(2007) Tom Veitch, Cam Kennedy and Jim Baikie, Titan Books, £14.99, trdpbk, 198pp, ISBN 978-1-845-7-6368-8
This is a re-issue of a classic Star Wars storyline, and so it is hard to review this without the knowledge that this series was popular enough for a re-issue in the first place. With the benefit of hindsight one can tell that this story was an important one in the 'expanded universe', occuring seven years after the events of Return of the Jedi, but just before the formation of the New Republic, it fills in a key gap in the mythology. But, I wondered as I sat back to read this intriguing volume for the first time, is there more to it than that? In all fairness, the story is epic in scope. The events that take place rival any of the films for their scale: the Rebellion rising to a moment of potential victory before being dragged back down again into its direst circumstances yet; the Empire led by a reborn Emperor and a whole menagerie of dark Jedi villains threatens the galaxy with its most devastating weapon yet. And throughout all this Luke Skywalker and his new apprentice, the defector Kam Solusar, find a primitive civilisation that could be the start of their New Jedi Order.
The problem with this story lies with the content, the sheer amount of it that is stuffed into every page. There is a lot to take in, but thankfully the plot moves on quickly so you don't have to worry about remembering everything. It's a shame though - there is hardly any time for character development or gloriously illustrated action scenes from old hand Cam Kennedy. It all just seems so hurried. I wonder if much of this is due to the script from Tom Veitch. With much of the action narrated by captions and dialogue heavy with exposition, there is very little left to the imagination (or the artwork). While this 'bare-bones' approach may appeal to some, I just found it lacked any depth. None of the supporting characters really registered to me, and most of the usual Star Wars cast I failed to sympathise with. But there are plenty of twists and turns to the plot, enough to keep you hooked until the end of Dark Empire 2 and its conclusion, Empire's End. The artwork is impressive and, though not an artist I'm usually fond of, Cam Kennedy adds a certain amount of style and distinctiveness to the story. A nice use of colour and shadow gives this story a gloomy visual look that does add to the interest.
It is easy to overlook the fact that this story was first published in comicbook form way before the Star Wars prequels were on the horizon. All of the spin-off fiction focussed on events following Return of the Jedi, and a lot was built on from the events of the original trilogy. This is part of the problem - thanks to numerous other stories leading up to this one, there is an awful lot of background information that the reader has to take on board that supplements what one may already know from the films. And some of it seems unnecessarily convoluted. All in all, a key part of the Star Wars mythology and probably an obligatory read if you're a Star Wars fan. As a story in its own right, it didn't feel that successful to me. There are more interesting and original Star Wars spin-offs out there and after one read I don't feel like I need to go through the story again.
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