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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

Title: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

ISBN: 1569711836

Price: $17.99

Publisher/Year: Dark Horse, 1997

Artist: Killian Plunkett, John Nadeau

Writer: John Wagner

Collects: Star Wars: Shadows of the

Rating: 3.5/5

As with the novel, Empire has just ended, Luke and Vader are recovering
from their battle in Cloud City. The book opens with the traditional text
scroll, in bold yellow across a star scape. Then, the rebel fleet is
underneath. It's almost like the credits never started after the movie ended.
The book dives right into a beautifully rendered space battle, depicting the
heavily detailed star fighters of both the Alliance and the Empire. Already, it
feels like we're home.

But following this sequence, the comic diverts its attention from the
heroes of the films. Instead, the graphic novel focuses on the villains, both
in the Empire and in the underworld, vying for power in some way. The main
characters of this book are Jix, an agent of Darth Vader, Xizor, and Boba Fett.
Jix isn't very interesting as a character, but his interactions with Darth
Vader are. I've already said that Vader comes into a light in Shadows, playing
the role of the victim of the Emperor, and setting up for that
slave-of-darkness tone present in Return of the Jedi. Jix is the person who
draws this out of him to an extent, though not with his actions, but with the
commands given to Jix. It's clear that Vader wants his son to live long enough
to be with him, though in the service of evil. The more we get of Vader like
this, the better. It's a side more common to his character in comics since,
especially in The Force Unleashed by Hayden Blackman. Boba Fett is given a lot
of focus in this comic, detailing his difficulties delivering Han Solo to Jabba
the Hutt. These parts often give some humor to the book, as Fett speaks to the
carbonite encased smuggler, complaining about how much of a nuisance he is.
Whether it's intentional or not, you can't help but chuckle at the fan favorite
talking to what is essentially an inanimate object. When he's not making
himself out to be crazy, he participates in some exciting battles with other
bounty hunters, reminding everyone how crafty and generally awesome he is.
Sadly, I don't feel like he's given enough as a character, but that's just an
aside. This is Star Wars after all, and we can't get such depth with every

The writing is on the higher end of the nineties Star Wars comic grade
of quality. The characters don't step outside of their personalities, and the
scenarios are well constructed and interesting. He keeps Dash Rendar from
taking center screen too much, and even provides some exciting, tense sequences
of action from time to time. However, his best work comes from the behind the
scenes deconstruction of the Empire through Prince Xizor. His actions prove important
to what happens in the series following the books end, and that's an admirable
quality for the book to have given it's important placement in the time line.

Killian Plunkett's art is pretty good, though not amazing by any
stretch. While ships, vehicles, and environments are drawn beautifully and
technically, characters often have minor imperfections that could have been
cleared up with a slightly higher attention to those details. The covers for
all six issues are beautiful, and are included in the last pages of the trade.
Overall, I must recommend this book, even if you don't intend to read the
novel. It works as a standalone story well enough. It has recently been
reprinted as part of the Shadows of the Empire Omnibus by Dark Horse. Also
included in the Omnibus are the sequel to Shadows, Evolution, and a Mara Jade
mini-series that I may review at a later time on this site.

On the whole, the Shadows of the Empire multi-media event levels out as
being a highly entertaining, though slightly flawed experiment in how LucasArts
would market its later projects and sell their stories. However, unlike more
recent Star Wars works, this feels like Star Wars. The conflicts, characters,
and even the music feel like I've been taken back to that galaxy, far away. If
you have the time for the whole experience, I fully recommend it. However, the
lone comic is the easiest and the only of the books that can be taken in as a
singular work, not dependent on the events of the game or the novel to tell the
complete story it's trying to tell. It's a fun trip, and you will learn some
new things about how the galaxy really works.

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