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Comic Book / Dark Empire

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In which Palpatine put all his knowledge about clones to use.

A series of Star Wars Legends comic books (Dark Empire, Dark Empire II and Empire's End — often all three together collectively called Star Wars: Dark Empire) released between 1991 and 1992. It was also made into an audio drama, which had a somewhat modified script. A sample can be heard here.

Six years after the Battle of Endor — that's one year after Grand Admiral Thrawn's return, retaking of much of the Empire, and death — Luke hears rumors of a new Emperor taking the reins, except it turns out not to be so. Enter Palpatine, having moved his spirit to a clone body in a hidden place at the center of the galaxy. And boy, does he have a revenge plan. It involves turning Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side, Body Surfing from clone to clone in order to be immortal, using a planet-destroying gun, sending out machines called World Devastators to chew up the Mon Calamari homeworld, and enslaving the universe. He's been plotting to enslave the universe since he was smacking other babies with his rattle, so of course he's not finding new goals now.

In the old EU canon (now Legends), this series tended to be ignored by other writers, largely because it is difficult to fit with The Thrawn Trilogy (both were made independently around the same time) and it sets back a lot of what was accomplished during the films. Still, occasional references were made to it. The E-wing starfighter, which made its debut here, became the most iconic Star Wars fighter that didn't debut in a film, eventually making the jump to live-action in Ahsoka. It was an important piece of backstory for The Hand of Thrawn, where Mara Jade called Luke out on his behaviour during and since that time. It also turned out to be a surprising influence on The Rise of Skywalker, which reused many of its plot elements.

Dark Empire provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual:
    • The original series included a prose supplement that explained and elaborated on various aspects of the plot and its background, up to and including notional quotes from the Emperor's philosophical tracts and other pieces of background information. Regrettably, most of the reprint editions have consistently omitted this.
    • The hump-backed ship in Dark Empire that is briefly seen when Luke is first brought to Byss is the Bellator-class dreadnought, which was created at some point during the Empire's creation as a fast dreadnought and successor to the Mandator I and Mandator II-class dreadnoughts. Also, the ISD-like large ships frequently seen in the series are the Allegiance-class battlecruisers, which were an example of the Star Cruiser line of Imperial Naval vessels, of which the Allegiance (the ship that the New Republic blew up before they could send a full transmission) was also a part of (and possibly the lead ship). The small Star Destroyers that are sometimes seen in the comics, and most certainly seen during the instance where the Allegiance was blown up were Procursator-class Star Destroyers. Lastly, the odd Star Destroyer-like vessel that had what resembled towers seen in Luke's arrival on Byss was the Secutor-class Star Destroyer, a carrier-type Destroyer that was created either during the late Clone Wars or the early formation of the Galactic Empire. This info was first revealed in the guidebook The Essential Guide to Warfare made in 2012, and their names were given in the Endnotes, and their names and detailed designs were also supplied by fan artist Ansel Hsiao.
    • Palpatine's new empire is called the Dark Empire by the Essential Atlas, after the comic's own title.
    • The Dark Empire Sourcebook for the old RPG helps a lot in understanding the comic and tries to fix some of the Continuity Snarl caused by the nigh-simultaneous release of The Thrawn Trilogy.
  • And I Must Scream: Palpatine's final fate in the Netherworld is described as "disembodiment in darkness, perpetual madness as if to always live with an open wound; terror without respite".
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Averted; the Galaxy Gun has no real weaknesses whatsoever, and the heroes have to resort to ramming it with Palpatine's hijacked Star Dreadnought in order to disable it.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Empire's MO in this series, where they launch wave after wave of ludicrously powerful yet easily-destroyed superweapons such as the World Devastators.
  • Ax-Crazy: Palpatine is nuttier than ever. It is also implied that his loss of sanity was the direct result of having to frequently possess clones of himself, especially genetically-tampered ones.
  • Back from the Dead: Palpatine, natch, but also Boba Fett; this was the first 'canon' EU source to Retcon Fett's death-by-Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi.
  • Badass Boast:
    Palpatine: I've played along with your Jedi dueling games long enough! Now you will experience my full potency... I live as energy... I am The Dark Side!
  • Badass Normal: Han kills Palpatine. Actually, several characters do this over the series, but Han kills him the last time and he doesn't come back.
    • It should be noted, however, that it was implied that Palpatine deliberately held back enough power to allow himself to be shot by Han in order to possess Anakin Solo.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Palpatine, when shown naked.
  • Becoming the Mask: Luke joins the Emperor in order to learn his secrets so he can use them against him, but ends up caught up in the Dark Side instead. The first time around this seems to happen, he's faking it, but the second time is real enough.
  • Big Bad: Palpatine, as in the original film trilogy (and later, the prequels).
  • Body Backup Drive: It's mentioned that the Emperor kept a number of cloned bodies for the purpose of this trope.
  • Boring, but Practical: The World Devastators aren't as iconic as the Death Star, being simply huge, self-replicating spacefaring military robots, but certainly more practical, and immune to the gimmicks that destroy most other Imperial superweapons in the films and Expanded Universe. In fact, when they are eventually defeated, it's due only to top-level sabotage from within the Imperial High Command.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Despite originally praising the series, George Lucas disregards Dark Empire as part of the Star Wars story. In 2008, Lucas stated that the story of the saga is Darth Vader's tragedy and that once he dies in Return of the Jedi, the Emperor never gets brought back to life because that's where the story ends. This is fairly believable, as the Prequel Trilogy contradicted Dark Empire by establishing Anakin Skywalker as the Chosen One destined to bring balance to the Force by destroying the Sith, a revelation which caused many fans to criticize the series for making Darth Vader's Heroic Sacrifice seem pointless (although obviously Tom Veitch could hardly have known what Lucas would include in the prequels, nor was Vader even concerned about the prophecy when making his sacrifice as it was primarily to save his son's life). On the other hand, Palpatine's desire for immortality in Revenge of the Sith forced some fans to reexamine their positions. Anyway, with Disney's buyout of Lucasfilm and the subsequent canon reboot, Dark Empire never actually happened. But The Rise of Skywalker did, in which J.J Abrams confirmed he spoke to George Lucas about Palpatine's return and got his consent for it, meaning that Lucas' feelings on the matter came full circle.
  • Clone Degeneration: Palpatine's clones have progressively shorter lifespans due to their genetic material becoming increasingly unstable, and thus not as resistant to the corrosive effects of his Dark Side powers.
  • Cloning Gambit: Sort of. It's the same Emperor body surfing from one clone body to the next, and the same Emperor who died on the second Death Star.
  • Continuity Nod: "If there's a dark center to the universe, this is it."
  • Continuity Snarl: With the rest of the Legends Expanded Universe.
    • In general, the first series is definitely part of the Legends continuity, but the timelines diverge after that, with the Jedi Academy Trilogy books taking place during or after the second series.
    • Even the first series isn't exempt from these issues; most notably, as this comic was released concurrently with The Thrawn Trilogy, they differ in some important details. Here, the Imperial capital planet is still held by Empire forces, and the comic begins with the Falcon flying into an active warzone as Republic forces, Imperial garrisons and Imperial mutineers battle each other on ground and in orbit — but in the Thrawn books, which are set earlier in-universe, Coruscant is securely held by the Republic and is its well-established capital, and the Imperial remnant acts as a solid, unified force. The first trade paperback did a Hand Wave in an attempt to smooth out the relationship (such as mentioning that the Empire retook Coruscant, and the massive civil war in the Empire occurred after Thrawn's death), but these references were removed in later editions.
    • Downplayed in that later reference books set all three miniseries in the time-span post Isard's Revenge and before the Jedi Academy trilogy, while smoothing over the timeline inconsistencies.
  • Cool Ship: Eclipse I and II. Take a Super Star Destroyer and stick a scaled-down version of the Death Star's superlaser in it.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: A World Devastator vs. a Star Destroyer. The World Devastator wins.
  • Creepy Monotone: In the audio dramatization, Luke speaks this way after being broken by the Dark Side.
  • Deader than Dead: Palpatine's spirit is dragged into the Force and trapped there by every single Jedi spirit, making sure that he can never return, clones or not.
  • Demonic Possession: Palpatine's final chance at survival involves doing this to Anakin Solo.
  • Disposable Woman: Jem, Luke's Girl of the Week, who gets randomly killed by Palpatine's henchmen.
  • The Dog Bites Back: You know those two Dark Jedi that acted as Palpatine's aids, Nefta and Sa-Di? Well, after Palpatine was gone, they decided to follow Luke's example and slaughter all the clones of Palpatine in order to ensure he doesn't come back, an action that got them killed by Sedriss. Bear in mind that until his demise on the Eclipse, they didn't even attempt to betray him, making it more this trope rather than The Starscream.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: For fans who have seen the Prequels, Luke never getting a Darth title despite becoming Palpatine's apprentice seems perplexing. However the Darth title wasn't firmly established as a Sith thing until The Phantom Menace and its associated material , with the introduction of Darth Maul and Palpatine getting his own Sith title as Darth Sidious. Before then Sith Lords still used their given names like Exar Kun and Naga Sadow in the Tales of the Jedi miniseries. In-Universe, it can be taken as a sign Palpatine didn't fully buy Luke's Fake Defector act.
  • Enemy Civil War: The Imperials retake Coruscant, but immediately begin fighting each other over who gets to be the new Emperor.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Sidious still underestimates the Papa Wolf.
  • Evil Redhead: At least one of Palpatine's clones sported red hair. This actually matches up with his appearance in The Phantom Menace: he's shown to have red hair then, before it goes white.
  • Fake Defector: Luke "turned" to the Dark Side with the intention of destroying it from within. Unfortunately for him, it backfired.
  • False Utopia: Byss, the Emperor's throneworld. It's beautiful and serene, with the billions of inhabitants (including a number of Alderaanian expatriates) living out their lives in harmless bliss. Little do they know that they are the fuel that powers Palpatine's sorceries...
  • Fan Disservice: Luke fighting Naked!Palpatine. One panel has a clear shot of Palpatine's crotch. Either his, er, Galaxy Gun and Death Stars are edited out, or Palpatine didn't think they're necessary.
  • Friendlessness Insult: In the comic, Leia retrieves a fallen Luke from the Emperor without much incident. The radio drama expands on this scene in a sequence where we see how Luke's been Mind Raped, with the Emperor making him believe "You are nothing", "You have no name", and "You are alone". Leia eventually breaks him free.
  • From a Single Cell: The World Devastators are self-replicating von Neumann machines, that grow, evolve and "reproduce" entirely without the necessity for human action (their human officers are more supervisors than commanders proper). Each Devastator has been grown from a small "seed" structure into a huge robotic starship, and even one that is critically damaged can self-repair, given time and resources. One broken apart into several pieces could become multiple new robots, each nucleus growing into a full-scale Devastator.
  • Gambit Roulette: Also the whole clone plot. Luke loses to Palpatine, pretends to fall to the dark side, and thus gets close to him where he can sabotage the clones, but of course he becomes the mask. But it's Palpatine and Luke, so it's to be expected.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Or Sith alchemy is the new nuke. Also cloning.
  • Godhood Seeker: Palpatine's final plan is either this or an Assimilation Plot.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Luke first joins Palpatine and later Leia redeems him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Several, but the main example is Brand sacrificing himself to drag Palpatine's spirit down into permanent death with him, after the Emperor's final clone body is destroyed.
  • The Heart: For Leia. She's the only one who refuses to abandon Luke. Despite bearing her own children and being in a dangerous situation. She's also keeps Han's inherent selfishness and bravado in check.
  • High Collar of Doom: Palpatine 3.0.
  • I Am the Noun: Palpatine, having become almost a sort of Enlightened Antagonist, no longer considers himself a human being bound by flesh and blood, but rather an avatar of the Dark Side of the Force itself.
    Did I not warn you? I've played along with your Jedi dueling games long enough. Now, you will experience my full potency. I live as energy. I am the Dark Side!
  • Idiot Ball: Collectively, for all the Alderaanians who went to Byss because the ruler whose minion destroyed their planet wanted to make amends. Though in the EU, it's well established that the Empire blamed Alderaan's destruction on the Rebels... It also seems possible Palpatine controlled their minds with his Force powers.
  • Immortality Immorality: Palpatine plans to enslave the entire universe and draw on their life energies to perpetuate himself, with Darth Farmboy by his side of course.
  • Immortal Ruler: Turns out that the reason the Empire fell into squabbling petty warlords is that Palpatine intended to rule forever using his clones, and never made plans for a peaceful transfer of power.
  • In the Blood: Luke's the former picture on the In the Blood page. He took an enormous ship and crash-landed it safely during a battle, then resisted Palpatine's urgings, then turned with the best of intentions, then went evil for a while, then was redeemed by a relative's love. While under Palpatine he was given his father's title, Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces, dressed in clothes much like his father's Custom Uniform, and given a mechno-hand very like Vader's.
  • Irony: Darth Sidious, Chessmaster extraordinaire and the Sith'ari, dies for the last time when Han Solo, a non-force-sensitive, shoots him.
  • Karmic Death: Palpatine finally dies after Han shoots him for trying to possess Anakin, and a Jedi who survived the purge drags him into the afterlife.
  • Lost Tribe: The Ysanna.
  • Meaningful Name: Anakin Solo. Also, (a)Byss.
  • Mechanical Evolution: The World Devastators are self-learning, largely autonomous robots, which "grow" as they consume matter. Each one is unique, as its computers have solved the engineering tradeoffs in a slightly different manner, and all continue to develop their design further as they meet new problems to overcome. Even the Imperial officers commanding them don't always understand how or why particular features evolve, and some wonder what the machines will ultimately end up as.
  • Mind Rape: After Leia jars Luke into acting openly against the Emperor, Luke tries to kill all of the Emperor's clones but is caught and beat down. But the Emperor doesn't kill him. In the radio version there's an entire sequence.
    Emperor: You. Are. Nothing.
    Luke: Where am I?
    Emperor: Alone.
    Luke: No - Help me-
    Emperor: There is no one. There is only the Dark Side.
    Luke: I... am... a Jedi. Aaaaah!
    Emperor: You are not Jedi. You are nothing. You have no name.
    Luke: My name - is - Skywalker! AAAAAAH!
    Emperor: YOU. HAVE. NO. NAME!
    Luke: I-
    Emperor: Listen to the Dark Side. You have no name.
    Luke: I have... *dully* no name.
    Emperor: You serve the Dark Side.
    Luke: I... s-serve...
  • Mobile Factory: World Devastators.
  • The Mole: Luke. Oddly, The Empire sees nothing strange about taking orders from Lord Skywalker, who is, essentially, a Darth Mole. Of course, Palpatine likely ordered them to, and one does not disobey the Emperor.
  • My Death Is Only The Beginning: Implied to be the source of Palpatine's increase in overall force powers.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: One of the biggest points of notoriety to the series; after the first and second Death Star were massive undertakings that took years for the Galactic Empire at its height to get together, a faction of the severely weakened Imperial Remnant managed to put together at least four weapons of the Death Star's caliber in what couldn't be more than a year.
  • Orwellian Retcon: The cover of the second edition of Dark Empire II has the reborn Emperor looking like Ian McDiarmid's portrayal of Palpatine in the prequels.
  • Out of Continues: Palpatine comes Back from the Dead via cloning. Every time he dies, he just body surfs into one of his clones. the heroes eventually manage to destroy his clone factory on Byss, and Han Solo shoots his last clone In the Back. Even then, Palpatine's spirit tries to possess the unborn Anakin. Luckily, another Jedi blocks him from doing so using the Light Side (albiet at the cost of his own life,0 and Palpatine is finally dragged off to Chaos forever.
  • Papa Wolf: Han. Palpatine really should've known better.
  • Possession Burnout: Palpatine burns out his clones due to his concentrated Dark Side powers.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Palpatine's immortality.
  • Power Creep, Power Seep: The battle fleet-destroying Force Storms that Palpatine never had before. It's hinted that this power was actually the result of his returning from the dead, so it's more of a case of "My Death Is Only The Beginning". The fact that he was also extremely powerful even before his death and revival, which was implied in Darth Plagueis to be due to his being literally conceived by the Dark Side of the Force, might also have been a contributing factor as well.
  • The Power of Friendship: What finally keeps Palpatine from coming back again and again.
  • Pregnant Badass: Leia. Possibly even more than she was during her first pregnancy.
  • Ramming Always Works: See Attack Its Weak Point.
  • Rasputinian Death: The entire Skywalker-Solo clan kills Palpatine at various points, including Han and Leia's unborn son!
  • Returning Big Bad: Emperor Palpatine is Back from the Dead in clone bodies while still commanding a large military, and he has more super-weapons than ever before.
  • Sanity Slippage: Palpatine was first shown to have some degree of self-restraint after his first death. Upon his third return, however, he immediately uses the Galaxy Gun to wipe out various worlds rather than fortify his gains. The Essential Atlas released years later even lampshades it by having Crix Q5 stating that his madness deepened due to having to return from the dead a third time.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The cover of the final Dark Empire II series issue features Leia firing a pistol aimed directly at the reader.
  • Sequel Escalation: Compared to the ending of the original trilogy. The Empire is now fully mobilized for war, and shooing out their human Army troops in favor of rampaging von Neumann robots. Palpatine himself is a far greater threat than before, both in terms of raw power and the reach of his ambitions.
  • Shout-Out: The Galaxy Gun's stance as a superweapon capable of firing missiles for an exceedingly long distance is basically the sci-fi version of the (never finished) Vergeltungswaffe 3 cannon, a cannon that was under development in Nazi Germany-controlled Poland that was capable of firing intercontinental missiles. It was planned to bombard London from two bunkers in the Pas-de-Calais region in then-Nazi Germany-controlled France during World War II.
  • The Starscream: The head physician who orchestrated the cloning process is pretty much this, as he is revealed to have engineered the shortened life-span of the clones since at least the Emperor's first death. Carnor Jax is definitely one, since he's the one who got the physician to do this in the first place.
  • Staying Alive: The only explanation provided for Boba Fett's return is mentioned below. It's explained more in other sources.
    Boba Fett: The sarlacc found me somewhat indigestible.
  • Tactical Superweapon Unit: The World-Devastators combine a Planet Destroyer with an automated, self-modifying Mobile Factory to create the mechanical equivalent of Shub-Niggurath. A World-Devastator would locate a planet and begin to stripmine it for resources to churn out hordes of droid TIE fighters, eventually producing another World-Devastator. They're deployed in fleets, not for protection, but because just one can't eat a planet fast enough for the resurrected Emperor Palpatine's liking. They can withstand an entire enemy fleet hammering on them all day, and are finally destroyed by R2-D2 hacking them and telling them to eat each other. They are swiftly made obsolete by the activation of the Galaxy Gun/ Galaxy Weapon.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: The "Universal Energy Cage", designed by Umak Leth. It effectively functions as a Power Nullifier to imprison Force users.
  • Takes One to Kill One: The World Devastators are only destroyed when they are used to "consume" each other.
  • Taking the Bullet: Variation: after Palpatine was shot by Han Solo, his spirit did a last ditch effort to possess Anakin Solo. However, Empatajayos Brand intercepted the spirit and had it possess him so Anakin was spared, and then died from the injuries Palpatine earlier unleashed on him, taking Palpatine with him.
  • Taking You with Me: Brand to Palpatine. See Taking the Bullet.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Han kills Palpatine, making it so Palpatine can possess Anakin.
  • Title Drop: The name of Palpatine's faction is the exact same as the title of the overall series as well as the first two parts of the three part series. Unlike most examples, though, the Empire in question was never given a specific name until several years later, when the events of the series were covered in the Essential Atlas. Something similar would exist with the sequel series, Crimson Empire (not to be confused with the unrelated video game of the same name).
  • Trap Is the Only Option: Luke willingly steps into the same trap which snared his father. He believes it's the only way he can destroy the Empire from within, or something; the logic basically relies on Rule of Cool.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Eclipse SSDs are with Death Star superlasers in this manner.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: World Devastators, Eclipse- and Sovereign-class SSDs, and the creatively-named Galaxy Gun.
  • Wham Line: When the hitherto unseen villain reveals himself in the first series:
    The Faceless: Yes, you knew, didn't you... you have grown very strong in the Force since last we met...
    Palpatine: ... But then, so have I!
  • You Cloned Hitler!: Or, at least, the Star Wars counterpart.