“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times… before the Empire.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi
Since Obi-Wan's famous line in the original Star Wars, fans have been wondering what these “dark times” actually were. Since the Lucasfilm purchase by Disney and the shift into a unified canon, there have been books, comics, television shows, and feature films that take place in the time period between episodes III and IV. This era has slowly become my favorite in Star Wars and how truly interesting it can be.
With the advent of the new unified canon, the novels and comics have expanded on the rise of the Empire in new and interesting ways. Novels like Tarkin, Thrawn, Lords of the Sith, and Catalyst have all introduced stories detailing how the Empire came to and consolidated its power throughout the galaxy. Catalyst in particular, which focuses on the construction of the Death Star, takes place from during the Clone Wars and up to several years following the official formation of the Empire. The internal politics of that time are fascinating to see play out between the people in power like Tarkin and Krennic. Catalyst also serves as a prequel to Rogue One and gives tons of more weight to the prologue of the film. The other novels mentioned also feature power struggles between major players in the Empire. Thrawn goes through his meteoric rise in Thrawn while trying to not upset the proverbial apple-cart, Tarkin and Darth Vader team up for a mission to track down his stolen ship in Tarkin, and Vader is challenged and challenged by Palpatine during their time on Ryloth during Lords of the Sith.
Comics have been just as prevalent during the dark times and these ones have been more small in scope than novels. Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith takes place immediately following Revenge of the Sith, Lando: Double or Nothing takes place during his adventures with the Falcon before the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: Kanan which follows Kanan as he survives Order 66 and continues on in hiding while being hunted by former Clone allies, the adaptations of Rogue One and Thrawn, and the yet to be released adaptation of Solo and Star Wars: Beckett. The Darth Vader series is one that has really highlighted his story of becoming a technological terror after his near-murder at the end of Revenge of the Sith. The comic has arcs that show how he gets his first Sith lightsaber, battles with the Emperor's new Inquisitorious program, and completes the subjugation of Mon Cala. Charles Soule is doing some incredible thing with this series and the next story arc will tell how Vader acquired his castle on Mustafar that we see in Rogue One.
This era has definitely become my favorite in all of Star Wars. Something about the transition from the Republic into the Empire is so interesting. So many things were changing all at once. The Senate was still there but with far less autonomy. The military became the primary industry in the galaxy. There's so much to explore in just this almost two decade period and plenty of stories to tell.
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