- "My father's destiny is my own."
- ―Luke Skywalker
Star Wars: Dark Empire was a series of comic books written by Tom Veitch and illustrated by Cam Kennedy. They were originally released by Dark Horse Comics between December 1991 and October 1992 as a 6-issue bi-monthly series, which were later compiled and sold as trade paperbacks and hardcovers. The name generally applies to both the original Dark Empire, as well as its two sequels Star Wars: Dark Empire II and Star Wars: Empire's End. All three comic series detailed the resurrection of Emperor Palpatine in clone bodies.
Six years after the Battle of Endor, the fight for freedom rages on. Darth Vader is dead, but a reborn Empire—under a mysterious new leader—strikes back at the struggling Rebel Alliance. Massive World Devastators, more powerful and unstoppable than the Death Star, ravage entire planets, while the ruthless heirs of Jabba the Hutt place a monumental price on the heads of Princess Leia and her husband, Han Solo. Along with Lando, Chewbacca, Artoo, Threepio, and other old allies, Han and Leia struggle to protect the future for their unborn child. But their greatest foe may be their closest friend: Luke Skywalker…
- "And now, my young apprentice... Your father is dead. Have you come to join me? Will you take the place that rightfully belongs to you… at my side?"
During the Imperial Mutiny, the Rebel Alliance sought to weaken the factions as much as possible by surreptitiously entering systems and battles with captured Star Destroyers broadcasting falsified signals, and provoking attacks by one group against another.
On one of these raids to the Coruscant system, in the Star Destroyer Liberator (formerly the Adjudicator), an Imperial-class Star Destroyer captured at the Battle of Endor and, over a five-year period, repaired and modified for covert missions, and its sister ship, the Emancipator (originally the Accuser) entered the Coruscant system, where three Star Destroyers demanded novel and unusual codes for clearance. The codes the Alliance had stolen or bartered with slicers for did not work, and Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian were shot down over the former Imperial City. They should have perished, but successfully landed the gargantuan vessel without many casualties on the surface of Coruscant. For the next several days, Luke, Lando, and their forces hid and fought Imperial battalions.
When the news reached Han Solo and Leia Organa, they rushed to the rescue along with Chewbacca and C-3PO. They arrived in the nick of time to rescue Lando and the crew of the Liberator. However, Luke informed them of a great disturbance in the Force. At that moment, a Force storm came out of a hyperspace wormhole. Luke told everyone to go but R2-D2 stayed with him. As the Falcon took off, Luke and R2-D2 were sucked in by the anomaly.
Later, at the Alliance base on the fifth moon of Da Soocha, code-named Pinnacle Base, the Alliance leaders reported that the separate Imperial factions had disappeared into the unknown regions of the Galactic Core. Furthermore, the initial phase of Operation Shadow Hand had begun: fleets of World Devastators, brainchildren of Umak Leth, machines which destroyed everything in their path, plunging them into vast furnaces which produced weapons and items which could repair or build new World Devastators. The first target, selected for its long and steadfast support of the Rebellion, was the planet Mon Calamari.
The recently rescued Lando and his crew were dispatched aboard the Emancipator to fight a holding action while the main Rebel fleets assembled.
At this time, Luke Skywalker had reached Byss, a Deep Core world enveloped in the power of the dark side. There he met face-to-face with the Emperor reborn; he revealed that for many years, he took to transferring his mind and consciousness to clone bodies to attain immortality. However, the clones were one crucial step from long life; they were more ravaged by the dark side than sustained by the Force. Luckily, Palpatine had numerous clones to laugh in the face of death itself, allowing him to rule indefinitely. The Emperor offered him apprenticeship and the prospect of controlling the enormous fleet of Devastators, as well as the rest of the Imperial fleet. Faced with an impossible situation and with a looming threat of doom for his friends and allies, Luke acquiesced to becoming his apprentice, hoping he could defeat the Emperor from the inside. At this time, R2-D2 was modified to carry the Master Signal for the World Devastators.
- "Yes. My father's destiny is my own."
- ―Luke Skywalker
Meanwhile, Lando's attack force began their attack on the Imperial fleet. Though they were able to break through the Star Destroyer defenses, the Devastator Silencer-7 turned the Emancipator to scrap and launched squadrons of robotic TIEs. This forced the crew of the Republic Destroyer to abandon ship.
At Pinnacle base, Leia received a message from Luke, telling her not to follow him. Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo had gone to Nar Shaddaa, to find transport to the Deep Core. After landing the Falcon in Shug Ninx's garage, meeting Han's former girlfriend, Salla Zend, Han and Leia went to Han's old living quarters. Along the way, they encounter a woman named Vima-Da-Boda, who gave Leia a lightsaber. Upon arriving at Han's place, they discovered that Boba Fett was alive and that their friend, Mako Spince betrayed them. Pursued by the hunters, Han and Leia made it to the Starlight Intruder, the ship that brought them to the Deep Core. Meanwhile, the Rebels in combat over the planet Mon Calamari received aid from the Alliance reserves, including the new E-wings. Suddenly, three Devastators fell into the sea because Luke Skywalker shut them down from Byss.
After arriving on Byss and missing Fett by a long shot, Leia piloted the Falcon to the Emperor's citadel. After she, C-3PO, Han and Chewbacca got off, Salla and Shug took the Falcon to a safe place. The four were brought before the Emperor and Luke. Despite trying to fight back, Leia was rendered unconscious and was brought to Palpatine's quarters to be turned. There, she discovered that he held hostage an even greater treasure: a mysterious and intelligent artifact called the Jedi Holocron, which the Emperor had stolen during the Great Jedi Purge from Ashka Boda. With both the Holocron and Luke Skywalker under his control, the Emperor appeared to reign supreme in the Force. He revealed that he planned to overshadow Leia's third child stirring in her womb as his next new body. In anger, Leia toppled Palpatine from his bed and stole the Holocron. She found Luke, who claimed he was free of the dark side, despite his eyes continuing to shine yellow. Meanwhile, Shug and Salla gained control of a Hunter Killer patrol droid to blast Han and Chewie free. After being joined by Leia, Luke and the droids, the Falcon took off from Byss. However, Luke revealed that he had cast an illusionary projection of himself to make them believe he had boarded so they would escape.
The real Luke Skywalker then marched into the clone lab during Palpatine's last few moments before the transition. When he revealed his purpose, Palpatine allowed his current incarnation to die, hoping to reach one of the clones before Luke destroyed them all. Luke proceeded to go on a destructive spree through the lab, hoping to beat Palpatine to the clones. Unfortunately, he missed one.
The newly resurrected Palpatine scoffed at Luke's attempts to vanquish him. When Luke attempted to subdue Palpatine, the Sith Lord seized one of the lightsabers he kept stored in the lab and engaged Luke. Despite his valiant efforts, Luke was disarmed and held at blade-point. Palpatine proceeded to complete Skywalker's turn to the dark side, reducing him to an obedient watchdog.
Meanwhile, on Mon Calamari, the Devastators were still invincible. Luckily, Luke managed to install a code into R2-D2's memory banks to shut down the Devastators. Though the great war machines were down, the crew managed to power up the factories until control was restored, but R2-D2 created a new code to make the Devastators recycle each other.
Unfortunately, this was only a small part of the Emperor's plan. Great new fleets of the Empire were spreading across the Galactic Core, and soon the entire galaxy would fall under the sway of the dark side.
Luke traveled with the Emperor to capture his sister, aboard the recently completed and christened flagship, the Eclipse. Prior to the Eclipse's arrival, the Holocron Leia stole from the Emperor delivered a thousand-year-old prophecy to Leia, which told of her battle against the young Emperor:
- "...A brother and sister
born to walk the sky,
but reckless brother falls--
into dark side's eye!
Jedi sister carries hope
for future in her womb.
Only she can save the
wants to tame her.
Now the dark-side lord
comes to claim her.
She must battle, join
against this thief,
or the dynasty of all the
Jedi will come to grief!"
- ―Bodo Baas
As the Eclipse came out of hyperspace, the Emperor demanded to the Alliance for Leia to come to his ship alone, with the holocron; he even promised to discuss a truce. Despite Han's objections, Leia boarded the shuttle, which took her to the Emperor's Eclipse-class Super Star Destroyer. It was she who appealed to the good inside Luke, redeeming him. Outraged, the Emperor fought Luke in a lightsaber battle, ultimately losing his hand.
However, an enraged Palpatine unleashes a titanic force storm to utterly obliterate the Rebel Alliance fleet. Using knowledge taught to them, brother and sister turned the Force storm upon him. The result was the complete destruction of the Eclipse and Palpatine (supposedly, though his spirit escaped to fight another day). As the Eclipse was destroyed, the twins fled on a shuttle. Once safely aboard an Alliance cruiser, Luke, his eyes once again blue, proclaimed:
- "The Jedi Knights will rise again."
- ―Luke Skywalker
Conception and release
Dark Empire was originally planned to be published by Marvel Comics (a single print ad for it was even released) but eventually found its way as a project at Dark Horse Comics when they acquired the Star Wars license. In the late 1980s, Lucasfilm expressed interest in a Star Wars proposal from Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy, based on their work on The Light and Darkness War series.
The original idea for Dark Empire revolved around the Empire using an impostor in Darth Vader's armor (or a replica of it) to use as a continuing symbol of fear to help force far-flung worlds into obedience. George Lucas personally shot down this concept, and instead directed them to bring back the Emperor through cloning. It is unclear whether Lucas suggested the concept himself or merely approved it when pitched; Veitch has made conflicting comments regarding this.
Additionally, Dark Empire was originally set shortly after the Battle of Endor (as that was the timeframe in which the previous Marvel Comics series had left off). During the writing of the Thrawn Trilogy, Timothy Zahn was asked to incorporate references and elements from Dark Empire into his books, since they were set chronologically later than the comic. Zahn refused, however, so Dark Empire was relocated to being set after the events of Zahn's books. Some minor dialogue and art were altered to reflect this change (as it was too far along in production to implement any major corrections) and references to the Thrawn trilogy were inserted into the text of Dark Empire's opening crawl. It wasn't until Kevin J. Anderson's The Jedi Academy Trilogy that Dark Empire was first referenced by a Star Wars novel.
Characters and events mentioned in the holocron used in Dark Empire later formed the basis of the original Tales of the Jedi series.
Tom Veitch could hardly have known what George Lucas had planned for the prequels, which would not be made for another seven years. As such, the Chosen One seems to be contradicted by the story. The Sith surviving after Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi has been adopted by the rest of the Expanded Universe, taking as examples Lumiya, Darth Caedus or the One Sith.
The sequel trilogy later used the idea of the Emperor's rebirth from this comic.
Even before the release of the prequel trilogy, some contributors to the Expanded Universe made known publicly their dissatisfaction with the decision to bring Palpatine back to life.[source?] In Vision of the Future, Timothy Zahn included a conversation that refers to the events of Dark Empire with Luke Skywalker mentioning "the resurrected Emperor" and Mara Jade retorting, "Whatever. Personally, I'm not convinced it was actually him".
Veitch was criticized for having many pivotal events occur within a single panel or entirely off-panel, which many fans found jarring, while other fans criticized the resurrection of the saga's main antagonist.[source?] However, Lucas himself praised the series according to Tom Veitch.
|Color code key:|
|Collected (TPB) issue||Released issue||Future issue|
|Issue||Title||Publication date||Trade paperback||Hardcover||Epic Collection|
|1||The Destiny of a Jedi||December 12, 1991||
May 1, 1993
August 27, 2003
Last Hope for the Galaxy
September 17, 2008
Dark Empire Trilogy
September 15, 2010
The New Republic Vol. 5
March 23, 2021
|2||Devastator of Worlds||February 18, 1992|
|3||The Battle for Calamari||April 21, 1992|
|4||Confrontation on the Smugglers' Moon||June 23, 1992|
|5||Emperor Reborn||August 18, 1992|
|6||The Fate of a Galaxy||October 20, 1992|
- "Star Wars Publications Timeline"—Star Wars Insider 23
- "Boba Fett: Mystery Man in Not-So-Shining Armor"—Star Wars Galaxy Magazine 1
- The Secrets of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
- "Blaster"—Star Wars Insider 151
- "Of Rebel Dreams and Dark Empires: The Making of a Star Wars Legend"—Star Wars Insider 157
- "Of Light and Darkness: The Making of Dark Empire – Part II"—Star Wars Insider 158
- "Adventures in the Audiosphere"—Star Wars Insider 201
Notes and references