Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Empire's End

Empire's End


Empire's End is the third and final volume in the Dark Empire Trilogy. Unlike the previous two volumes, Empire's End had only two issues for a total of 64 pages. The trade paperback was released in 1997, and has since been repackaged together with Dark Empire II.

Plot

Empire's End resumes directly after the events of Dark Empire II. The Rebellion is on the run, and Palpatine's new weapon, the Galaxy Gun, seems to be poised to eliminate our heroes once and for all. However, Palpatine's last, inferior, clone body is slowly deteriorating, and he must seek out a replacement quickly if he is to survive. The plot, however, is riddled with holes, random events that go nowhere, and far fetched occurrences.

The first of these occur early in the book, when the Galaxy Gun is fired at the Rebellion's current hideout. The Galaxy Gun's projectiles feature heavy shielding, and are pretty much indestructible, so things are looking pretty bleak for our heroes. Thankfully, the projectile fails to detonate, for absolutely no reason at all. It isn't explained why the missile didn't go off- Luke didn't stop it, Leia didn't stop it, nobody did anything to it, it just inexplicably fails to kill everyone. This lazy solution to the Gun's purported indestructibly started the book off on just the right note of utter incompetence and laziness, and nothing else presented changes this sour opening impression.

Next up is a completely pointless trek to the Vader's castle on Vjun. This sequence features another fight scene against the inept Sith that Palpatine can magically create, and an extremely bizarre sequence featuring a statue of Vader. This bit features an awkward back and forth concerning the Dark Sider's unwillingness to topple said statue of Vader. There is no explanation or greater effect of this being mentioned, although it is a source of back and forth dialogue for a page and a half. Then Luke uses the conversation as an excuse to topple the statue, and it is realized that the whole thing had no greater connotation or meaning beyond another pointless action scene in a series chock full of them.

The various plot threads come together on the world of Onderon. Here, a giant space battle takes place while the Emperor launches a clandestine attack to claim the body of Anakin Solo as his own. The Emperor's plan doesn't really make any sense, because the only backup he brings are his two most incompetent officers. This doesn't fit with the Empire's usual doctrine of brute strength, and the fact that the Emperor thinks he can handle several Jedi despite his deteriorating status is hard to accept. Predictably, there is a big sacrifice involved in stopping the Emperor here, although the character in question has almost no significance or connection to the reader. To use this random character, never seen in another EU work, to finish off the Emperor once and for all seems misguided. Luke, Leia, or even Anakin would've been more meaningful and pertinent options, yet instead we get a disposable Jedi as the hero, something that promises to have little to no impact on future events.

The conclusion is abrupt, and offers little closure for the characters. Several plot threads are left open and unanswered, and the demise of the Emperor's two most powerful weapons is anticlimactic and awful. The ending definitely seems rushed, as if the authors knew they were running out of pages, and had to come up with some way to fit the entire conclusion in about 5 pages.

Palpatine's scenes here lack any kind of malice or evil, and instead he comes across as nothing more than a crazy old man. His physician's warnings to avoid anger due to the stress it causes the clone body fall on predictably deaf ears, and Palpatine spends much of the comic raging for no apparent reason. This destruction of character continues the poor characterization of Palpatine seen in the previous volumes. His plan to kidnap Anakin Solo, his lone chance at survival, is also harebrained and poorly conceived, two things that could never be said about Palpatine's meticulous plotting in the movies and other works.

The other characterizations are inoffensive but shallow. Luke's goal of rebuilding the Jedi Order has come into clearer focus, and Leia's defense of her children and desire to learn the Jedi way are adequate characterization, but they are not expanded on for the duration of the comic. The new characters and Jedi recruits are utterly forgettable, phasing in and out of the story as needed, and barely resonating with the reader.

Inconsistent dialogue is also a severe problem here. Consider the following quote by Vima-Da-Boda:  "Without knowing it, Leia used Elementary Battle Meditation when she faced the Emperor above the Pinnacle Moon. Leia has natural ability, like my ancestress, Vima Sunrider. All well and good, but contrast that with this quote featured on the very next page: "Vima will go with wookie. Vima will meditate in the force..make the Emperor think all the Jedi are escaping." Going from a wise Jedi master in the same vein as Obi-Wan to slobbering fool that speaks in the third person is a dramatic character change that is not induced by anything. For the record, Vima actually starts out as the latter, so the former proclamation looks more like a lazy bit of exposition than an actual character moment.

The root of all of these problems is almost certainly a lack of time and effort put into the proceedings. 64 pages to finish off the trilogy is not nearly enough, and events happen too fast, for no reason, or with no logic. This rushed and uninspired effort finishes off the Dark Empire trilogy with a whimper, offering little in the way of entertainment but plenty of confusion and maddening events.

Art

The art style in Empire's End is a noted departure from the previous works, due to previous artist Cam Kennedy's absence on this project. The result is a style that unsuccessfully attempts to emulate the design of the previous two books, but falls miserably short in the drawing of pretty much everything.

One example of the more realistic coloring seen at times in this comic.
The coloring isn't really the problem here. The two tone style is still prominent throughout the comic, although there are several instances of more "realistic" colors that help bring some life into the proceedings. The occasional use of the accurate colors is actually one of the better art decisions in the book, as it helps to highlight certain features in a given panel, and provides a break from the monotonous, and controversial artwork that was the staple of the previous books.

Palpatine looks awful, as do the majority of the characters in the book.
The book fails completely in the drawing of characters, vehicles, and backdrop. The characters often look blocky and angular, only occasionally resembling their counterparts from the movies. The Emperor is perhaps the most significant victim of this. In nearly every shot featuring his face, we are treated to a square headed, brutish looking man. His visage in these instances is more apt to induce chuckles, not fear, and definitely clash with every other portrayal of the character. Luke actually looks rather feminine at times, while Leia continues to look extremely masculine. Though not portrayed as stocky or heavy as in the previous two comics, Leia nonetheless doesn't look herself, and the exaggerated portrayal does little to emphasize her characteristics.

Ships do not look good in Empire's End
The vehicle design is substantially less detailed, and the new innovations featured in the previous books is not present here. Every vehicle seen here is an old one, and none of them look particularly impressive. The previous books featured detailed renditions of several iconic ships, while introducing new designs that were occasionally successful at being memorable. This book takes no chances with either design or rendition, and as a result nothing new is presented, and the old models are drawn in a predictable and bare bones manner. The Falcon is probably the least impressive, but the Imperial Star Destroyers look pretty sloppy too.

Bland backgrounds and uninteresting settings are just two more nails in the coffin.
Though the above image is more of an exception than a rule-most panels do atleast have some background, the book overall lacks the visual interest and strong settings of the previous two. In the previous books, Nar Shaddaa was wonderfully shown as a irreputable, filthy, and decrepit place. It set the scene for some fairly uninspired events, but it was an interesting setting nonetheless. The clipped and sterile environment of the Imperial bases served as a stark contrast, and helped to illustrate just how different the two movements were, in addition to being simple eye candy and enjoyable artwork. Here, the settings are largely identical. The Rebel base featured at the onset is not really any different than Palpatine's command center. The hideout on a backwater world is no different than the compartments in the Falcon.

Overall, the art is mostly wasted potential. The book does a good job with lightsabers and energy beams, but precious little else. The colors are inoffensive and sometimes intriguing, but the awful drawing and designs renders this moot. The art, like the story, is sub par.

Conclusion

Empire's End is a disappointing end to an ultimately disappointing trilogy. What started as a weird, but promising idea, has devolved into a sort of self parody and mindless repetition. Skip Empire's End, and by extension Dark Empire II. The original is the one and only worthy addition to your collection.

Final Score

13/100

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