When I heard about a new comics miniseries connecting the Star Wars Original Trilogy to The Force Awakens, I got excited. Seeing all my favorite characters again in a new story? Building up to the new Star Wars film, and maybe dropping a few secrets and clues in the process? Sign me up! I rushed to the comics shop to pick up Shattered Empire the day it hit the stands. Alas, it did not live up to my expectations.
Shattered Empire #1 begins not after Return of the Jedi, but right at the climax of the story. After an introduction in the classic trapezoidal scrawl, we are dropped right into the battle around the second Death Star, and we immediately see the comic’s greatest strength (the art) and its greatest weakness (the story). Marco Checcheto’s dynamic art captures the breathless excitement of the space battles, and his character work is recognizable but stylized. The comic is almost worth picking up for the art alone. However, the script lets him down. The comic’s first line is “Green Six, two coming in three-mark-seven!” This dialogue is true to the space battles in the films, but it’s also a terrible way to introduce us to the story and characters. When Luke attacks the Death Star at the climax of A New Hope, we have some sense of who he and his team are and what motivates them. Here, we’re introduced to new characters with a confusing jumble of names and callsigns.
Emphasis on new characters. After the battle, the story focuses in on two of the pilots for the Rebel Alliance, Shara Bey and her husband Kes Dameron. I’d been hoping for a story about Luke and Leia, Han and Chewie, and their adventures after the Battle of Endor–and the comic’s cover, which shows these characters reunited and smiling, certainly capitalizes on that nostalgia. But although they all make cameo appearances in the comic, this is clearly not their story. This wouldn’t be such an issue if Shara and Kes were interesting characters in their own right, but they are not. Shara receives little development outside of “good pilot, loves her husband;” and Kes, who bizarrely tells his wife “I was thinking we need to find a nice planet and build a house” before rushing into battle, couldn’t have a target printed on him more clearly if he was one day away from retirement.
More than anything, Shattered Empire reminds me of The Truce at Bakura–that bizarre Expanded Universe story where the heroes of Star Wars rushed off to fight space-velociraptors before Darth Vader’s ashes had a chance to cool (it, um, wasn’t the best of the Expanded Universe). Alas, Shattered Empire has no Jedi-on-dinosaur action, but what the stories have in common is a need to tell the next story instead of a good story. They’re filling in gaps that aren’t really all that important or all that interesting–something the Star Wars franchise has certainly been guilty of before. After Shara and Kes help destroy the Death Star and return to Endor, they rush to the far side of the moon to finish off another Imperial base. They already saved the galaxy: now they’re just cleaning up leftovers. With weak characters and a weak story, it’s difficult to recommend Shattered Empire, even with the terrific art. I’m just hoping that The Force Awakens offers higher stakes and more compelling characters when it arrives this December.
In fairness, Shattered Empire #1 has a lot working against it. As a first issue, it has to introduce us to the characters and story, and make us want to read more. As a licensed Star Wars product, you know it must have faced severe restrictions on what it could reveal and what it could depict. A lot of talented people worked on it, and honestly, we’re probably lucky it ended up as good as it did. I just wish it has something to add to the Star Wars mythos, instead of riding its coattails. The force is not strong with Shattered Empire, and this particular Star Wars fan will be waiting for The Force Awakens to see what happens next.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.