Posted by: markfender | January 29, 2014

Star Wars Comics II

Hey, there’s a lot of comics in this line. We’re maybe halfway through it.

spectacular-star-wars-covers-from-dark-horse-comics-4Republic got renamed Dark Times and ran for another 32 issues. This concentrates on a couple Jedi, one protecting a group of abandoned padawans, and another trying to help out the people he originally was fighting against before Order 66 went into effect. And, it also features the baby steps of Darth Vader as he goes out into the galaxy and stops yelling “Noooo!!!!” at everything. The first arc of this was actually quite affecting as Anakin begins doubting the choices he’s made and his investigations into what he’s become. Meanwhile, the Jedi Dass Jennir starts to violate the Jedi Code in his attempts to help his friends and stay one foot ahead of the Empire. The crew of the ship was also pretty interesting, even if they did seem to lose a crewmember every arc of the series. Dass Jennir also does some Yojimbo-ing around so that’s good. And then he marries his girlfriend because only Jedi with the first name of Anakin are forbidden from such actions. If you stuck through Republic, I’d stick around for Dark Times. But it eventually did end, probably because everyone involved realized that the whole premise was super-depressing (or because they stopped their ongoing series and are just doing Dark Times miniseries’ now).

But the adventures of Darth Vader were far from over, since there’s been four Darth Vader and Adjective Noun series as well. These are okay, if you like to see Darth Vader kill things and regret the choices he’s made in life. And did I mention the Boba Fett series’ about his half brother? Huh. It’s weird that I neglected to mention them, probably because that’s stupid. And there’s a Jabba the Hutt series which was actually sort of funny. It’s mostly just deals and counter-deals with everyone betraying each other over and over in a sort of humorous way, like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Then we advance into the Empire series, which details the adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han as they move around after the Battle of Yavin. In other words, there’s thousands of pages about nothing important whatsoever. More filler. I mean, unless you really needed to know about Biggs Darklighter and his relationship with Luke back on Tatooine. Or about “Tank,” their other friend from Tatooine who ended up becoming a lieutenant in the Imperial Army. Or, how these star-crossed youths battled each other across the galaxy in an epic struggle for the fate of the universe. Oh wait, Biggs and Tank weren’t involved in that? Well, then why the hell am I reading about them?

Empire turned into Rebellion, which continued the trend of filler stories between movies. Exciting. I especially enjoyed the one where our heroes infiltrated the Empire’s refueling station and tossed a grenade into a Star Destroyer’s gas tank to blow up the station. I mean, you’d figure ships as big as Star Destroyers would be using some sort of space-age fusion engine that wouldn’t require liquid fuel, but then again, this does take place a long time ago. Maybe we’ve already got more advanced tech than Star Destroyers.

The next group of comics all take place after the movies end. So that means we get even more stories about Boba Fett (Seriously, he has more comics than Darth Vader does). There’s also a tie-in series with Shadows of the Empire which is pretty much as bad as Shadows of the Empire was. And Timothy Zahn gets to write a prequel series about Mara Jade. If I learned anything from this comic it’s that you shouldn’t let novelists write comics. Her internal monologue is so long, dry and involved. It just goes on and on. There’s a whole issue where she sits alone in a jail cell and it still manages to contain 20,000 words.

Good thing we’ve got X-Wing Rogue Squadron next, featuring the continuing adventures of Wedge Antilles. So, there’s some X-Wings and they fly around and shoot things. It’s more military sci-fi, but with a continuing crew, so you get more banter and adventures on R&R than just endless killing (which seemed to be the only thing in the Clone Wars comics). So that’s at least entertaining. And they’re written by Michael Stackpole, who also wrote the novels, so they combo well together (I’m guessing. I never read the novels).

And then we’re to Dark Empire I and II, the series that started the whole Dark Horse Star Wars line. Written by Tom Veitch, this is when we discover that the Emperor had clones made of himself, Boba Fett escaped the Sarlaac, and there’s new superweapons. Oh, and we get the first holocron. And, for whatever reason, the Emperor’s clones are all green, like Joker rejects, with the hairline of Bela Lugosi (Is it that hard to figure out what Ian McDiarmid looked like when he was young?). It’s terrible. For some reason, there’s also a lot of mech fights (and a 40K Land Raider in one panel?). And Veitch goes on about Jedi Battle Meditation…again. Man, he loves that power. And then there’s Empire’s End, a two-parter also written by Veitch, which details the final fight against the very last of the Emperor’s clones. We swear. It is also terrible.

Crimson Empire is next, all three series of it (Apparently, Dark Horse had a thing about naming everything Empire around this time). It tells the tale of a former Imperial Guard and his fight against those who betrayed his lord Emperor. In the first series, this primarily involved an Imperial Guardsmen who had taken over the remnants of the Empire. And so, the government of the Empire is decided the only correct way – with a duel. None of that namby-pamby politics stuff, just some dueling with force staffs. The next two series about how this former Imperial Guardsmen becomes a bounty hunter (and wears a helmet that makes him look like Robocop) and learns to give up his Empire uber alles stance. Pass it up unless you’ve got a hard-on for a dude with sticks that don’t light up killing masses of guys with blasters.

Then there was Jedi Academy Leviathan, written by Kevin J. Anderson. I think I was supposed to read some books first or something, because I didn’t understand who any of these characters were or what they were doing. And, if those books were written by Kevin J. Anderson then it’s guaranteed that I won’t be reading them. So, definitely skip this. And there’s Union, the 4-parter about the marriage of Luke and Mara Jade. It’s written by Michael Stackpole. Besides an amusing wedding dress designed by a Hutt fashion designer, it doesn’t offer much more, except more proof that only Anakin isn’t allowed to marry.

Did you know that the New Jedi Order book series was 19 novels long? And that it involved the Yuuzhan Vong, a race from outside the galaxy who, despite only using organic tech, are invisible to the Force (It is obviously because they’re Cenobite rejects. Obviously.)? And did you know that Dark Horse barely touched this part of the Expanded Universe? There’s a Chewbacca series with people reminiscing about his life after he was cut down to provide a false sense of drama (because he’s the only ‘safe’ character to kill off so it’s not much of a brave move on the NJO team’s part) to the whole thing. And there was the Invasion series which ran all of 16 issues. It follows one family as they lead a small underground resistance against the Predator-aliens. It’s quite well written and telling a decent story. But it kind of ended prematurely so maybe skip it if you hate suspense.

And then there’s Tales, which is, as you might guess from the name, shorter stories filling in the back story of the Star Wars universe. Because the Star Wars universe needed more back story. These are of varying quality, seeing as they come from varying writers and artists. Some of them are incredibly silly as well with stories like “Skippy the Jedi Droid.” But, you know, it’s shorter stories across a wide gamut of history – less than interesting.

Finally, we come to the last big series Dark Horse ever did (based on published issues), Legacy. Legacy is their attempt to put their own spin on Star Wars, moving the timeline 150 years into the future after the movies. Now, we’ve got the great-grand-Skywalker running around. Except, he’s not like your previous Skywalkers. No. He has earrings! He is scruffy! He is a smuggler! He has tattoos (In fact, everyone has tattoos. It’s quite the thing in the future, apparently)! He does deathsticks (which I guess are just tubes of liquid acid, judging them by their effects)! He sleeps around! He has a sawed-off blaster (That functions like a shotgun…I don’t understand how that even works)! He doesn’t want to be a Jedi! He talks in dumb Serenity swears (Seriously, if your Star Wars comic has to have a glossary, you have failed at Star Wars)! His co-pilot is a sex toy (With the worst color sense since the original Green Lantern – pink skin, blue hair, green top, and yellow pants)! His other partner has dreadlocks! All the spaceships are based on triangles (To be fair, Star Destroyers were always triangular, but they at least broke up that profile with tiered levels. Not so in the future)! Oh my God, Star Wars got so edgy. Legacy feels like a bad attempt to “darken” up Star Wars, but in a really cliche manner, kind of how the new Battlestar Galactica did it (BSG burn! Zing!). But, besides this weak premise, it still managed to be entertaining. There’s lots of politics, as the Empire is divided into the ‘true’ Empire under Roan Fel, another remnant ruled by the Sith, and then the Republic. Cade Skywalker does his best Quinlan Vos impression the entire series, waffling between Dark and Light the whole time. And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s written by the same guy as Republic! Keep telling that same story, Ostrander!

That’s not fair to Ostrander. He’s actually good at telling that same story. And Cade has some interesting new Force powers that actually seem to fit into what’s already been established that the Force can do (unlike Thought Bomb). The Yuuzhan Vong are in it, also, but they’re just another alien race now and not the rulers of the galaxy. There’s even a princess that Cade gets to rescue and a very plausible superweapon. My only real issue with the series (other than the cliche edginess) is the main bad guy – Darth Krayt. First off, that’s a dumb name (even though it makes sense if you know his backstory). Second of all, he abolishes the Sith Rule of Two, instituting the Rule of One (i.e. the Sith as a whole are ‘One’ – that’s not how words work, Ostrander). This, of course, creates problems in the Sith as they’re all egomaniacs intent on amassing power. Thirdly, the reveal of who Darth Krayt really is. No spoilers, but it’s a character from Republic. And, while it was certainly a twist, it didn’t feel true to the character as he was written in Republic. In Republic, he was constantly being admonished for his aggressive actions, but then he always had a well-thought out reply as to why his actions served the Force as understood by the Jedi Council. So, his subsequent fall and characterization in Legacy didn’t fit with what had already been established. It fell into continuity neatly, but not personality-wise. It’s as if Ostrander looked at the panels and saw him doing aggressive things, but then didn’t read any of his dialogue to understand his motivations (Which is also not fair to Ostrander as he wrote some of that dialogue back in Republic – I’m pretty unfair to Ostrander a lot). So I was not a fan of the new Sith, especially some of the other ones with really cheesy names like Darth Wyrrlok and Darth Maladi – so, what, we’re just misspelling ‘evil’ words now? Legacy eventually ended, but Dark Horse has recently started up a new series of it, focused on the great-grandchild of Han Solo or something. I don’t know. It’s still going so I didn’t read it.

But wait! I didn’t even tell you about the Star Wars crossover Vector! Because Dark Horse is a comics company and comics companies love crossovers, they had to do one in Star Wars also. Vector started in KOTOR, went into Dark Times, followed that into Rebellion, and then ended in Legacy. The basic plot involved a Sith artifact containing a Sith who had discovered a way to infect people with a super-awesome Rakghoul plague (Rakghouls are just zombies in Star Wars. Because every property has to have zombies). A Jedi bonded with the artifact to control the Sith and then went into stasis. Awoken in the next comic by Darth Vader, the Rakghouls attacked everybody, then attacked some more people in Rebellion, before finally being defeated in Legacy. This was actually one of the better crossovers I’ve ever read, but I don’t often read them so I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Each bit in each ongoing series didn’t interrupt what the original authors were doing, as they all were able to finish the previous arc before going into the Vector bit. Each told a generally complete story within that comic. Even more surprisingly, the ending actually integrated into Legacy fairly well, with implications from the crossover following up into later story arcs in that series. I was skeptical at first, but it actually worked.

Of course, there’s other Dark Horse Star Wars books. Like the Infinities line, which details non-canon stuff. Like The Star Wars, a comic adapation of the original script. I didn’t read it. Or, Sergio Aragones self-inserting into the Star Wars universe. I glanced at it. Or, Tag and Bink are Dead, a short series in the style of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It was okay. But as far as canon stuff, I think that about covers it. If I were to recommend any of these titles, I would probably say the longer series are worth it, as they were able to establish outside characters and tell some stories about them, instead of just telling you about the random side adventures of Han Solo or something. In order of quality, I’d probably say KOTOR, Dark Times, Legacy, Invasion, and Republic, but there’s some wiggle room there (I actually think Invasion had some of the strongest writing of the entire Dark Horse output, but it was cut short before we got payoff on some of the stories so it ended up being a bit weaker).

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