Herein follows a brief, opinionated review of the second Dark Empire Star Wars graphic novel Dark Empire II (by Tom Veitch, writing and Cam Kennedy, artwork) published in 1995 and oddly out of print. There is a bit of nerf-herder whining over the simplistic writing of the story and the angular art, a bit of spoiling although not too much, and an overall grudging assumption that the book is okay.
Predictably, it begins where the first one left off. This is a good thing.
There are quite a few bad things though.
First, it turns out the bogeyman that was defeated in the first book, wasn't. This is not quite as good a thing, as it's easy to get a sense of "Haven't we just done this?" Which we have.
Second, no Sith lackey du jour can stand up to the style, menace and cold calculation of Darth Vader. Yes, even after Episodes 1,2 and 3. I blocked those out.
Where was I?
Oh right. No lackey, much less ones with zits. Oh, he may have a good spikey haircut and a strong jaw of evil™, but ... zits. And don't even pretend like they're Dark Side corruption, because they simply don't look it. If the lackey in the first graphic novel was forgettable, this one's even more so. It doesn't help that the Emperor goes through lackeys like candy in this graphic novel.
This first henchman is also more greedy than evil. In about 5 minutes of the fastest bipolar disorder-based decision-making, he goes from wanting to utterly destroy a planet to arranging a business deal with the planet's government.
So what I'm saying is, the writing really isn't up to snuff here. Sith Lords kill the factory owners, take over, reduce the planet's populace to enslaved assembly drones and churn out some firepower under utmost secrecy. Not sign exclusivity agreements. Think Microsoft, not Apple. Geesh.
Anyway. I apologize, my angst over Revenge is showing a tad.
The art is again somewhat spotty (ahha, zits!). While everything artificial (buildings, star destroyers, combat droids, weapons, etc.) looks great, with lots of tiny little details that perhaps are even too exaggerated for real life, most of the human protagonists are indiscernible from each other. Without going into too much detail, let's just say that cloaks, and other vestments that mostly conceal human form, are Cam Kennedy's friends.
By this time however, I was pretty accustomed to Kennedy's art. No, what got my goat this time were the increasingly inane narratorial insertions, straight out of pulp. Accelerating exclamation marks, simple declarations forcibly wrenched in attempts to make them ominous - it all gets very silly. "It was ... the DARK SIDE!!!" or "Imperial SWD-9s are no match for the SWD-10s, Umak Leth's latest war droids, just off the assembly lines!" Somehow, I'm not excited by this wannabe run-on sentence.
In the long run, all of this actually works. There are classic Star Wars lines (which after all, is pulp), familiar faces and places for fans of the movies, books and games alike (there are again more references to places seen in that media, and vice versa), unexpected allies, lots of blasting and lightsaber fighting, strange places and people, the everpresent hint of the Jedi returning, and the everpresent threat of an Empire about to be reborn. In fact, this one's quite a bit like The Empire Strikes Back in that it ends on a sad, yet hopeful note, with losses taken by the good guys, and no apparent headway made towards victory. If you can get past the art and the occasional inanity, Dark Empire II really is written the way Star Wars feels.
Oh, and if it appears to you that the war droids are based on Cylons, and the Emperor's new clothes on Ming the Merciless, you're not the only one.
Dark Empire | Dark Empire II | Empire's End