance founded the New Republic in an effort to restore peace to the galaxy. But without a core of Jedi Knights (the peacekeeping backbone of the Old Republic), violence is still common. Imperial remnants continue to fight for control of the galaxy, battling both the Republic and each other for control. In the midst of this, Republic troops are using captured Star Destroyers to infiltrate Imperial fleets and incite confusion. During one of these raids, a Star Destroyer carrying Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian crashes onto the surface of Coruscant in the middle of a war zone. Han and Leia Solo (yup, they’ve been married for a while now) launch a rescue mission in the Millennium Falcon, and it’s there that Dark Empire begins.
The series is notable for a number of reasons. When you hear Star Wars geeks talk about that time that Luke turned to the Dark Side, they’re talking about this series. When you hear them talk about the resurrection of The Emperor, they’re talking about this series. When you hear them say Boba Fett isn’t really dead, they’re talking about this series. Yes, writer Tom Veitch did all of this in the span of six issues, and it’s as cool as you think it is.
I knew going in to Dark Empire that all these things were going to happen, and I was honestly expecting some kind of garish spectacle. I was expecting so much epic that the story becomes secondary to the over-the-top madness. Veitch is better than that. Yes, this is the Star Wars story featuring Dark Side Luke and the return of Emperor Palpatine and Boba Fett, but it’s also the Star Wars story that simultaneously challenges and re-affirms everything we know about Star Wars.
Even as Veitch is bringing people back to life and turning the good guys evil, he’s also placing his story in the same adventurous context as Return of the Jedi. The big Force-related matters are matched by Han and Leia’s own adventures as they attempt to rescue Luke. It’s the same blending of life and death matters and hyperspace fun that the original trilogy brought to the table. Add to that Cam Kennedy’s confident, almost dreamy art (his planets are particularly gorgeous), and it becomes a worthy addition to the canon for any Star Wars fan.
Plus, it has Boba Fett. You can’t argue with more Fett.