Thursday, March 14, 2013

Star Wars Rediscovered: Dark Empire Review



"Together we were a Jedi fire that outshone his evil"

 Within this new series of articles I will explore the Star Wars comic book universe, specifically the comic books that have been published by Dark Horse. I plan to read chronologically through the Star Wars universe and then write an article upon the completion of an storyline/arc. I will however write about some new stuff from time to time. I have not read many Star Wars comic books and so will approach these articles from the perspective of a new reader, my hope is that these articles will encourage and enable those who are daunted by the scope and complexity of Star Wars within comics to give a certain series a try. I plan to highlight certain series or comic books within series that I feel are good jumping on points for new readers.


I also plan to rate each series upon completion in the hopes of helping you the reader discern the good from the bad. I feel that this is the perfect time to write this series of articles because it will not only help you determine what's good out there but it will also form an overview of how Dark Horse handled the Star Wars licence when it had it now that it has been handed back to Marvel.




Star Wars: Dark Empire #1-6
Writer: Tom Veitch
Artist: Cam Kennedy
Cover Artist: Dave Dorman
Lettering: Todd Klein

Cover Art

I generally quite like the cover art to all six issues of this first series. I think that the use of colour is fantastic, it really helps to make them look quite striking. My favourite use of colour is the cover to issue 5, the bright green title contrasted against the dark purple sky and the blue stringy ooze makes it look moody, quite hallucinatory and even a bit dreamlike. Overall the covers work quite well with issue 1’s very much being a roll call for the characters you know and love and they are drawn brilliantly. Dorman does a good job on the covers and shows his artistic talent for light and shadow in them.


Narration

Veitch does a fantastic job writing and being the narrator for this series. At the start of each issue he writes a recap of the events of the previous issue, these are brilliantly used and really help to remind you what has happened or fill them in if they missed the issue. Plus the recaps being designed to look like the classic Star Wars text crawl certainly help to bring your  mind back to the movies, you can almost hear the theme music in your head while reading them. The recap in the first issue does a great job of bridging the gap between The Return of the Jedi and the events within this series, you finish reading it feeling fully up to date with events within the universe and raring to turn that page over. Some readers may be inclined to skip over these recaps, especially if they had read the previous issue, I recommend that you don’t however because they not only recap but also briefly expand upon the previous issue. For example we leave issue #1 with Luke Skywalker being swept up willingly by the storm, we have learnt that he feels a great evil on the Imperial planet but that is all the information we receive. In issue #2's recap however we are told that Mon Mothma has learnt that a Dark Side power has emerged from hiding and is rallying the Imperials to attack the Rebellion sympathetic worlds. If you want a bit more information then these recaps do the job.
Another narrative feature that I love about this series is how well each character is introduced, even if you had never watched any of the movies before you learn enough about each of the main characters that you wouldn’t feel lost or confused. This series would be a great jumping on point for new readers.


Interior Art

Cam Kennedy generally does a fantastic job with the artwork in this series. The way he chooses to paint his scenes using a washed out look is really interesting and it makes some of his characters look incredibly eerie and menacing at times, I love it. His portrayal of Luke I find the most intriguing, barring the odd panel here and there Luke spends the majority of this series looking almost demonic, as if he has fallen to the Dark Side before we even meet him. I think this works really well within the story and once you have read the story Luke's appearance almost seems like a clue to his fall to the Dark Side.
If you are a fan of splash pages, spaceships or epic battles in space then this series will not disappoint! Every other page seems to be either an amazing view of the Millennium Falcon or the world destroyers. The intricacy of these images is fantastic too. Kennedy has a great sense of scale, in one panel an Imperial Dungeon ship looks absolutely massive and then in the next is dwarfed by the surrounding ships, I think that helps to emphasize the amazing ships and technology that there is within the Star Wars universe.
I love how the Force is represented within this series. In one panel Luke uses what looks like Force Push on two minions of the Emperor, this is portrayed as a glowing ball of flame around Luke's hand and just looks awesome!
It is slightly ambiguous at times due to Kennedy's use of colour whether the use of yellow over Luke's eyes for a lot of this series is a representation of his fall to the Dark Side or not. I like to think that it has something to do with the Force, especially as in one scene Leia is described as gaining more power in the Force and there is a strip of yellow across her eyes.
Although there are many amazing images within this series such as Luke appearing to Leia as Darth Vader and then transforming back to Luke the artwork falls down very occasionally. Kennedy draws the odd face weirdly so in one panel Luke looks like an old haggard man and in another few Leia looks a bit masculine. These are only nitpicks though generally the artwork is amazing, Kennedy does a great job.


Luke's Portrayal

The main plot line within this series is all about Luke, his determination to find this great evil threatening the Rebels and once revealed to be the Emperor who survived his death at the hands of Vader through the use of clone bodies, its about his fall to the Dark Side and Leia and Han’s attempt to rescue him from it. Right from his introduction Luke is portrayed as potentially evil, we first see his silhouette which looks exactly like Vader and we are told by Veitch that this person looks “menacingly familiar”. In a later scene Leis tells Han that she was afraid of Luke due to the way he looked at her. Again and again Luke is shown to be possibly evil, which culminates in him kneeling before the Emperor and joining the Dark Side. Luke does give us a glimmer of hope however as when he accepts the Emperor’s offer in joining him he implies that he wants to beat the Dark Side from within, a slippery slope surely? This path does indeed prove to be slippery as Luke admits later in the series that it is Leia’s innate Jedi goodness that helps him break the evil over him.
The series does not end with an evil Luke though, the Emperor’s plan to use his incredibly powerful World Destroyers to crush the Rebels is foiled partly thanks to Luke. He secretes a master code within R2D2 that he hopes will destroy the World Destroyers, this doesn’t quite work as it simply stops them in their tracks. It is thanks to R2D2 that they are destroyed, he creates a new code that gives the Rebels control over the immense machines which they then use to make the machines attack each other.
This series ends with great hope for the future. The Emperor reveals that Leia is pregnant and that he plans to raise the child himself and then eventually transfer his life energy into and possess the child. This is foiled thanks to a combination of Luke, Leia and her unborn baby, they combine their Force energy and separate him from his rage storm that is tearing up the Rebel’s ships, this causes the storm to turn on the Emperor. Luke tells Leia that he has “conquered himself” and they flee from his rapidly crumbling ship. Veitch leaves it ambiguious as to whether the Emperor is killed or not, we don’t see a body and we know that he is endlessly cunning. All we know for sure is that the good guys have foiled his evil plans...for now.


Conclusion & Rating

To conclude this series is a must read! The plot is brilliant, with twists and turns galore, the artwork is fantastic and I would happily have many of the panels displayed on my wall. If you want a series that follows on from The Return of the Jedi and is a great jumping on point then this series is a must!
Rating: 9/10 - Sith Lords


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22 comments:

Brian Wyrick said...

This was one of my favorite Star Wars series ever - I'm excited to be working with Dave Dorman as cover artist for a new project ast weel - check it out here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1416077417/henchmen-an-independent-comic-book

Adrian Roberts said...

Hi Brian, thanks so much for checking my column out and for the comment! I'll be sure to take a look at your Kickstarter project especially if Dorman is the cover artist.

Mark Pellegrini said...

I loved Dark Empire back in, I wanna say, 98 or 99, when I was a teenager. It was my first taste of Star Wars comics and the idea of a continuation from the movies in general. While I didn't quite buy Luke's temporary fall to the Dark Side, it was still an exciting story with some really wonderful art.

The sequels don't hold up quite so well, though.

Of course, I later read the Thrawn Trilogy in both novel and comic format and had trouble figuring how they got from there to Dark Empire (the trade paperback added a scrawl hastily connecting the two trilogies, but it's an afterthought at best). More or less, it taught me that when it comes to the EU, continuity isn't something that should be dwelled on for long.

Adrian Roberts said...

Hi Mark, thanks for your comment! I agree there is some great art in this series, both Dorman and Kennedy do a great job. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts when I tackle Dark Empire's sequels.

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