Dark Empire was a series of comic books written by Tom Veitch and illustrated by Cam Kennedy. They were originally released by Dark Horse Comics in 1991 and 1992 as a 6-issue bi-monthly series, which were later compiled and sold in trade paperback form. The name also covers the trilogy which includes the two sequels Dark Empire II and Empire's End. All three comic series detailed the resurrection of Emperor Palpatine in cloned bodies.
- "And now, my young apprentice ... Your father is dead. Have you come to join me? Will you take the place that rightfully belongs to you—at my side?" —Palpatine
During the confusion of the civil war between Imperial factions, the Rebel Alliance sought to weaken the factions as much as possible by surreptitiously entering systems and battles with captured Star Destroyers, broadcasting falsified signals, and provoking attacks by one group against another. On one of these raids to the Coruscant system, the Star Destroyer Liberator (formerly the HIMS Adjudicator, an Imperial-class Star Destroyer captured at the Battle of Endor and, over a five-year period, repaired and beefed-up for covert missions) its sister ship, the Emancipator (originally the Accuser), three Star Destroyers demanded novel and unusual codes for clearance. The codes the Alliance had stolen or bartered with slicers for did not work, and Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian were shot down over the former Imperial City. They should have perished, but in a curious parallel to the opening of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Luke, like his father, managed to successfully land the gargantuan vessel without too many casualties on the surface of Coruscant. For the next several days, Luke and Lando and their forces hid and fought Imperial forces. When the news reached Han Solo and Leia Organa, they rushed to the rescue along with the Wookiee Chewbacca and the droid C-3PO. But while they arrived in the nick of time to rescue Lando and the crew of the Liberator, they were too late to save Luke, as the Reborn Emperor had initiated Operation Shadow Hand, his master plan to retake the galaxy, destroy the Rebel Alliance, and ensure that another rebellion could never occur again. The first step required that he replace Anakin Skywalker's place at his side—preferably with his son. Palpatine had several years to continue studying the Dark side, in a healthy and strong clone body, and he had made considerable progress: uniquely among all Sith or Jedi, he was capable of calling and commanding "Force storms", destructive distortions in the very fabric of space-time. Across the interstellar distances, he conjured a small Force storm around Skywalker on Coruscant, which transported him into an Imperial dungeon ship. This blow to the Alliance was followed up by the initial phase of Operation Shadow Hand: fleets of World Devastators, brainchildren of Umak Leth, machines which destroyed everything in their path, plunging them into vast furnaces which produced weapons and items which could repair or build new World Devastators. The first target Palpatine selected, for their long and steadfast support of the Rebellion, is the planet Mon Calamari. The recently rescued Lando and his crew were dispatched aboard the Emancipator to fight a holding action while the main Rebel fleets assembled. At this time, Luke Skywalker had reached Byss. There he met face-to-face with the Emperor Reborn; Skywalker's attempt at killing him was thwarted when Palpatine revealed that his vigorous fresh clone body was even more skilled at lightsaber combat than was Luke himself. Faced with an impossible situation, and deeply impressed by the power of the Emperor, his charismatic presence, his undoubted genius and deep knowledge of both sides of the Force, Luke acquiesced to becoming his apprentice. At this time, Luke secretly modifies R2-D2 to carry the Master Signal for the World Devastators. With Luke gone, Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo head to Nar Shaddaa, the moon near Nal Hutta, Jabba's world, where a few friend of Han were going to give them a ride to the Deep Core. Betrayed by their friends (Mako Spince), and pursued by the bounty hunter Boba Fett (long thought dead, eaten by the Sarlacc during the events of Return of the Jedi), Han and Leia try to escape from Nar Shaddaa with Salla Zend and Shug Ninx in their ship the Starlight Intruder. They head to Byss to rescue Luke. Captured by the Emperor, Leia discovers that he holds hostage an even greater treasure: a mysterious and intelligent artifact called the Jedi Holocron, which the Emperor had stolen during the Great Jedi Purge from Ashka Boda. With both the Holocron and Luke Skywalker under his control, the Emperor would appear to reign supreme in the Force. The Emperor then swore to take over the child strring in Leia's womb. Out of anger, Leia threw the Emperor over and ran away with the Holocron. Meanwhile, Han and Chewie were trying escape when Salla Zend and Shug Ninx who took control of a Hunter Droid, make the escape for them. With Luke aboard, the Falcon managed to get out. But Luke had used a Dark Side trick to make sure that they were safely off Byss while he kills the Emperor and his clones. Unfortunately, he failed to destroy one and after a lightsaber duel, Palpatine brought Luke over to the Dark Side. Meanwhile, on Mon Calamari, the Devastators were still invincible. Luckily, Luke managed to install a code into R2's memory banks to shut down the Devastators. Though the great war machines were down, their crew somehow powered up the factories until control was restored. But R2 created a new code to make the Devastators recycle each other. Unfortunately, this was only a small part of the Emperor's plan. The Deep Core had become a powerful fortress and the Imperial Navy had reaffirmed its alliegence to Palpatine. The Empire would spread across planets in proximity to the Galactic Core. Then he won't rest until the entire galaxy would fall under the sway of the dark side. Luke traveled with the Emperor to capture his sister, aboard the recently completed and christened flagship, the Eclipse. Prior to the Eclipse's arrival, the Holocron Leia stole from the Emperor delivered a thousand-year-old prophecy to Leia, which tells of her battle against the young Emperor: "...A brother and sister born to walk the sky/But reckless brother falls-into dark side's eye!/Jedi sister carries hope for future in her womb/Only SHE can save the Skywalkers from certain doom!/A Jedi-killer wants to tame her/Now the Dark Side lord comes to claim her/She must battle join against this thief/Or the dynasty of ALL the Jedi will come to grief." It was Leia who was the one who boarded the Emperor's Eclipse-class Super Star Destroyer during its assault on the Pinnacle Moon of Da Soocha. It was she who appealed to the goodness inside Luke, redeeming him, and them both who assaulted Palpatine with the Light side of the Force, cutting him off from the Dark Side and control of the titanic Force-storm he had exerted himself to the utmost to conjure, intending to utterly obliterate the Rebel Alliance fleet. The end result was the complete destruction of the Eclipse I and Palpatine (supposedly, though his spirit escaped to fight another day).
With the release of the prequels and the revelation that Anakin Skywalker was destined to bring balance to the Force by destroying the Sith, Dark Empire has been criticized for contradicting the prophecy of the Chosen One and Anakin's killing of Palpatine. However, Tom Veitch could hardly have known what George Lucas had planned for the prequels, which were not made for another seven years. Other fans have criticized the resurrection of the Star Wars saga's main antagonist, but Lucas himself actually praised Dark Empire, saying that it was the closest thing to his idea of a sequel trilogy. Veitch has also been criticized for having many pivotal events occur within a single panel or entirely off-panel, which many fans found to be jarring.
- Dark Empire 1: The Destiny of a Jedi
- Dark Empire 2: Devastator of Worlds
- Dark Empire 3: The Battle for Calamari
- Dark Empire 4: Confrontation on the Smugglers' Moon
- Dark Empire 5: Emperor Reborn
- Dark Empire 6: The Fate of a Galaxy