In 1991, Bantam re-launched the Star Wars novel line with Heir To The Empire, the first of three novels which would continue the Star Wars story beyond “Return of the Jedi”. Written by sci-fi/military writer Timothy Zahn, the focus of the novel would pick up with the character struggling to restore the Republic after seemingly having pushed back the Empire. Luke however, has his doubts about how to train a new generation of Jedi, especially without the guidance of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda; Han’s trying to bring his old smuggler friends back into the fold to help the Republic out, and Leia is pregnant with twins, while also trying to stabilize the new Republic. Lando of course is starting some new businesses after Vader kind of messed up his old one.
However, a new enemy emerges with Grand Admiral Thrawn, an alien Imperial genius who has returned from a lengthy mission to discover the Empire in pieces. Using his tactical genius-which includes studying his opponent’s weaknesses through art-and his knowledge of Imperial secrets, he starts to reorganize the Empire, leading to a new struggle for our heroes. Details of Thrawn’s backstory would also later be put to light in the novels Outbound Flight and Tatooine Ghost.
Although the series was mostly de-canonized when Disney created their own version of the post-ROTJ timeline, Thrawn is being reintroduced into the new continuity via the Rebels animated series and a new novel by his creator, Timothy zahn.
In 1995 Dark Horse started to adapt the Thrawn trilogy with three 6-issue limited series. Although taking some artistic license, and omitting a few scenes, it’s mostly faithful to the source material. The first series featured artwork by Oliver Vantine and Fred Blanchard, and was slightly more exaggerated than it’s sequels, with large versions of the Noghri race, who are actually supposed to be quite small.
The comic adaptations also helped give us a somewhat better artistic representation of Mara Jade, former Emperor’s hand who begins a relationship with Luke Skywalker: On the right here in early artwork:
and her revamped look for the comics (Terry Dodgson’s from Dark Force Rising here)
Dodgson’s work for “Dark Force Rising” also more closely used the actor’s likenesses.
The series of course wrapped with “The Last Command” drawn by the late Edvin Biuković. It is also the first licensed Star Wars property to feature an image of Natalie Portman’s then unnamed Star Wars character-juxtaposed with her daughter and granddaughter.