Star Wars: Shattered Empire
In a continuation of Cait’s unofficial Star Wars month here at Graphic Reviews, this week I’ll be taking a look at the Shattered Empire series written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzueta and Emilio Laiso with colors by Andres Mossa. Shattered Empire takes place in between the end of the last of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi, with the destruction of the second Death Star, and the beginning of The Force Awakens. It was originally published in October 2015 just a few months before the release of Force Awakens and has a wide cast of characters that appeared in that movie. Having recently re-watched the original trilogy in preparation for watching Rogue One, Shattered Empire does a pretty close job of bridging the original trilogy and the newest trilogy. It doesn’t provide any startling answers for those still burning with questions about things like Rey’s parenthood but it gives you a better glimpse of the workings of the Rebellion after the death of the Emperor and is certainly a valuable addition to Star Wars canon for that.
Shattered Empire certainly doesn’t give you much time to catch up as it begins during the destruction of the second Death Star. While Return of the Jedi focused on the strike team on Endor and Luke’s personal battle with Darth Vader and the Emperor, Shattered Empire opens on the space battle between the Rebel and Imperial fleets before the shield went down. The strike teams are desperately trying to stay alive and a talented pilot by the name of Shara Bey is in the thick of the action. Once the shield is taken down, the Rebels destroy the Death Star just as fans are intimately familiar with, and Luke escapes with Darth Vader’s body, having defeated the Emperor. The Empire is dead! Well, sort of. Much like in the Extended Universe books that are now no longer canon, it isn’t quite as simple as killing the Emperor and destroying both Death Stars. The Empire is more than one man after all and there are contingencies in place for this kind of outcome. Shara Bey, her husband Kes Dameron (that name sound familiar?), Leia, Luke, Han and the others in the Rebellion must work on not only fighting the remaining Imperial forces for control of various planets but even from stopping a sinister plan known as Operation: Cinder which Palpatine initiates even from beyond the veil. It’s a different kind of desperate struggle for the Rebellion and an even more important one since it dictates what happens to people once the Emperor has finally been defeated.
I’ve generally been a fan of Greg Rucka’s writing since Gotham Central and Lazarus and he’s well suited to this kind of intrigue. Shattered Empire not only gives readers a glimpse of the Rebellion, it gives us a glimpse of two people who are less mythical and more real figures of the Rebellion. While all of us love Han and Luke and Leia, it’s compelling to see characters who are a relatively minor part of the Rebellion and the reasons that they’re fighting and keep doing so despite the risk to their lives and loved ones. Shara Bey and Kes Dameron are a couple that not only have their own personalities and desires but also bring another side to the Rebellion. Shara is a talented pilot and Kes is a talented scout and resistance fighter but when you’re going on missions for the Rebellion, it makes home life a wee bit difficult. The two only see each other once every couple of weeks when they’re in between missions and have to worry about each other’s safety even while they’re on their own missions. Not an easy life to be sure. Shara and Kes struggle with the very real, compelling idea that even as much as they care for and are dedicated to the Rebellion, they want the life that they dreamt of when first deciding to fight against the Empire. They want to be able to settle down and have a family, if only the Empire would realize they’re beaten and get the hell out of the way. The series does an admirable job balancing these personal struggles for Shara and Kes with the intense fighting of dealing with Imperial remnants and rescuing things stolen by the Emperor. It’s that wonderful mix of action, intrigue and heart that has always made Star Wars such a wonderful universe and the mix of old favorite characters with the introduction of new ones had the miniseries feeling like coming home to on old friend. I was particularly impressed with the way that the art beautifully showed both the violence and the love between the characters, no easy task. It’s a perfect balance of detail and landscape that add to but don’t distract from the story.
In contrast to my feelings about the prequels (which I’ll probably mention I hate about five more times before I finish my Star Wars month), reading Shattered Empire felt much like watching Rogue One. Both perfectly captured the wonder and the excitement of the original trilogy along with the emotional heart that keeps fans coming back for more year after year. And in a wonderful way, it also captures the optimism of The Force Awakens as it sets the scene for a new trilogy. It’s a lovely bridge between the two that has plenty of humor, heart and intensity and will make you want to immediately re-watch The Force Awakens (assuming you’ve already seen it). Whether or not you’ve seen that movie or not, you definitely need to check out Shattered Empire! Excuse me while I go watch a movie….