Monday, April 9, 2012

Dark Empire (1995) & Dark Empire II (1995)

     If there is a lesson to be learned from good fantasy or science fiction properties, it is to get the story told in a timely manner and then get the hell out.  Loitering around, manufacturing what amounts to more of the same is both frustrating and disappointing.  Yes, the first Star Wars (1977) film begged for more exploration of its universe and deeper story, but what was has been churned out instead have been attempts to advance the story in not very exciting or interesting ways.
     In Star Wars: Dark Empire (1995), set some amount of years – and a few novels – after the events of Return of the Jedi (1983), the familiar characters come back and revisit places they have been before.  And by characters coming back, I mean from the dead.  Or supposedly dead.  But sometimes from the verified dead, and then from the verified dead again.  Even worse, the idea is put forward that the Dark Side is something that can be portioned out and assigned to certain loyal Imperial troopers.  That may have made sense to me when I was five – around the time The Empire Strikes Back (1981) came out – but it is just downright offensive to me in my supposed adulthood.
    Maybe I can get used to the same characters being brought back to essentially do the same thing – Han to fly the Falcon around and act all roguish, Luke to be all solemn and Jedi-y, Leia relegated to being a plot device or a way to wedge exposition into the story, Lando to fail at doing good things, etc. – but I am not going to be happy with it.  If it is enough to cause me to walk away from ElfQuest (1978-2006, I guess) and not follow the continuing adventures of Farscape (1999-2003), it is certainly enough to make me disinterested in the Star Wars graphic novels.
     I guess I would have been more involved in the story – most of which I knew because the people with whom I played the Star Wars RPG (we played the 1992/1996 Second Edition of the West End Games version) were kind enough to boil it down to its bare bones and keep me in the loop.  If Eric Wright could explain the two Dark Empire graphic novels I read in less than a paragraph, with maybe a supplemental paragraph to explain the return of everyone's favorite bad guy, then I have to wonder why it took over 300 pages for the Dark Horse comic series to do the same.  But thanks to Eric Wright and Dave Jendrusiak for keeping me up to date so that even the preceding events were not strange.
     The other detrimental aspect – one I could not get past – was the style of the artwork.  It bore a striking similarity to the small sample of Jim Steranko's work from the 1970s with which I am familiar, with constant odd coloration (but lacking the ability to imply fluidity in the stills) and attempted grittiness.  Not only did it not look like Star Wars, it didn't feel like it either.  Instead, the reader is reminded it is because there are characters and places from the novels.  See?  They are being consistent to the not quite canon of the expanded story, so it must be Star Wars, right?
     Luke goes to the Dark Side.  Luke comes back from the Dark Side.  Luke finds a stash of old lightsabers and potential Jedi Knights.  Jedi Knights are needed to keep order in a New Republic, I guess, because by themselves people kind of suck and will resort to evil.  Having seen how Lucas envisioned the Jedi Knights in the prequel trilogy, I wouldn't want them to act as guardians of order in my Republic.  Leia and Han run around.  Leia is pregnant.  Vacuum-cleaner/assembly plant ships replace the threat of the Death Star – if you've seen The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), you have an idea of what is at play – until they are defeated.  Then a cross between a Nova Cannon from GW's Battlefleet Gothic and the Genesis Device from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) replaces that as a threat.  The rebels lose a primary base but all of the leaders survive (I guess because they are needed in subsequent novels).  All the while, I was bored.
     I have read more graphic novels this year (the year stretching from August '11 to July '12, because that is how the Reading Project ended up being slated) than at any other time in my life.  They just are not speaking to me like they used to.  They seem to show the deficiencies in telling a story through stationary pictures and sparse words, but I have seen it work in the past so I have faith that I can find something I truly enjoy at some point in the future.  I would not recommend the Star Wars: Dark Empirei graphic novels to any but the most devout Star Wars fans, largely because I think that they play out like ill-conceived comic book stories.  Star Wars was always more measured than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment