The new Star Wars Epic Collection: Empire Vol. 4 is out and is a collection of Legends stories taking place between episodes III and IV. There are 3 mini-series with single issue stories filling in between them.
It starts out with a five parter from 2014 titled Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows. This is a story of a fallen clone trooper who takes refuge with a farmer’s family for a couple of years before deciding to join up with Darth Vader’s elite over their mutual hatred for the Jedi. It is a cautionary tale and told from the perspective of a written confession by the trooper.
There’s also a one-off 2005 issue of Star Wars Visionaries titled Old Wounds. In it, a very young Luke Skywalker and his Uncle Owen are enjoying a twin sunset on Tatooine when they are attacked by a familiar enemy of the past! Obi-Wan is watching over them closely and emerges from the sands to defend young Skywalker and his uncle from their murderous visitor.
Another great story contained within these pages is Star Wars Tales #15 from 2003. This one is a story of how young Luke gets lost in a sandstorm and meets young Anakin Skywalker in the desert sands. The two team up and take shelter in a cave where they are savagely attacked by vicious rats and come face to face with a fearsome krayt dragon!
About midway in this volume are four issues of 1995’s Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt that are connected to one another, yet telling a separate tale of backstabbing and deceit. The Hunger of Princess Nampi, where Jabba finds himself taken captive by someone with an even larger appetite than his own, is rather entertaining and very comical. Another great Jabba tale is The Betrayal. In this story Jabba finds himself being used by an old colleague and his entire family to betray and murder each other for power and wealth. Rounding out the last third of this volume are four Boba Fett stories, one from Star Wars Tales #7 and the other three from the pages of Star Wars Tales #18. Number Two in the Galaxy is one of these stories and is about Risso, a fellow bounty hunter considered second only to Fett. Risso devises a plan to kill Fett and steal his ship and armor to become #1 in the galaxy. Boba, of course, shows him how badass he really is and exactly why Fett is #1.
The volume concludes with a 4 part series from 1999 titled Boba Fett: Enemy of the Empire. When Imperial Commander Abal Karda kills his squadron and his General and makes off with a mysterious casket, Lord Vader hires Boba Fett to kill Karda and bring the casket to him. Vader also hires a team of captive assassins for hire to follow Fett and kill him after he completes his job. Meanwhile, Karda has taken refuge in a monastery inhabited by the Ancient Order of the Pessimists. Fett tracks him down to the monastery, defeating the assassins along the way, and defeats the Commander taking possession of the casket. At that very moment, Darth Vader arrives to take matters into his own hands and destroy Boba Fett himself. There is an epic battle between the Dark Lord and the Bounty Hunter and Fett escapes Vader with his life, a task very few can claim.
The writing throughout this collection does have its ups and downs with some stories relying more on silliness, while others, such as Tim Siedell’s Darth Vader and the Cry Of Shadows takes a more serious approach. Seidell does a magnificent job of exploring what it is like for a clone trooper, who is only designated as a number, to be abandoned on the battlefield. Trooper CT-5539 spends the following two years after being left behind by the Jedi loathing and hating his previous masters. His only purpose is to serve and he blindly places that service in the hands of Darth Vader only to realize that his service was also misplaced in Vader as well. Aaron McBride also does a good job of telling a story as well in the very short Old Wounds. In this, we see the dynamic between a very young Luke Skywalker and his uncle Owen. McBride also shows us the relationship and descent between Obi-Wan and Owen. It is a very short story but it has an exciting twist and it is very complex emotionally.
The Jabba the Hutt issues written by Jim Woodring are of a different flavor. These stories tend to be a little outrageous and silly and are more on the comical side of things. Woodring does a good job of making Jabba the Hutt out to be clever and conniving, but the comedy feel of each situation takes a little bit of the bite out of him. Still, they are cleverly written and entertaining nonetheless. The final story, Boba Fett: Enemy of the Empire, is written very well with a few twists and some great action at the end. Wagner finds the perfect blend of action, drama, and comedy in this fun story. One very light-hearted part involves the Ancient Order of the Pessimists who find themselves time and time again throughout the story getting involved and playing victim to the situations at hand. The story also ends with a climactic battle between Boba Fett and Darth Vader that is pretty badass.
The artwork is as varied as any collection spanning almost 25 years would be. The images in Darth Vader and the Cry Of Shadows are bright, colorful, and captivating. Gabriel Guzman does such a good job illustrating the drama, emotion and the action of the story. Every battle scene leaps off the page in an explosion of action with brilliant color provided by Michael Atiyeh. This story is a wonderful way to start a collection like this. The artwork in the story Sandstorm by Sunny Lee with colors by Digital Chameleon is also worth mentioning. It gives a certain feeling of warmth and family to the story of young Luke Skywalker lost and being watched over in a sandstorm by the childhood spirit of his father Anakin. There’s a youthfulness to the whole feel of it, but when the story calls for action Lee does not disappoint. The part at the end of the krayt dragon, in particular, is very exciting and drawn magnificently. Art Wetherell’s work on the Jabba the Hutt stories is fun and whimsical but also a bit cartoonish. His work on these issues suits the story well though since they are also a bit campy. Last but not least we have Ian Gibson on Boba Fett Enemy of the Empire. Gibson’s work on this four-part series is nothing short of amazing. The characters are drawn in a unique style that really suits the context of the story. Penny McNamee’s addition of color to Gibson’s artwork really complements it and pushes it to an even higher level of appeal. The stories look wonderful and the action and the flow of the story leap off of every page.
Overall this is a magnificent collection spanning almost 25 years. It contains wonderful stories of beloved characters such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, and of course Darth Vader and Boba Fett. There are mini-series as well as short stories intertwined between them, every one of them exciting to the imagination and a feast to the eyes. I highly recommend this collection to any fan of Star Wars. It is a definitive representation of the different styles and storylines within the Star Wars universe.