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Dark Empire is a Star Wars graphic novel (possibly the first one to tackle the post Episode VI universe, too) by Tom Veitch (story) and Cam Kennedy (artwork). It was conceived of in 1988 and published in October 1995 by Dark Horse Comics after many trials and stepping on other authors' toes. The cover art features a very Vader-esque (black from head to toe, including gloves and cloak - no helmet however, obviously) Luke in a bit of heavy foreshadowing about the plot. The backdrop consists mainly of starships; a few Star Destroyers and blocky World Devastators enjoying their raison d'ĂȘtre, i.e. looming menacingly. No other characters are shown, again a hint as to who the plot will revolve around.

The Timeline

I recommend not reading the foreword to Dark Empire, even if it does explain the timeline a little bit - it also (argh!) spoils the plot ahead for some unfathomable reason. Here's the timeline in short: Dark Empire takes place exactly between the events in Timothy Zahn's Star Wars Series and Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy trilogy. Events here are also mentioned in the game Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.

The Story

The novel takes place six years after the events culminating in the Battle of Endor. The Empire is fragmented and weak, but a dark power still lurks in the Core systems, the Emperor's old haunts. A terrifying technology - the Devastators, gigantic ships capable of turning a planet into raw material and converting it to Imperial warships, droids and fighters - emerges under an unknown power's firm guidance, targeting one Republic world after another for annihilation.

During one skirmish with the Imperial Remnant (terminology coined by the Jedi Knight games, I believe), Luke Skywalker (now a Jedi Master after events in Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy), Han and Leia Solo are attacked by an energy storm of unknown origin. Luke senses that the attack is targeted at him alone, and gives himself up to the whirlwind as the Solos retreat to safety. It is here that the story truly begins, with hints of Leia's Jedi abilities, rise of powerful foes and a once-again threatened Republic.

The book review

The story is Star Wars through and through. There are chases, bounty hunters, betrayals and honor, humour, lightsaber duels and large scale starship battles contrasting with the fate of the universe resting on personal combat between two people. And of course the Dark Side is there, too. The only slight complaint is that there is a lot of happenings in a relatively small space - but that just lets you enjoy the action constantly, a boon for the ADD in us all.

What doesn't support the story as much is the artwork. While Cam Kennedy is certainly competent, he seems to enjoy straight lines a lot, which often makes his people look indistinguishable, unhuman and uninteresting. Contrariwise, this makes his technology look great, as starships, droids, buildings and other inorganics have plenty of lovingly crafted detail and clutter. Unfortunately Star Wars is really about the people as much as it is about the fancy hardware, and as a result the book as a whole suffers slightly. Still, if you want to fill your gaps in Star Wars Lore, and be moderately entertained in the process, this book and its two successors are worth looking at.

Dark Empire | Dark Empire II | Empire's End

I have tried to avoid spoilers, as they'd rather defeat the point of a write up on a book, don't you think? If you think otherwise, /msg me. Parts II and III will be noded as I get them, or feel free to make your own.

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