Comic Review: Dark Empire II
After wrapping up the Jedi Academy trilogy, I’m moving on to the direct sequel to Dark Empire.
Writer: Tom Veitch
Artist: Cam Kennedy
Lettering: Todd Klein
Covers: Dave Dorman
Published from December 1994 to May 1995
Following the events of Dark Empire, the New Republic government is still rebuilding after the Emperor Reborn’s offensive. Luke has yet to establish the Yavin Academy, and is still looking for Jedi, particularly Vima Da Boda, and Jedi artifacts, particularly Holocron. Leia is pregnant with her and Han’s third child.
At some point in between the series, Luke met Kam Solusar – the son of a Jedi Knight, who was captured by Palpatine, turned to the Dark Side through torture, and indoctrinated at a secret Imperial facility on Vjun to become one of Palpatine’s Dark Side Adepts. Luke had brought Kam back to the light.
At the start of the series, the Reconstruction of Coruscant continues, while the Republic government stays based out of Pinnacle Base, and the Republic military starts to make inroads into the Galactic Core. The Imperial Remnant now lies under the control of the Emperor’s Dark Adepts, but they’re feuding amongst themselves – some willing to wait for the Emperor to reincarnate into another clone, others wanting to rule themselves.
The Republic and Empire come into conflict over the planet Balmorra, former home to Imperial manufacturing facilities, which has now pledged allegiance to the Alliance. With the help of the planet’s latest battle droids, the Republic comes out on top, putting the Republic in a position where they can push on to Byss itself. Luke, Leia, and Han have other goals. Luke has learned about the great Jedi archive of Ossus from the Holocron, while Leia and Han are looking for Vima Da Boda on Nar Shaddaa.
Meanwhile, on Byss, Executor Sedriss, returns from his defeat on Balmorra to discover that two other Force Acolytes have been killing the Emperor’s clones. Sedriss kills them, and then learns that the Emperor has been reborn once again.
On Nar Shaddaa, Han and Leia find themselves once again running into Boba Fett, along with a group of stormtroopers lead by a pair of Dark Side Adepts. They manage to evade both, and find Vima. On their departure, Han’s old friend Mako Spince tries to sell him out to a waiting Imperial Star Destroyer, but Han tricks the Star Destroyer into locking their tractor beams into Mako’s control tower, killing Mako and destroying the ship.
On Ossus, Luke and Kam arrive and find two force-sensitive teenagers, Rayf and Jem, tied to a tree. Luke and Kam free them only to be attacked by their tribe – the Ysanna, all of whom are Force sensitive to varying degrees.. The Jedi and Jedi in training fend up the Ysanna using non-lethal tactics, and are welcomed into the tribe. Two Dark Side Adepts – Sedriss and another one named Goir – land on Ossus with a force of Stormtroopers. Goir and the troopers are beaten by the Jedi and Ysanna, but Sedriss takes Jem hostage. However, before he can escape with her, Ysanna is rescued by an ancient plant Jedi, Ood Bnar. Bnar sacrifices himself to capture Sedriss and kill him. With the threat defeated, the Ysanna lead Luke and Kam to the Jedi library that they, and Ood Bnar, had protected for thousands of years.
Back on Byss, Wedge, Lando, and a Republic strike force is infiltrating the Byss through a cargo of battle droids. They initially make some headway, until the Emperor unleashes a force of Rancors mutated with Sith Alchemy. This drives the team back, and almost wiped out, until Shalla Nix’s and a group of other smugglers rescue the team and gets them out.
The Empire tracks them back to Pinnacle Base, and the Emperor unleashes his new weapon – the Galaxy Gun. The Emperor’s latest superweapon fires projectiles through hyperspace, allowing them to strike anywhere in the a galaxy from a place of relative safety and security. The first target is Pinnacle base – which manages to barely be evacuated before it is destroyed. Luke and company witness the planet’s destruction from space, while Leia feels it through the Force.
Meanwhile, the Falcon’s escape from Nar Shaddaa is diverted, as further pursuit from Boba Fett leads them to the hidden planet of Ganath, where they discover another Jedi. Brand, ruling the planet. After Brand learns the current state of the Jedi, and the attempts to revive the Jedi Knights, Brand abdicates with the consent of his people, joining Han, Leia, and Vima Da Boda on the repaired Falcon. They head to New Alderaan, where they meet up with Luke, Kam, Rayf and Jen. Luke brings them up to speed on his discoveries, particularly on the technique of Jedi Battle Meditation. Luke wants to head to Byss to assist Lando and Wedge. Han and Chewie head out in the Falcon to check for more information, while the Jedi take stock.
However, the tranquility of the planet is broken by an attack by Imperial Forces, seeking to capture all the Jedi. Luke is poisoned by Imperial Assassin robots with two Dark Side Adepts waiting to finish the job, but they are defeated by Leia and Jen, and healed by Vima. However, Jen is mortally wounded in the attack, and Vima’s healing can only stabilize Jen long enough for her brother to say goodbye. There is little time for mourning, as three more Dark Side adepts try to kidnap Jacen and Jaina, only to be stopped by Kam, Rayf, and Brand.
As a larger Imperial force of AT-ATs and battle droids starts to approach, Han returns with Salla Zend, Lando, Wedge, and a squadron of X-Wings. They fend off the attack long enough for the settlement to be evacuated. At the Republic’s new base over Nespis VIII, Leia gives birth to her third child – Anakin Solo, and they learn that Pinnacle Base was evacuated in the nick of time. The New Republic is on the ropes, but they aren’t out yet.
- Emperor Palpatine was trained in Sith Alchemy, allowing him to breed mutated Rancors as shock forces.
- The Dark Side itself can be “infused” into things – with the Empire deploying fighters containing the brains of pilots, which in turn have been infused with the Dark Side.
- New Imperial Superweapon – the Galaxy Gun: A cannon that fires projectiles through hyperspace, and which itself is somewhat mobile, though not self-sufficient.
- The Sith Wars became considerably more violent and more catastrophic before their conclusion, as we see with the destruction on Ossus.
Luke Skywalker: Has been working to get to the bottom of the Emperor’s Sith projects, in an attempt to find what other Jedi Artifacts he’s stockpiled – leading him to find Kam Solusar. By the end of the story, he’s found two more full-fledged Jedi, and has another pupil.
Kam Solusar: Son of a Jedi Knight, turned to the Dark Side and trained as a Dark Side Adept by the Emperor, but turned back by Luke. He’s now Luke’s apprentice and general right-hand man.
Han Solo: Is taking less of an active role in the Republic Military, and is currently working to help out Luke as is…
Leia Organa-Solo: Leia is pregnant with her and Han’s 3rd kid, and is still adventuring, even in her 3rd trimester.
There was originally planned to be a short graphic novel titled “Lightsider” set between Dark Empire I & II, showing Luke meeting Kam and turning him back to the Light Side. However, the publication rights shifting from Bantam Spectra to Del Rey lead to the story falling through the cracks. It’s not clear if this was written before Dark Empire II or after as an interquel.
Speaking of Interquels, this is the first Interquel we’ve gotten within the Expanded Universe itself, with the story falling after Dark Empire, but before the start of the Jedi Academy Trilogy. I do suspect that this story was in the works before Veitch first met Kevin J. Anderson, as this series wraps with 2 more apprentices here and 2 masters who could potentially assist at the Yavin Academy, and none of whom show up in the Jedi Academy trilogy. Further, the Galaxy Gun never comes up in relationship to the Maw in the Jedi Academy trilogy.
This comic seems to have mostly been ignored by the rest of the Expanded Universe. Stuff from Dark Empire I shows up in later works, but not some of the stuff that is exclusive to Dark Empire II, aside from broad strokes like not using certain planets later.
I’d say this work deserves its place in the annals of the Expanded Universe: mostly ignored. While the characterization is consistent, the worldbuilding is where this falls apart. Sith Alchemy feels thematically appropriate in the ancient past of the Old Republic, where everything has a strong sword-and-planet (or rather, planets) vibe. Once we get into Trilogy era and later, it feels much more out of place.
There are little bits about this I like though. The fight on Ossus is good, and the idea of a tribe of what was very likely Jedi Apprentices working to protect the remnants of a Jedi library is great. Also, I actually don’t mind the continuing resurrections of Palpatine necessarily. Star Wars has always borrowed from Flash Gordon from the very beginning, and one of the common traits of Flash Gordon is that Emperor Ming the Merciless Will. Not. Die. The Emperor Reborn’s costume design, with the flared collar, is a great call-out to that.
This story was originally intended to be followed up by Dark Empire III, but the cancellation of the Lightside Short Story and a falling out with Cam Kennedy lead to that being canceled, and the larger story being compiled into the two-issue mini Empire’s End later in 1995.
One more EU novel remains in 1994 – The Crystal Star by Vonda N. McIntyre. After that we have two comic series – the second installment of the Dark Horse Droids series, and then two Jabba the Hutt one-shot comics.