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 Comic History-Wars On Infinite Galaxies Part Two-There is Another

 

In this second alternate take on the trilogy, Luke actually succumbs to his wounds from the Wampa attack. Before he passes, the delirious Luke relays Obi-Wan’s message…and suddenly Han believes he’s the chosen one!

 

Luke’s funeral distracts the characters from finding out about the probe droid, and so the Empire’s able to do a sneak attack. Like in the film, the “Falcon” escapes but makes it to Bespin without entering the asteroid field. Things on Bespin play a lot differently, with Boba-unmasked (This came out at the same time “Attack of the Clones” was released, and pretty much “unmasked” Fett and revealed his backstory, so naturally the artists probably wanted to use that)

Fett arrives at Bespin but, without the backup of the Empire, he’s outsmarted by Lando and co, and becomes the carbonite victim instead of Han.

 

Unfortunately, when Vader does arrive after Han and co. leave he’s not too pleased and destroys the city-Lando and frozen Fett included.

Han and co. make it to Dagobah, where Yoda pretty much spills the beans about Vader being Leia’s father, and Han definitely not being a Jedi.

While Leia gets trained by Yoda instead of Luke…..

 

Han and Chewie head to Tatooine to pay off Jabba the Hutt, minus the whole ROTJ plan, although things don’t go quite well. In yet another crossover with “Attack of the Clones”, instead of a rancor we get two Nexu (The cat-like arena monster):

Meanwhile-Vader-dissecting his old friend C3PO after Han and Chewie escape from Jabba’s clutches-leaving the poor droid behind-and shows up to battle Leia and Yoda. Yoda first battles him on the astral plane, causing a strange effect to Vader’s armor that makes it look a lot like the old Mcquarrie design, and he even removes his helmet to reveal Padawan Anakin Skywalker (With Hayden’s AOTC likeness-AOTC connection #3), but he’s able to overcome the illusions and defeat Yoda. Then father and daughter have a duel…

 

….but it’s Han that delivers the deathblow with his blaster when he returns. Works better here than it does in the actual film, it seems….

Although that’s not nearly as bad as what happened in “Empire’s End” with cloned Palpatine.

“Han shot first” indeed.

Vader is then burned ROTJ-style by Leia, but there’s still the rest of the Empire to worry about-although Dark Horses’s infinities twist on ROTJ wouldn’t follow this one, but also be self-contained.

Star Wars Comics History: Wars on Infinite Galaxies Part One: A New Hope?

“If you will not turn to the Dark side, then perhaps she will!”-Darth Vader, ROTJ.

 

For years, Marvel and DC ran several comics that asked “What if?” certain things happened to their characters-funny thing is, some of the stuff later happened…as Spider-Man fans know well.

 

 

However, in the early 21st century, Dark Horse threw their hat into the ring, with Star Wars: Infinities.

 

The storyline began with Luke’s torpedo’s at the end of “A new Hope” malfunctioning, damaging, but not destroying, the Death Star, allowing the rebels at least some time to escape-however, while Han and Luke are able to flee in time, Leia and the Alliance command are re-captured. Vader begins to sense some force stuff with Leia, so he sends her to Coruscant, and trains her in the dark side along with the Emperor. Meanwhile, Luke, Han and Chewie manage to evade capture, and Luke begins his training with Yoda a bit earlier…

 

Half a decade passes, the Empire is more powerful than ever and Leia is now a Dark Jedi and an Imperial true believer. The Death Star is now called “The Justice Star” as well.

I’m reminded somewhat of this “Simpsons” quote.

Luke-who by now has completed his training (Which I guess took far longer in this reality) learns the truth about his father and sister from Yoda, and the group-including Yoda-decide to pay the Emperor a visit on Coruscant, which now has a Death Star around it and what looks like a ton of Super Star Destroyers.

 

What follows is Return of the Jedi to the power of eleven, with Luke battling Leia-and eventually redeeming her-which in turn redeems Vader when the Emperor tries to kill them both with force lightning, and with Yoda Jedi mind-tricking Tarkin into giving him control of the Death…”Justice” Star, which he then crashes on top of the Emperor on Coruscant, killing him and R2-D2 in the process (Although R2’s memories are saved and put into a new body, and Yoda still becomes a ghost).

 

“Infinities”, while a bit goofy, is still an entertaining experiment. The same treatment would later be applied to ESB (With Luke dying on Hoth) and ROTJ (With the Jabba rescue being badly botched), and for a while “Infinities” would be considered a catch-all for explicity-non canon Star Wars (Before “Legends”), which at the time included many elements of  the “Star Wars tales” anthology series. I’ll cover those in a later article.

The weirdness wouldn’t end here, either….as “Vader the White” here demonstrates.

 

 

Star Wars comics history: Farewell, Chewie (Wait, what?)

Spoilers for the New Jedi Order and Vector Prime.

 

After decades of peace, a new conflict arises in the galaxy, giving rise to new heroes and new villains. During the first major battle, one of our heroes-a co-pilot of the Millenium Falcon-makes the ultimate sacrifice,during an attempt to save the son of Han Solo.

No, it’s not Force Awakens, but “Vector Prime”, the first chapter in the “New Jedi Order” novel series, which had the New Republic and Luke’s fledgling Jedi Order face off against the Yuzzhan Vong, a formidable foe which relied on biotechnology instead of mechanical stuff (Plus they really, really hated mechanics-they viewed Droids, in particular, as abominations) and pretty much upended the Star Wars universe, conquering-and even terraforming-the safe havens of Coruscant and Yavin IV. Ironically, the concept behind the NJO started life as a Dark Horse comic pitch, being teased in work such as “Crimson Empire”.

 

…and there were many casualties…the first major one being Chewbacca, who dies while trying to save Han’s son, Anakin, from a crashing moon (He succeeds, although Anakin dies during a mission several books later).

 

A comic miniseries, “Chewbacca” followed, which functioned as a sort of Eulogy for the fallen hero, as well as an anthology, somewhat similar to DH’s own “Star Wars tales” but with a narrative framework. Here, C-3PO and R2-D2 go around the galaxy interviewing various people about their friendship with the walking carpet.

 

The first issue deals mainly with young Chewbacca’s adventures on Kashyyk, including the courtship of his wife. The second deals with some of Chewie’s adventures on the wrong side of the law, including his first meeting with a young TIE fighter pilot (In the “Legends” continuity, Han started out as an Imperial pilot for a brief time before resigning his commission due to Chewie’s treatment. It remains to be seen if anything similar will be done in the upcoming Han Solo movie).

 

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The third issue deals with Chewie’s adventures with the Rebellion, including a misadventure with Wedge Antilles, and Lando. Leia also is a bit mad that he died, because it’s made Han (naturally) despondent. She’s a little selfish here, although at least she has an excuse for why she couldn’t hug the Wookie (For those familiar with the “Force Awakens” mini-controversy). Finally, we have Luke and Han, with Han recounting how Chewie’s saved his kids in the past.

 

 

 

 

Han eventually gets over his grief in the later novels, although he unfortunately loses both his sons, although his daughter, Jaina, lives on and becomes a skilled pilot, Jedi and possibly a Queen. She even got some merchandise…

Heck, she’s *still* getting figures, despite not being canon anymore.

 

 

 

However, all of this is no longer in continuity since the Disney buyout/canon restructering….Chewie’s alive and well (at least for now)

But Han definetly isn’t….

And while there’s a new bright hope for the Jedi in Rey, replacing Jaina sort of, Han’s only known offspring isn’t exactly making good (Then again, same thing happen to Jacen Solo in the comics)

but hey, you never know….

 

Star Wars comics history-Phantom Menaces

In 1999, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace arrived, and of course Dark Horse got on board with their own adaptation. Written by Henry Gilroy-who would later work on the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoon series. It was also inked by Al Williamson, giving it a sort of similar look to the ESB and ROTJ adaptations Williamson penciled in the 80’s

 

 

In additon to the adaptation, Dark Horse also published a series of one-shots focusing on four characters from the film: Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padme/Queen Amidalia. Obi-Wan’s story is mainly a ‘debriefing’ to Yoda, and is largely just a retelling of the film. The other one-shots mainly take place on Tatooine.

 

By far the largest spin-off for the film came out a year later with the Darth Maul miniseries. The popularity of the character would of course inspire future comic and novel series, and a ressurection in the Clone Wars comic series, as well as Rebels.

The Darth Maul series-one of many Star Wars comics illustrated by Jan Duuresama-has the Sith lord commanded to take down the criminal organization Black Sun. It also ties in with the Shadow Hunter novel as well.

It also notably has Maul face off with a “Nightsister”, a dark-side force witch (Although the Witches debuted in a 1994 novel, “The Courtship of Princess Leia”, many depictions of them post-1999 were based on concept art for Maul). In a funny twist, Maul was revealed to be from Dathomir himself in the Clone Wars series.

 

Darth Maul’s mother in particular was revealed to be one, based on the same concept art no less! Awkward…. (This following panel is from a later comic series, Son of Dathomir).

Although Mighella is of course, no longer canon, and Tamzin still is….

Star Wars comics history: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

Around the same time they adapted the Thrawn trilogy, Dark Horse comics decided to do a comic series based on the very first Expanded Universe novel, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”.

 

 

Based on Lucas’s concepts for a more low-budget, Harrison Ford-less Star Wars sequel, the novel dealt with Luke and Leia searching for a force-amplfying “Kaliburr” crystal while pursued by the Empire (Including, eventually, Vader-and the first Luke/Vader lightsaber fight pretty much anywhere outside of concept art), and also befriend some of the local, Empire-hating primitive native aliens and an old force-sensitive woman in a bar. Hmm…those sounds a little familiar….

Anyway, the novel-written by Alan Dean Foster, who ghost-wrote the original Star Wars novel under Lucas’s name (Movie novelizations are pretty much a major thing for Foster, who also wrote the novel for “The force Awakens” as well as one other original SW work, the prequel novel “The Approaching Storm”) was adapted into a comic adaptation by Dark Horse in 1995 (The cover BTW is by Hugo Fleming, which while not quite as ‘kinetic’ as Dave Dorman I think he got the likenesses better).

The comic is pretty much a close adaptation of the novel, with a few exceptions.Vader’s command ship, the Super Star Destroyer Executor, wasn’t in the original novel either (as EMPIRE had not come out yet), but appears here.

The artwork is by Chris Sprouse, and the comic is adapted and inked by the legendary Terry Austin who worked with John Bryne on Uncanny X-men. Like Ron Lim (Marvel’s infinity trilogy), Sprouse’s style seems to have characters with really big jaws.

Although “Splinter”-novel and comic-wise has of course been decanonized, the concept of a connection between the Jedi and Crystals is still a part of canon, although in this case it’s not a force-amplifying crystal (which kind of cheapens the concept of the force just as much as Midichlorians did) as much as a power source-the Kyber crystals, used for not only lightsabers…

but on a larger scale, something far more deadly…

 

Star Wars comic history: “Alien” vs Jedi

From 1991-2012, Dark Horse comics held the comics licenses for three major film franchises: Star Wars, Aliens, and Predator (They also held the Indiana Jones licence, but didn’t make too many uses of it). It of course famously paired the latter two off in the comics, and this confrontation spinned off various video games, two films and of course many, many comic sequels.

In addition Alien and Predator also clashed with DC’s superheroes and various other film properties such as the Terminator and Robocop franchise. However, “Star Wars” was pretty much it’s own thing-and considerably more PG-and it was unlikely George Lucas would sign off on such a thing.

However, we did get a somewhat similar tale to “Aliens” with the 1997 comic series Jedi Academy: Leviathan.

First, a little context-The “Jedi Academy” series of books focused on Luke taking the first steps of rebuilding the order after the defeat of Grand Admiral Thrawn and the Clone Emperor (In the Thrawn trilogy and Dark Empire.) Of course while this is going on, he also has to deal with a new Imperial threat from a secret weapons installation (Which happens to not only have a partially constructed prototype Death Star handy, but also a small vesssel capable of destroying stars) led by a ruthless female Admiral (Who will give Luke further problems down the road) but also the undead spirit of a Dark Lord of the Sith at the site of his temple (Which is the old Rebel base on Yavin IV), tempting his students with the dark side of the Force.

 

The trilogy was then followed up by the “Children of the Jedi” trilogy, which had Luke fall in love with a Clone Wars-era Jedi who had posessed the body of one of his students. The second novel, “Darksaber”, had Luke face off against Daala once again, as well as a Hutt superweapon.

This is where “Leviathan” takes off from. It’s written by the same writer as the trilogy and Darksaber, Kevin J. Anderson (He also wrote a great deal of the Tales of the Jedi stuff)

 

Unlike a lot of other comics depicting Luke’s version of the Jedi order, which pretty much have them with the classic Jedi robe look, instead each Jedi has a more unique design. The style of the series as a whole is very similar to “Tales of the Jedi”-and it’s no coincidence, since it’s done by Dario Carrasco Jr, the artist who worked on that series (Specifically the Sith Empire ones)

 

Here’s where we get similarities to “Aliens”-A mining colony sends a distress call to Coruscant, and Leia-who now pretty much rules the Republic as chief of state at this point in the timeline-asks her brother to lend a hand. He assembles a strike force-Kyp Durron, a Jedi who briefly went to the Dark Side, Streen from Bespin, Dorsk 82, a clone, and Kirana Ti, a “witch” from Dathomir.

The group go to the rain-soaked colony but like in “Aliens”, they’re too late. Not only is the colony completely destroyed and everybody dead, but there’s also a nasty Sith monster that’s trapped the souls of the colonists.

 

Fortunately, Kyp and his team are able to kill the monster and free the trapped souls.

However, like the Alien movies, just when you think it’s safe, surprise! Another Leviathan pops up and is extremely hard to kill. However, they’re able to eventually destroy it by electrocuting it.

The Leviathan monster would later show up in further Star Wars lore, especially as more and more about the history of the Sith was written. However, Leviathan was de-canonized in 2014, when Disney decided to take a different direction with Luke’s attempts to rebuild the Jedi.