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Set directly between Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, “At War with the Empire- Volume 2″ is the second half of the story which covers what happens to fledgling heroes Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca after the defeat of the first Death Star.
In true comic book fashion, available here, the gaps between the two films are expertly covered by various writers and artists, resolving some of the series’ unanswered questions and alluding to some of the new challenges they will eventually face. Omnibus reads like a movie, though not always in chronological order, by carefully selecting only the most important single issues to best exemplify how each individual character is developing over a period of time.
A serious undertaking by Dark Horse, this is simply an enormous wealth of information and storyline no true Star Wars fan should be without. Packed into 400+ pages of action and adventure, despite the early time line in the Prequel Trilogy, there are just enough Jedi powers featured to keep fans satisfied.
Remaining largely untested, Luke Skywalker still keeps his sense of humility and is just a touch shy despite being an X-Wing pilot. The confidence he later exhibits in the proceeding films has not been tempered by the experiences of combat and learning of his father’s true history.
At the beginning of the omnibus Skywalker is still finding his way, making the choices that are instinctive to him, rather than what is practical. However, towards the end it is evident that the writers and editors planned Luke’s thoughts to echo those that would be depicted in the successive movies.
Leia Organa, likewise, goes through a similar, if less noticeable, change. In a series that was always about character growth, her personality remained remarkably the strongest, the most steadfast in her beliefs. Unlike Luke, her abilities are more geared toward those of a politician, of which Luke personally laments his lack of skill.
Leia herself is practical and courageous, not at all afraid to get her hands dirty on dangerous missions. Leia, despite being a Princess, is also accepting of Han Solo, a man she initially views as a competent pilot and not good for much else. Han Solo, the cheeky smuggler extraordinaire, is fully fleshed out in this large collection towards the end.
The omnibus features a single issue about the budding relationship between Han and Leia as well as mentioning Han’s past with Chewbacca.Solo’s words elevate his presence within the story and give his character great depth and authenticity. For fans that have wondered how Han and Leia began their relationship, this collection is a treat that will give fans a greater appreciation for Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
Obi-Wan also has his role to play since Luke still thinks about him and wonders if his first teacher told him everything about his father’s past. Obi-Wan’s role is the simplest, with only a few flashbacks of him featured through Luke’s thoughts. The overriding theme is that Luke will eventually find out that, although far from being perfect, Anakin Skywalker did bring balance to the force: by betraying everything that it meant to be a Jedi.
Obi-Wan’s one time student, Darth Vader, is firmly established as the treacherous Sith apprentice to Darth Sidious. Vader still has his code of ethics, skewed though they may be. He’ll still betray or utterly destroy a subordinate, but not casually, always with a reason. In Vader’s mind no other competition for his Masters’ attention must exist, and so he kills even those that work for the dark side.
In that way, Vader’s character is multi-dimensional, never boring or stereotypical. His dramatic one liner’s are some of the best within the Star Wars Universe. Deena Shan is one of a few side characters that are featured throughout the series to be included in this Omnibus. Though she is bitter about possessing no Force abilities, she quickly finds herself surrounded by larger than life Heroes Luke and Leia.
Torn between saving herself and continuing to fight against the Empire, she struggles repeatedly with the impulse to leave what she previously perceived to be a glamorous lifestyle. Her character arc most resembles that of Han Solo before he decided to join the Rebel Alliance permanently.
Able 1707 is a stranded Clone Wars trooper from before the Fall of the Republic. Able treats Luke with a great amount of deference and respect, which causes no small number of jokes. His faith in Luke can be taken as a foreshadowing of what Luke will one day achieve after the Fall of the Empire.
His character exemplifies the status a Jedi had during the Republic’s days and also reminds readers of the Prequel Trilogy. Wyl Tarson is an equally complex character, if not more so than the other two previously mentioned. At once an Alliance spy and Empire informant, he is a man torn between his past and present.
He makes no secret of the fact that he looks out for himself and no one else. On the darker end of the spectrum, his life and future are intrinsically tied to the Empire and the Rebellion. With a betrayal that nearly halts the Empire and the Rebel Alliance in its tracks, Wyl Tarson is not to be underestimated.
Character building is an integral part of creating the Star Wars universe, giving readers the ability to sympathize with both their heroes and their less known counterparts. In the Volume 2 Omnibus of “At War with the Empire”, readers will get to explore select parts of the Star Wars storyline that most likely would have made a great short companion film in between Episodes IV and V.
Coincidental or not, the comic is structured in such a way that its single issues are compiled to read like a movie. With a climax scene that makes the reader sit up and take notice as the cavalry arrives, fans are sure to enjoy this comic and want to go watch the movies all over again.