If you were to look at the entirety of the Star Wars franchise from “The Old Republic” onwards, one thing would become abundantly clear. The Jedi are terrible at protecting the galaxy. For an order blessed with prophetic sight and the ability to intuitive disturbances to the fabric of the universe, they tend to do a sub-par job at keeping the peace and are often blind to obvious existential threats.Every few generations they underestimate their opponents, let their guard down and are brought to the brink of extinction. The Sith Empire, the Eternal Empire, Palpatine, the Yuuzhan Vong and the One Sith have all brought the Jedi Knights to their knees throughout the literature. It would almost lead one to question whether or not the existence of the Jedi did the galaxy more harm than good. A full 137 years after the Battle of Yavin, the Jedi Order cannot seem to catch a break. War, death and destruction follow the Jedi like a specter, forever intertwined in the order’s destiny. If you name happens to be Skywalker, you are almost certain to end up right in the middle of it. Yesterday we looked at one of the earliest point in the timeline, but for the year that’s in it we look back to the future with Star Wars: Legacy.
Written by John Ostrander (the man behind DC’s Suicide Squad), Legacy is the story of Cade Skywalker a former-Jedi turned bounty hunter, and his struggle against the new Sith Empire lead by Darth Krayt. Taking place over 100 years after Return of the Jedi, it’s a incredibly introspective story that explores the pressures and responsibilities that come with the name Skywalker. Cade has long-since abandoned his life as a Jedi, adapting to and enjoying his life as a scoundrel. A deeply troubled young-man, he rejects the vague notions of destiny and duty that have been drilled into him since birth. Sith rule is a fait accompli in his mind. Cade isn’t concerned about rebelling against the Sith Empire, but rather simply making his way in it. As the Jedi reemerge he is forced to confront his past, while not losing the life he has crafted for himself. He is more anti-hero than most Star Wars protagonists and the story is all the more compelling for it. The darker sides of his personality are explored as he struggles to walk his own path. This turmoil is brought to the forefront through his budding relationship with the beautiful, but equally deadly Darth Talon.
Both of the Star Wars film trilogies to date have been heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. The Original Trilogy focuses on a reluctant Luke as he rises to the occasion to become to the hero of the Rebellion. The Prequels offer an interesting spin on this concept with Anakin always wanting to be a hero, but being ultimately unable to embody what the means and turning to the Dark Side as a result. Legacy continues that tradition of examining the hero’s journey in fascinating ways by presenting us with an utterly unlikable and at times detestable main character. Cade is very much like Han early in the series, but with the added challenge of having to bare the expectations and hopes of a galaxy. The series asks what kind of impact a legacy can have on an individual and how you can distinguish yourself so that the past doesn’t define you. This forces the young Jedi to confront, in both a figurative and literal sense, the specter of Luke Skywalker. Although he may wish otherwise, Cade is a Skywalker and the series is about learning what exactly that means for him.
Darth Krayt is an odd character. His new Sith Order abolishes the rule of two which had dictated Sith custom for millenia. Krayt has trained most of his followers since birth in the ways of the Dark Side. The followers of the One Sith sport the traditional red and black tattoos of the Dark Side with the most skilled of their number being granted to title of “Darth”. It would be a spoiler to delve into Krayt’s true identity (the hint is in his name), but suffice to say, he is former Jedi from the Clone Wars era who through a combination of advanced technology and Sith sorcery has extended his life. The revelation itself is unsurprising for as the Dark Lord himself notes, “the Sith are always reborn through the ranks of the Jedi”. Krayt’s cunning and strategic foresight make him an effective and brutal antagonist. His age proves to be little hindrance when it comes to demonstrating his strength as both a duelist and Force-user, if nearly two centuries of studying in the ways of the Force make him the fiercest Dark Lord that galaxy has ever faced.
The designs of the members of the One Sith are quite Gothic in nature. Indeed, certain characters such as Darth Nihl look like they belong in a Marlyn Manson tribute band, not hunting Jedi. In many ways their designs hearken back to the dark Temple of Doom inspired characters from Tales of the Jedi. Its a subtle recognition of the cult-esque nature of the Sith Order and its impact on the individual. Despite having some interesting characters in their midst, the One Sith amount to yet another hidden sect that having consolidated power over the years emerge from Korriban to take over the galaxy. How many times is this going to happen in the Expanded Universe before people get tired of it I wonder? In the series’s inaugural issue Darth Krayt notes that Palpatine’s mistake was not ensuring that every single Jedi had been killed. Perhaps the Jedi Order could have take a note from his book when it came to the Sith.
The series features an interesting third faction in the conflict known as the Fel Empire, the reorganised remnant of the old imperial regime. Emperor Fel himself is a perplexing character, a decedent of a Jedi and proponent of the Light Side of the Force. His Empire is not the tyrannical despotism of that characterised Palaptine’s regime, but neither is it a true democracy. He values the stability and peace that can be obtained through authoritarianism. Power is the Fel Empire’s ally and its motivator. Unlike former Empires, his is a benevolent, albeit, flawed institution. Compared to the Empire of the One Sith, his is the lesser of two evils. As a result he forms an uneasy alliance with what remains of the Jedi Order. The reader is in a sense, co-opted into supporting him and his regime. It can be unsettling for the reader to find themselves rooting for a dictatorship, but such is the complexity of war. Legacy showcases a realpolitik understanding of the galaxy where marriages of convenience are arranged and moral compromises reached for the sake of peace.
The Imperial Knights are Force-users trained by the exiled Emperor Fel as his answer to the Jedi Order. They exist as part of “the Grey”, a philosophy which rejects the traditional Jedi dogma of Light and Dark Sides. For “the Grey”, the Force is neither inherently good nor evil. What matters is the ends for which that power is used. They were sworn to uphold the Force as tool for achieving the greater good and to punish those who did otherwise including their own Emperor should the time come. The silver Lightsabers they carried are symbolic of their rejection of absolutes. It is a refreshing change of pace from the near objectivist view of the Force often perpetuated by some Star Wars media.
The artwork of the series is phenomenal, perfectly capturing the essence of the Star Wars galaxy. Although various fill-in artists appear from time to time, the main contributor in this regard is Jan Duursema. Her interiors do more than just replicate the setting of the films, they push the forward the envelope creatively ensuring that the galaxy feels both familiar and new at the same time. Throughout the series we see designs that reflecting an ever-evolving galaxy in terms of technology and culture. From the star-fighters, droids and fashion, the galaxy is constantly changing and Duursema does a fine job of showing us what difference a century makes.
Star Wars: Legacy is a bold entry in the franchise. It dares to go where no series had gone before and challenges some of the preconceived notions of what a Star Wars story could be about. It led the way for Dark Horse to tell more ambitious and thought-provoking stories, something its sister-series; Knights of the Old Republic also excelled at. In 2013, Dark Horse released a sequel which focused Ania Solo; the great, great grand-daughter of Han and Leia which offered another perspective on the future of the galaxy, but was otherwise unable to capture the heart of the original. Recently George Lucas hinted that his idea for a sequel trilogy would have focused on Vader’s grand-kids, noting that Disney didn’t understand that Star Wars was in actuality a family drama with some nice star-ships thrown in for good measure. An intimate, character-driven narrative can be made infinitely more enjoyable when it is is framed in the context of intergalactic conflict. This was something that the Prequels attempted and succeeded at to varying degrees, but Legacy masters. Rather than making films that act as a checklist of past triumphs, Disney would do well to take note of what Lucas has to say. Legacy shows that there is merit in such an approach.
Join us tomorrow as well look at the current Marvel comic book series. In the meantime, why not check out yesterday’s article on Tales of the Jedi.