Friday, December 19, 2014

The Matt Signal Advent Calendar 2014 Day 19: Star Wars: Mara Jade- By the Emperor's Hand #1

Star Wars: Mara Jade- By the Emperor's Hand #1, October 1998

I wasn't always a big Star Wars fan. I loved the movies and the toys as a kid, but as with most people of my generation, there was a period in the late 80s until sometime in the 90s when I fell out of touch with the Galaxy Far, Far Away. And when I rediscovered Star Wars, it was through the novels, not the comics. A high school friend of mine (and if you read this, Mark, thanks) convinced me to try the Thrawn Trilogy, and I was immediately hooked. I tracked down everything I could, and within the next year and change, I had completely caught up with all the novels.

But frankly, I didn't give the comics much thought. Licensed comics are a tricky beast, not because they "don't matter," or "aren't real comics," but because often the creators involved are either up and comers or older creators that get thrown a bone. I had loved The X-Files comics from Topps Comics, the ones from Stephan Petrucha and a pre-Walking Dead Charles Adlard, but most of the other licensed comics I had tried had fallen flat.

But when it was announced Timothy Zahn, my favorite Star Wars novelist and creator of many of my favorite Expanded Universe characters, would be teaming up Michael A. Stackpole, my second favorite Star Wars novelist and creator of most of my other favorite EU characters, to write a mini-series about Mara Jade, former Emperor's Hand (the personal agent of the Emperor himself) and all around kick ass Force user, a character Zahn had created and who I loved, I had to check it out. The series followed Mara from shortly before the death of Emperor Palpatine through some her first adventures as a solo operative. It was full of twists and turns, featured appearances by various EU characters I knew, was a great action story, and was first and foremost a great comic.

And from there on out, I was sold. I finished Mara Jade and started tracking down back issues and trades. I caught up on Rogue Squardon, which tied into novels I loved. I read Dark Empire, which filled in a missing year within the novels. And as we moved towards Episode I, I began picking up the new series, many of which were more engaging than the movies and novels they were connected to. I stuck with Star Wars comics at Dark Horse until they lost the license this past year, but I'll still go back and fondly re-read these early adventures, which stand the test of time as some of the best Star Wars comics ever published.

Today, it was announced Dark Horse will be ceasing publication of their Star Wars back catalog. I had this scheduled for release as today's entry already, which I chalk up to my amazing powers of precognition. Still, it's sad. I've written a lot about Star Wars comics on this blog, and while I plan to read and look at the Marvel books as well, it's a shame those great Dark Horse books are going to be unavailable. But they'll still exist in comic shops and at conventions, so you can still track them down. And you should go and check out Brandon Borzelli's guest column from the summer to see some highlights of the Dark Horse era.

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