Retro Review – the Future of the Galaxy Changes in ‘Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Shattered Empire’ #2
In 2014, after Disney had bought Lucasfilm and announced The Force Awakens, we got the inevitable news that the canon was being rebooted, all previous works other than the films and The Clone Wars would no longer be considered canon and were rebranded Legends material. The question on everyone’s mind in the lead up to Episode VII became then, ‘what happened after Return of the Jedi?‘
Shattered Empire released September-October 2015, in the lead up to The Force Awakens, and was the first significant look at what happened to the galaxy (and to the heroes of the rebellion) after the original trilogy finished.
The four-part mini-series covers a lot of ground and introduces quite a few things that have been used consistently in other works since then. The protagonist of the series is Shara Bey and, to a lesser extent, Kes Dameron, Poe Dameron’s parents.
Issue #1 deals with Shara and Kes’ perspectives of the Battle of Endor and its aftermath, talking about settling down now that the Rebels have won. This is short lived when they’re recruited by Han Solo to clear out an Imperial base on the other side of Endor. The missions a success and the issue ends with Solo commenting that the Imperials still have a lot of plans and that ‘It’s not over yet’.
The second issue begins on the Star Destroyer Torment, with the bridge being cleared for ‘The Messenger’.
Enter the Messenger, one of the Emperor’s sentinels. After proving his identity with blood, the ships captain is given a posthumous message from the Emperor himself to initiate ‘Operation: Cinder’.
This is the first time we see the sentinel droids, programmed to carry out the will of the Emperor after his death. Following this appearance they show up in Battlefront II, Alphabet Squadron and Aftermath: Empire’s End as messengers, their motives are unknown and they do not interact with others unless they are expressing the Emperor’s intentions.
We then return to the actions of the Rebellion, Seventeen days after the Battle of Endor, as they clear out Imperial resistance on Sterdic IV. The art in this issue is fantastic and probably some of the best combat art we’ve gotten in any Star Wars comic book so far (Artist credit for the issue is split between Marco Checchetto, Angel Unzeta and Emilio Laiso). The sheer detail and clarity of the Y-wings and AT-AT is amazing and we see a new, ingenious way of taking down one of the imperial’s walking beasts.
After the battle is won we see a moment of reflection between Shara and her commander L’ulo (who would go on to star heavily in the Poe Dameron comic run as a member of Black Squadron). We find out that her husband is out of comms on pathfinder ops with General Solo and, surprisingly, that Poe is already born and living with his grandfather. I say surprisingly because you wouldn’t be crazy for thinking issue #1 implied Poe’s conception on the night of the Battle of Endor!
We skip ahead a few days and see Mon Mothma and Leia arguing about a diplomatic mission. Leia believes she has more important things to do but after Mon mentions Leia’s father, Bail Organa, she reluctantly agrees that going is the right thing to do. Shara has been assigned to the princess as her pilot. The two travel without escort or extra crew and with a pre-programmed navicomputer so as not to attract unwanted attention and for extra security. Leia comments that it feels as though nothing has changed since ‘winning’ at the Battle of Endor.
This is big theme of the entire series, that destroying the second Death Star and the Emperor doesn’t magically mean the war is over, that it could be a long time before it is, and if that’s true, when is it ok for Shara and her family to say they’ve done enough and concentrate on themselves.
We find out in a quiet moment between the two women that Leia hand writes her letters to fallen rebellion soldier’s next of kin, informing them of their loved ones death. This is one of those little details I enjoy in comic books, extra information about scenarios we wouldn’t get to see in the movies or shows, that add an extra dimension to not only the weight of Leia’s job but also how the Rebellion does things the way the government it fights to be would.
We find out the destination: Theed, Naboo and Leia comments on the last time she was on Naboo. Her and Shara are escorted to the palace to meet with the current Queen: Soruna. In an audience with her we find out the intention of Leia’s mission. Since Naboo represented the values of the old Republic so well, Leia asks if it would assist in leading the effort towards the formation of a Senate in the New Republic.
The Queen accepts eagerly as Naboo and it’s people still feel the fear of the Empire’s rule and the shame of being Emperor Palpatine’s native planet. Unfortunately though, this moment of prosperity is interrupted by news that something is jamming comms, causing an orbital wide blackout and that a storm has appeared out of nowhere.
The Star Destroyer Torment has arrived to carry out the Emperor’s will. Operation: Cinder has begun on the planet! This is our first look at Cinder and what it means for a planet (The Emperor ordered at least seven planets get the same treatment). Satellites are placed in orbit that create climate disruptions including extreme electrical storms that ravage the planet’s surface and make it almost uninhabitable. As with the Sentinels, Operation: Cinder has been used again and referenced over multiple works, with Battlefront II even using this exact conflict on Naboo as a mission in the game.
The issue, and the whole series, works by not being too attached to the original trilogy characters, Shara is the person who’s story we’re following and her interactions with Leia, Luke, Han and Lando give us natural glimpses of them as characters without it feeling like they’re being shoehorned into the story. Luke is only in the final issue and this is only one of a handful times we have exact placements for him Between Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi (other significant ones being his appearance in Battlefront II video game and the comic book ‘The rise of Kylo Ren’).
With only four issues in the series writer Greg Rucka packs a lot in and all four issues are consistently top tier, with maybe only the first issue slowing down due to character introductions. It’s coming up to five years since this series was released so it was a lot of fun going back and revisiting it, and I was pleased it holds up so well and has influenced so many parts of Star Wars.
I’ve kept this review focused on issue #2 because I think it introduces things used in the wider Star Wars context but I can’t help but let this review seep into issue #3 just a little bit because it has one of my favourite panels from all Star Wars comics in it! Due to the Emperor demilitarizing Naboo they have no pilots or fighters. Until Queen Soruna remembers the decommissioned hangar connected to the palace. Leia enters the place where her mother first felt the full presence of the dark side.
It’s a really powerful image and the inter-trilogy references are one of the my favourite things about this comic. If you haven’t checked this out it’s totally worth it!
Happy reading and may the Force be with you, always.
Alex Newman is huge Star Wars fan and loves to keep up to date with the canon. He’s also loved movies for as long as he can remember. He’s a massive Disney and superhero fan but will watch anything. He’s worked at a cinema, a comic book store and at Disney World but is currently working in radio in London!