Sunday, May 10, 2015

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Dark Empire

Ewoks #14 has a cover date of July 1987 and was the last Star Wars issue Marvel Comics published until January of this year.  Later in 1987, Blackthorne Publishing would release Star Wars 3-D #1.  Blackthorne would release 2 more Star Wars 3-D comics in 1988 and we would not see another Star Wars comic published in the U.S. until the end of 1991.

The ad for Star Wars: Dark Empire actually appeared in Marvel Age Preview #1 in June 1990.  Marvel was going to publish Star Wars: Dark Empire as 3 64 page prestige format issues[1], but Dark Horse acquired the Star Wars license and published the story as a 6 issue mini-series.  The writer for Dark Empire is Tom Veitch and the artist is Cam Kennedy.  The first issue went on sale in December 1991 and was released bimonthly with the final issue selling in October 1992.

Star Wars: Dark Empire #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (December 1991)
Star Wars: Dark Empire #2a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (February 1992)
Star Wars: Dark Empire #3a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (April 1992)
Star Wars: Dark Empire #4a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (June 1992)
Star Wars: Dark Empire #5a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (August 1992)
Star Wars: Dark Empire #6a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (October 1992)
The return of Star Wars to comics was a huge hit for Dark Horse.  The first issue sold out at comic shops immediately and went to a second print.  (Issue #2 and 3 would also see a 2nd print.)  Due to the success of this mini-series, Dark Horse went on to publish Star Wars comics for 23 years; over twice as long as Marvel held the license.  Dark Empire has seen print for most of that time as well in the form of a trade paperback.  It would also inspire 2 more comic sequels, Dark Empire II and Empire's End.

Star Wars: Dark Empire was a serious continuation of the Star Wars story, unlike the final issues of the Star Wars title as well as the Ewoks and Droids titles published by Marvel at the end of their tenure.  While it was conceived before Timothy Zahn's wildly successful Thrawn Trilogy, the book series actually beat the comic series to market by 6 months and the Thrawn Trilogy is widely seen as the start of the revival of the Star Wars brand that has continued to this day.

In my opinion, this is the most important Star Wars title published by Dark Horse.  It showed that there was an audience hungry for additional Star Wars tales told in the four color world of comics.  The story is grand in scope and logically expands on the situations left at the end of the Return of the Jedi.  The art is superb and the story is more mature than any Star Wars comic that proceeded it.  It is also one of the most undervalued Star Wars titles; Star Wars: Dark Empire #1 - 6 is routinely sold for $15 - 20 or roughly cover price.  My suspicion is the continuous publication of the trade paperback by Dark Horse has subdued the demand for the original issues.

References:

  1. Comic Book Legends Revealed #131

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