Star Wars Comics History-Age of the Empire

While it was currently running the prequel-era “Republic” comics, Dark Horse also began a second monthly, featuring events during the Original trilogy era.

 

The series started with the Betrayal arc, in which a series of Grand Moffs-who don’t like being ruled by two Sith Lords-try to organize a coup against the Emperor and Vader. Of course, it doesn’t quite go well.

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The arc also introduced-and quickly got rid of-Grand Moff Tractha, who like Vader has Cybernetic replacements; however, he later showed up in the “early Empire” story Darth Vader and the Ghost Prison, and even got a Hasbro figure.

 

After a brief interlude with Princess Leia (“Princess, Warrior”) taking place slightly before “A New Hope”, and a Boba Fett issue by the team who wrote his one-shots “trilogy”, we’re given the second major arc with “Darklighter”.

The comics largely detailed the backstory of Biggs Darklighter, an old friend of Luke’s, who dies on the Death Star trench run.

A lot of Bigg’s role and backstory in the movie was deleted (although one scene was restored for the special edition). In older cuts, Luke actually appears far earlier in the movie, spotting the space battle overhead and running to tell his friends, including Biggs who is on leave from the Imperial academy. The two get to have a talk, in which Biggs confides in him that he’s joining the Rebellion.

The comic builds heavily on not only this, but also Bigg’s short career as a TIE fighter pilot, with the artistic choice to make the helmet translucent to better show the emotions of the characters. The issues with the Darklighter aren’t actually sequential (perhaps due to the time needed to finish the detailed art) and were broken up between standalones.

After two more standalones-one featuring a Stormtrooper on the Death Star, and another revealing what happened to Vader after his TIE went out of control at the end of the film, we get another new arc after the Darklighter issues finally finish.

 

The next arc deals with an Imperial batallion dealing with a large group of hostile, flatworm-like “Anamamen”

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Represented in the films by this kin of creepy guy.

They’re led by Janek Sunber, whose story also ties into Luke and Biggs…

After this arc ends we get a short interlude with Vader targeted by the Faleen, an alien species who’s homeworld was messed up by Vader (This also ties into the Shadows of the Empire storyline).

What follows are a few adventures with Han, Leia, and Chewbacca, one in particular introducing the character Deena Shan, who plays a significant role in the final arc of the series.

 

The next major arc-after a Boba Fett standalone and a two issue-story where Luke recruits a former Clone trooper into the alliance-we get “In the Shadows of their Fathers”. This is a sequel to the “Battle of Jaabim” arc, with the Jaabim rebels not being too pleased with how things went down during the Clone Wars, where another man by the name of Skywalker abandoned them. It’s got some pretty cool covers…

 

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It ends with Luke leaving the planet, but somewhat unsettled by what he’s learned, that his father might not have been the great hero he thought he was, and  that Obi-Wan was ‘killed’ on the planet. He wonders what Ben was keeping from him…

The final arc is “Wrong Side of the War”, where Luke, Deena, and other rebels go undercover in Imperial outfits as part of a rebel infiltration and strike force. However, things don’t go quite smoothly. Deena falls in love with an Imperial officer during the mission, and Janek Sunber shows up, and recognizes Luke. We learn that Janek is in fact, Luke’s old buddy “Tank”-mentioned in Star Wars as having left like Biggs did to join the Empire, but unlike Biggs, he didn’t join the rebels….he recognizes Luke, but only as his old friend, who he’s convinced also joined the Empire, not knowing that Luke is a rebel hero. Of course, Luke’s true allegiance is finally figured out-but Sunber is reluctant to join the alliance, as he believes in the Order of the Empire.

 

The storyline continues in the sequel series “Star Wars  Rebellion”, which I will cover in the next article.

 

 

Star Wars comics history-Shadows of the Empire:Evolution

Shadows of the Empire was a major Star Wars event in 1996, that was a Star Wars ‘movie’ without an actual movie-it had a novel, comics, soundtrack, a video game, figures etc. The story-driven parts of the story-the novel, video game, and comic series-each sort of told the story from different POVs-The novel mainly from Luke and Vader, the comic from Boba Fett (with some added scenes with Luke and co. not in the novel), and the game from the new mercenary character/Han substitute, Dash Rendar. The series took place between ESB and ROTJ, and while setting up ROTJ it also dealt with a plot involving Vader’s rivalry with a crime lord. More detail is available on my other article:

 

https://chrism227.wordpress.com/2016/12/11/star-wars-comics-history-shadows-of-the-empire/

Eventually, a sequel series was developed, although it’s a quieter, more personal tale, with an unlikely protagonist-Prince Xizor’s second-in-command/bodyguard, Guri. Guri is actually a ‘human replica droid’, an experimental droid made to look pretty much entirely human from the outside. Making her sort of more like something out of Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica, then the more utilitarian droids we’re used to in the films.

 

Guri’s trying to get herself to her creator, so she can be re-programmed after the events of SOTE, so she won’t be a killer anymore. However, there’s some complications-Xizor’s niece is around and wants Guri’s knowledge of her uncle’s secrets-and the moon she’s on has plenty of thugs and bounty hunters out for her as well.

Eventually, Luke and co. help out Guri a bit as well, as they’re on the hunt for Xizor’s niece as well. However, the doctor’s reprogramming is sucessful. Although still a formidable fighter, Guri now has no memory of working for Black Sun/Xizor, and they let her go to start a new life.

 

 

The comic ends with Guri starting that new life, meeting in a bar Dash Rendar (who the video game revealed that he had survived the final battle of Shadows). Some of the novels have them form a team, even crossing the likes of fellow mercenary Kyle Katarn, and also building some more HRDs.

 

Legends of Star Wars: Post-Return of the Jedi – or”Duel of the Original Trilogy Fates” Part I

*Spoilers for the books and the new films*

 

In this series of articles, I’ll examine how the recently “de-canonized” Expanded Universe-the pre-Disney books, comics, video games etc. dealt with areas of Star Wars not covered by the movies-and how they compare to Disney’s ‘new canon’, which is composed of mainly, at this point:

  1. The saga films-Episodes I-9, with 8 and 9 still in production
  2. Spin-offs, such as Rogue One
  3. The 2008-2013 Clone Wars TV series and film
  4. The Rebels animated series
  5. Del Rey’s post-2014 novels
  6. The Star Wars comics by Marvel from 2014 onward

The old stuff is still sold, but is now branded with the term “Legends” to distinguish it from the Disney product.

Anyway, I’ll start mainly with character comparisons. These will mainly deal with the “Big three” OT characters for now, and pretty much only deal with their fates as of “Force Awakens”. I’ll probably provide a follow-up for “Last Jedi” at some point next year. Future articles will deal with other characters, settings, other comparisons etc.

 

Luke Skywalker

In both versions, Luke goes about re-building the Jedi Order. However, there’s one key difference.

He’s actually successful. He builds a sort of Jedi Academy on Yavin IV in the ruins of the old Rebel Base (which is later moved into the old Temple on Coruscant). Although it has a few bumps in the road- students (and Luke briefly) going to the dark side, interference from the New Republic, Imperial attacks, Yavin IV pretty much getting invaded or attacked by Imperial remnants and Vong etc. Luke’s order actually lasts a pretty long time, until the events of the “Legacy” series. Luke even settles down and marries his former enemy Mara Jade, and they have a son, Ben Skywalker, although Mara eventually is killed.

 

Luke’s Jedi Order in the Force Awakens? Not so lucky.

In both cases, Luke has to go into exile, but for different reasons, although they both involve Han Solo’s son going to the dark side.

In the “Fate of the Jedi” series, he is exiled after not only does his nephew Jacen go to the dark side and becomes a Sith Lord who plunges the galaxy once again into war, but also a group of Jedi start to go a bit mental shortly thereafter, and he takes the heat for it. He eventually is freed from this though, although he does take the oppurtunity to try to figure out exactly why his Nephew went bad, and discovers interesting new force users-and a new group of Sith-on the way.

 

In “Force Awakens” we learn that his Nephew Ben Solo fell to the Dark side, became Kylo Ren and killed (or also brought over to the dark side?) his students, although it’s not quite clear when this happened prior to the film. His exile seems to be self-imposed, although for some reason he’s looking for the original Jedi temple or something.

 

Han Solo/Chewbacca

 

In both continuties, Han marries Leia shortly after the events of “Return of the Jedi”. They remain more or less hapilly married (although with a few bumps in the road), and have three kids: The twins Jaina and Jacen, and Anakin (Named after his grandfather). Also, if the cover’s any indication (This novel is set around the same time as “Force Awakens” in the other timeline), he seems to be have aged a bit more gracefully. Although Chewbacca dies (more on that later  on) Anakin is killed during a Jedi mission, and Jacen goes to the dark side and is also killed by his sister no less, Han still keeps it together, with him and Leia even semi-adopting their granddaughter, Jacen’s daughter with fellow Jedi Tenel Ka.

 

Force Awaken’s Han Solo is a bit more down on his luck. After Ben went to the dark side and became Kylo Ren, he became estranged from Leia, and went back to smuggling with Chewbacca. He even got the Millenium Falcon stolen! However, the events of “The Force Awakens” help him to make a difference again, and he tries to redeem his son.

Now here’s where another thing is a bit different: Death.

 

In the novel series “The New Jedi Order” Chewbacca sacrifices himself saving Anakin Solo, and then gets crushed to death by a moon. This leaves Han devestated for a time, but he eventually is able to pull himself back together and help defeat the Yuzzhan Vong.

Movie Han? Once again, not so lucky.

Chewbacca unfortunately has to mourn for his friend, but not before knocking out a few Stormtroopers and also injuring his “nephew” Kylo Ren. After a period of mourning, he also accepts that life goes on and accepts Rey as the new Captain of the Falcon as they head to find Luke.

 

 

Princess Leia

In both cases, Leia becomes a politician for a time before moving onto other things, and eventually marries Han shortly after “Return of the Jedi”, and pretty much everything I wrote for Han in that period applies here too. In both cases, Leia eventually mostly leaves politics behind after a time, and here’s a key difference. In the novels, she decides to accept her Jedi inheritance fully at last, although after her kids become Jedi.

In the new continuity, Leia also leaves politics although in this case, it’s in part because a scandal reveals that she’s the daughter of Darth Vader to everyone, especially when she takes a hard line on the growing threat of the First Order. Also estranged from Han, she forms her own small force, the Resistance, becoming “General Organa”. Although not a Jedi, she still has force skills, as we see her ‘feel’ the death of Han (or alternatively Ben/Kylo’s feelings). Of course, her main quest in addition to fighting the First Order? Finding her brother so he can help her sort out this mess.

 

Unfortunately, with the death of actress Carrie Fisher (Although she had filmed her “Last Jedi” scenes, Leia’s fate in the sequel trilogy is in a state of flux now. But we’ll see what happens.

Star Wars comics history-The wedding of Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade

Some spoilers below for the New Jedi Order/Dark Nest/Legacy of the Force novels.

In the 1999 “Hand of Thrawn” duology, Luke Skywalker proposed Marriage to Mara Jade, a former member of the Emperor’s Hand, a force-sensitive operative turned smuggler who originally wanted to kill Luke for depriving her of her Master (who she believed had a greater role in his death than he actually did). She first appeared in the novel “Heir to The Empire”, and proved popular with fans of the novels, and appeared in several of the sequel novels.

The HOTT also was Bantam’s swan song for their publishing of the franchise, with new publisher Del Rey announcing a shift. Instead of mainly publishing standalones and trilogies like Bantam did (although that’s largely what they’re doing these days), they would start out with an ambitious 20 part novel series, “The New Jedi Order”.

In-between this, Dark Horse set a new limited series, “Union”, which would chronicle the marriage.

The series is mainly goofy fun, with both Luke and Mara’s parties-made of both movie and original EU creations (including several by Michael Stackpole, who wrote the series) preparing for the wedding, including selecting dresses, spa-days, jitters….

and of course, bachelor parties!

Luke and Mara get two ceremonies, one a Jedi one (This is before AOTC firmly established Jedi didn’t get married, but since the Jedi Order in the EU at this point was a bit different than the old, it’s an easy thing to explain-and sort of is in the bottom panel here)

and a civil one:

Which is nearly crashed by former Imperials, because naturally it’s not Star Wars without a little bit of war in it:

But it all ends happily, at least for now. Luke and Mara eventually have many happy years together, and she gives birth to a son, although they still have to deal with the Yuzzhan Vong threat, and a few other bad guys. Unfortunately, Mara is unfortunately killed in the novel “Sacrifice”, part of the Legacy of the Force series.

However, Mara would soon be pretty much wiped from canon all together, sort of similar to another marriage made in comics with another redhead with the initials MJ: Spider-Man: One More Day by Joe Quesada:

…..But I won’t get into that now, and at least it’s because Disney wanted a clean slate for the sequel trilogy and didn’t involve any deals with the semi-Devil.

However, there’s still a bit of hope that some version of Mara still exists in Disney’s ‘new’ canon, as we’ve seen other EU characters-including those like Thrawn, be reintegrated into the series although in a different way. Plus there’s still a bit gap between Star Wars Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, where Luke is shown alone and self-exiled. So maybe Luke did marry someone, possibly a version of Mara Jade, in the new timeline. However, we’ll have to wait until this to find out, maybe:

Star Wars comics history-The Manga saga

In 1998, Dark Horse published English adaptations of four Star Wars ‘manga (Japanese comics, often featuring a ‘big eyes’ small ones cartooning style)-based on the original trilogy. Although the covers were by American manga artist Adam Warren, the interiors were all done by different artists.

 

The original one was by Hisao Tamaki. Although of course beholden to the source material (It’s special edition, for example) for it’s dialogue, the comics certainly used inventive layouts and some artistic licence. Leia for instance has a slightly different hairstyle with bangs and loose hair from the ‘buns’ and is seen crying when Alderaan is destroyed.

 

  

In some ways, they’re preferable to the regular adaptations, which often were done at the time of the movie’s release, somewhat rushed and using mostly just the scripts and publicity stills as their source, and hence we end up with stuff like this:

 

 

(Al Williamson of course is a good artist, but there is a heavy bit of photo sourcing and mistakes here-He accidentally swapped the looks of Piett and Ozzell, mainly)

And they certainly add a bit more fun to some of the film’s more comic moments too:

 

“Empire” followed, with a somewhat more ‘rough’ looking style, and a decidely human looking Chewbacca. The artist was Toshiki kudo.

 

 

 

It was “Return of the Jedi” however which had the most radical style change, with the characters sporting a more intense, exaggerated look by Shin-Ichi Morimoto.

 

The final adaptation of the films was “Phantom Menace”. TPM was done by Kia Asamiya, who is one of the manga artists who has sort of crossed over to some American projects, as he was the artist on Uncanny X-men for a while, and has also worked on Batman. He’s also well known for his own work such as Martian Sucessor Nadesico, Silent Mobius and Steam Detectives. He also did the cover work for Dark Horse’s reprint as well.

 

You might’ve noticed that several of the pages are flipped opposite to their angles in the films-this is in fact because Japanese is often read back to front, rather than front to back, and a lot of manga, when it’s adapted, is ‘flipped’ to better conform to Western reading styles (although ‘unflipped’ versions of manga are certainly available.)

 

Star Wars Comics history-Crimson Empire

Crimson Empire is sort of the follow-up to the Dark Empire storyline, but it’s focus is a bit different. Although dealing a bit with the chaos after Palpatine’s “final” death in that series, it also pretty much ignores Luke, Han and co, instead focusing on one of the last members of the Imperial Royal Guard-Kir Kanos- who has discovered that the Emperor’s clone degeneration was the result of the tinkering of a fellow Guardsman-Carnor Jax, who has ambitions to lead the Empire-and also has some limited force ability as well. CE was released as three limited series over the course of a few years. The series also dealt in part with how the Royal guardsmen-who first appeared in “Return of the Jedi” and later would appear in the prequels (Where they beaten pretty badly by Yoda in one scene)-were trained.

The initial one had Jax work with a local Rebel cell, who don’t find out his past until later on, but welcome his assistance as they have a mutual enemy with the Imperial remnant. He also forms a relationship with local commander Mirith Sinn (although her Trandoshan ally Sadeet doesn’t trust him).

Kanos and Carnor Jax then have one final battle on the planet of Yinchorr, where the royal guard were trained. He kills Jax, but also Sadeet when he tries to stop the execution of who he felt would be a valuable prisoner, with Sinn vowing to avenge her fallen friend.

The next installment, Council of Blood, has Kanos take on the identity of Kenix Kil, a bounty hunter, and works for a Hutt while trying to get to the Imperial ruling council, of whom one of the members-Feena D’Asta-is a clone, with the original D’asta imprisoned by the Hutt.

He also runs into Sinn again, and saves her as well, beginning a sort of romance. The whole thing is a conspiracy of sorts to weaken the Empire by an alien species; the Yuzzhan Vong, who are manipulating things behind the scenes-specifically, their advance agent Nom Anor. Both Anor and his species will face the New Republic on a much wider scale in the later New Jedi Order book series. Eventually the council is defeated by the new Republic, and it’s leader executed by Kanos.

However, Kanos still has one more enemy who he feels is responsible for the death of the Emperor: Luke Skywalker, of course, and Crimson Empire III brings Kanos into the orbit of Luke, Han and Leia, as well as Boba Fett.

However, it turns out his relationship with Sinn, and his growing disillusionment with the Empire, has caused Kanos to rethink things, and he teams up with Luke and the New Republic to take on a rogue Imperial faction, who are trying to damage a possible Imperial/Republic treaty (By this point in time, apart from some hangers-on many factions of the Empire were kind of more moderate than in the days of the Emperor and Vader-for example, Admiral Palleon-Thrawn’s second in command in the Thrawn trilogy-who would eventually become a ‘good guy’ of sorts by forming a lasting peace a few years later.)

At the end of the series, Kanos is presumed dead, but actually survived and starts a new life, discarding his guard robes. However, any possibility of a future sequel is kind of out of the way now, as the year CEIII was published (2012), Star Wars was sold to Disney who in 2014 largely dropped the previous novels/comics/games’s “canon”, or continuity to build their own. (with a few exceptions). Although a few elements of the old Expanded Universe have been reworked into the new stuff, so perhaps we’ll see Kir Kanos again one day…

Star Wars Comics history-Empire’s End

“Empire’s End” was the finale of the “Dark Empire” saga (Although it would have a sort of semi-spinoff with the “Crimson Empire” series). Although still written by Tom Veitch, the series only lasted two issues, and instead of Cam Kennedy doing the art chores (which gave the first two mini-series a distinct look), it instead passed to Jim Baikie.

 

In “Empire’s End”, the Rebels/New Republic is still on the run, with Palpatine still in a clone body. What’s worse, their new base is destroyed by the Galaxy Gun, although they are able to evacuate in time due to rooting out an Imperial spy and a defective Galaxy Gun missile.

 

 

However, there is still hope for the Empire’s defeat-Emperor Palpatine is dying, as his clone body is starting to age rapidly due to his dark-side use and having been poisioned. He’s pretty much run out of clone bodies and now seeks a new host-the infant Anakin Solo. (Yes, that’s right, the Emperor basically is Vigo from Ghostbusters II)

It pretty much all ends at Onderon, the beast-world from the “Tales of the Jedi” comics (and still in Disney canon thanks to Clone Wars). While Luke, Han, Leia and their small group of force-sensitives try to protect Anakin from Palpatine on the surface, while a rebel strike force takes on the Emperor’s Star Destroyer Eclipse II in space.

The ship is sent through hyperspace accidentally back to Byss, where it crashes into the Galaxy gun, which causes it to launch a missile and destroy the Imperial throneworld.

Meanwhile on Onderon, the Emperor tries to steal Anakin and posess him. Han shoots Palpatine in the back, killing him but unfortunately allowing his force spirit to make a leap for Anakin.

However, Empatojayos Brand-the Jedi with a floating cyborg body-intercepts the spirit, having him pretty much posess him instead (although Brand’s personality still maintains control). Brand then dies, taking the Emperor’s spirit with him forever.

This ends the “Dark Empire” saga, although Crimson Empire would pick up some of the plot threads (including what happened with the Emperor’s final clone, and what’s left of the Empire between this and the “Jedi Academy” trilogy). Luke, Han, and Leia’s adventures would continue in the Jedi Academy trilogy, although for the most part, major sagas featuring them post-“Return of the Jedi” were left to the novels for the remainder of the original expanded universe (Although there’d still be a few more novel adaptations and stuff featuring the heroes in their OT days).