Saturday, February 17, 2018
Home  >  Features  >  Four STAR WARS Comics from Dark Horse Comics to Skip



Dark Horse Comics kept the flame of Star Wars fandom alive for years. But, I can admit that not everything they produced was a Kyber Crystal. 

Before we begin, let’s briefly chat about Marvel’s new Star Wars #1. That was awesome! If you haven’t given it a shot, do yourself a favor and pick up one of the million plus copies floating around out there in the comic store meteor belt. Star Wars #1 has been getting almost universal acclaim from the notoriously erasable Star Wars fanbase. It captures the the feel of the original trilogy from the very first page. It’s damn near perfect.

And if you didn’t like it? Well, maybe you should try Star Trek. Or Doctor Who. Or NFL Super Pro. I don’t know. I can’t help you. Go be a contrarian some place else.

With the warm glow of a great first issue behind us and my giving some “helpful” suggestions of what fans should check out from Dark Horse Comics just a few months ago, I turn to another issue for this article: what not to check out.

This puts me in an awkward position: I don’t want to sound too negative about the Star Wars books Dark Horse produced. I read everything Dark Horse produced and enjoyed much of it. Dark Horse entertained me for many happy years. They kept the flame of Star Wars fandom alive for many fans like myself. When I think about positive Expanded Universe memories, Dark Horse occupies a large portion of that space. However, I can freely admit that not everything Dark Horse produced was a Kyber Crystal. 

While I’m more than happy to sing Dark Horse’s praises, I do feel like I owe it to other fans to perhaps point out books I didn't particularly enjoy. This isn't to say others can’t find value in them. My hope is that anyone reading my warnings here will ignore them, and go check out the titles for themselves.

That’s my hope, but I can’t be too positive about this vision. Some of these books were just flat out bad.   

So without further delay, here are four Star Wars comic book series from Dark Horse that readers may want to avoid...  



Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Adventures

Confession time: I actually like the prequels. Warts and all, they entertained me. And there were many warts. I see that clearly. You may now throw scorn at me. Episode I has a nice, cuddly place in my heart. I know I’m in the minority on this, but it’s not as if I’m blind to the film’s criticisms. I see that it’s an inferior product, I really do. I’m not ashamed to admit enjoying it as a guilty pleasure (mostly). 

Dark Horse got on the Episode I bandwagon just like everyone else. Historical hindsight may be 20/20, but the joy of a new Star Wars film blurred all eyes in 1999. The series of one-shots Dark Horse produced around the time of the film’s release do not hold a similarly warm place for me as the film itself. While I’m down with even some of the wonkiest choice The Creator made on film, I never felt as if these comics added depth or meaning to the affair. Retelling the adventures of an admittedly spotty movie from different perspectives never interested me. And I’m the guy who liked the movie! I’m their market.   

I smiled as I took my medicine by watching Episode I. Don’t make me do it again by offering up Anakin’s side of the story.  Adding in the perspectives of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Queen Amidala did not help matters either. I can take Episode I. Don’t make me relive it. 

Many fans dismiss the film anyway, so I’m not sure if there is much of a danger in someone picking these up (or more disturbingly, seeking them out) while scouring long boxes in the wild. But just in case you were thinking about it, you may want to back away from these issues slowly.  


 STAR WARS (1998) #1

Star Wars (1998) #s 1-18

It shouldn't be too surprising that half of the comics I’m singling out are from the Episode I era. I give Dark Horse a lot of credit for flexing their creative muscle on their Star Wars titles. They covered a wide breadth of stories from different expanded Universe eras. While it’s easy today to denigrate Dark Horse for trying to cash in on Episode I, it’s easy to forget what an exciting time this was for Star Wars fans. There hadn’t been a new Star Wars movie in theaters since 1983. Fas were absolutely giddy at the prospect of seeing familiar characters and themes on the silver screen.

So who does  Dark Horse use for their prequel era comic book to tap into that kinetic energy of excitement?   


Yes, that’s right. Ki-Adi-Mundi. You know Ki-Adi-Mundi, right? The guy. The Jedi guy from Episode I. The one on the Jedi High Council. The other guy that wasn't Yoda or Samuel l. Jackson that had a few lines. The guy with the big forehead. Remember him? No? 

That’s my point. No one was really asking for this book. No one really wanted either. It’s not that it was a bad book. It was mildly entertaining. The main issue I had with this series was that it started a D-lister no one went crazy for. Ki-Adi-Mundi was never going to be Boba Fett. Yet, fans were treated with eighteen consecutive issues of this “winner” helming a book. 

Things do turn around considerably with this book. Issue #19 introduces arguably one of the prequel eras favorite Expanded Universe characters, Quinlan Vos. Though he first appeared a couple of issues earlier, this issue kicks off one of the coolest stories in the prequel era. With a few exceptions (for example, issues focusing on bit Star Wars characters like Obi-Wan or Anakin), the series would largely focus on his misadventures until the end of the series.

If this were a Where Are They Now? style show, it’s at this point that I would talk about how Ki-Adi-Mundi died of a cocaine overdose while attending a small Sci-Fi convention at a Sante Fe La Quinta Inn back in ‘06. It is a much sexier ending than getting ingloriously punked by your Clone Troopers during Order 66 in Episode III. Ki-Adi-Mundi doesn’t deserve such a cool death.



Star Wars: Empire’s End #s 1-2

Dark Horse absolutely slayed what Marvel had been doing with the property when DH published the amazing Dark Empire miniseries in 1991-1992. Marvel’s post-Return of the Jedi fare had been spotty at best (i.e., it was all terrible). Dark Empire was a mind-blowing, surprisingly dark return to the galaxy far, far away. Dark Empire, along with the aptly named sequel Dark Empire II, set the standard for Expanded Universe storytelling in the comic book medium. Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy made an indelible stamp on Star Wars comics.  

Of course, all trilogies must come to an end. Empire’s End limps the otherwise great series to an abortive finish.  I’m not sure what happened to make this finale stumble so, but the evidence is in the Bantha Milk. At a paltry two issues, the concluding chapter of this trilogy is significantly truncated in comparison to the previous two miniseries. Tom Veitch is joined this time by a new series artist Jim Baikie. This is not a positive turn of events. The art immediately clues the reader in that this is going to be a lackluster finish. In a word, the art was terrible. 

The story didn't help much either. I won’t spoil the details, but Empire’s End didn't necessarily progress anything further than Dark Empire II had already done earlier in 1995. It was almost like Dark Horse did a spit-take when they released Dark Empire II realizing they had two miniseries under their belt. In a world of trilogies, two would not do. There must be a third! 

The brevity of the series makes this feel like a rushed conclusion. I’m sure there’s a good story behind the collapse of Empire’s End. That story is surely more interesting than what is presented in Empire’s End.



Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi

After finishing their much loved Star Wars series Legacy, writer John Ostrander and artist Jan Duursema moved onto Dawn of the Jedi. Promising to explore the origins of the Jedi Order, this series turned into being a headscratcher for many fans and readers. Tale of the Jedi, and to a lesser extent Knights of the Old Republic, had already done a superlative job of exploring the earlier eras of the Star Wars universe.   

Ostrander and Duursema had done a great job of introducing Cade Skywalker and the other characters in Legacy. From the first issue, readers felt connected to the characters because, well, they were connected to the characters! While not the classic characters from the original trilogy, Cade Skywalker was a direct descendant of Luke Skywalker. The learning curve for those characters was less so than with Dawn of the Jedi, which had a whole new cast of characters that had no clear connection to anything else in the Star Wars universe. Like Legacy, the backstory was also dense. Dawn of the Jedi collapsed under the weight of the denseness in large part due to the lack of familiarity readers had with the ongoing conflict presented in the book. With Legacy, fans could jump on due to their connection with Cade despite the fact that the galaxy far, far away looked significantly different than what they were familiar with. 

This newness resulted in a confusing “getting to know you” phase that was frankly marked by stilted dialogue and awkward transitions between scenes. The result was a less than satisfying experience for readers expecting the same quality this creative team had delivered during Legacy. Most of the blame lands at Ostrander’s scripts. There were a ton of characters to get acclimated to in a short period of time. The cast yawned with every new mini-series. None of the characters were particularly sympathetic or enjoyable to read. Duursema, as usual, provided excellent artwork. It was too bad that what she had to work wasn't as good as it was with Legacy.

Ultimately, it was hard to pin down why you should care about this series beyond the premise of exploring the early times of the Jedi. Even that remise is a bit shaky. I have never been one for having everything spelled out for me as a reader or fan. I like having some mystery. Not every plot point or background issue needs to be known about the Star Wars universe. Dawn of the Jedi felt superfluous through and through, and are best avoided if one can help doing so.



A Long Time Ago…

This is just a sampling of four stories I read that didn't live up to the quality Dark Horse was usually known for during their years with the property. There were other stories, but these were the four that stood out to me as being lackluster as I think back to those golden years of the Star Wars license. While Marvel has definitely started out on the right foot, I do have to wonder if they will take as many chances with the property as Dark Horse did. Taking these chances with a stoic property like Star Wars is risky. Not everything pans out. However, it’s in these risky moves that real storytelling takes place. Marvel should take a page out of Dark Horse’s book and try new stories in different eras. Fail. Succeed. But risk it.

Not every risk results in a Ki-Ad-Mundi.


If you've read some of the tales Brandon mention here, let us know if you agree!


More from Brandon on MightyVille:

Celebrating STAR WARS at Dark Horse

Meaningful Change: Comic Books, Race, and Gender Representation and Fans Freaking Out (A MightyVille Editorial) 

This Changes Everything, Part 1 - The Origin Story (A MightyVille Editorial)


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