[This review comes from Bob Schoonover, who's annotating NBC's Chuck on his blog.]
Broken, the first trade in the Star Wars: Legacy series, is really a primer on how to start a new series in a shared universe. John Ostrander and Jan Duursema have crafted a truly worthy successor to the Star Wars Original Trilogy by creating a cast of compelling characters that comes close to equalling the characters everyone loved in the original movies. Each character has their own arc and motivations, and screen time is not given exclusively to the "protagonist" of the series, Cade Skywalker.
For those of you that feel daunted by the fact that there are approximately 300 comics and 50 novels in the Star Wars universe that you haven't read, let me sum up everything you need to know to hit the ground running in this newish series: Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance started a new Jedi order and Galactic Republic; the Empire was defeated, but not destroyed, and became an ally of sorts with the Republic; the galaxy far, far away was invaded by an extra-galactic alien race called the Yuuzhan Vong, a warrior race that used biological, rather than electronic technology; the Yuuzhan Vong were defeated and allowed to remain in the galaxy, despite killing billions (they dropped a moon on Chewbacca!); Luke Skywalker married a redhead named Mara Jade and had a child, Ben. Okay, everyone is caught up.
Broken begins about 120 years after Return of the Jedi ended. The Empire is again at war with the Republic/Alliance (the reason for this becomes clear later). The Jedi are attacked by a horde of Sith warriors, and Kol Skywalker, among others, falls in battle. His son, Cade, in an attempt to avenge his father's death, sets out in a fighter to attack the Sith. Shot down, Cade is thought dead, and abandoned by the fleeing Jedi. Meanwhile, Darth Krayt, the newest Dark Lord of the Sith deposes the Emperor, Roan Fel, and takes over the Empire. And that's just the first few pages.
The story continues seven years later, following Roan Fel and his attempts to retake his Empire, Darth Krayt and his Sith minions ruling the galaxy, the scattered Jedi and their plans to fight the Sith, and Cade Skywalker: bounty hunter. Ostrander and Duresma (artist and co-plotter) have managed to find a new path for a Skywalker to follow. Cade, a reluctant adherent to the Jedi code in the first place, was recovered from his starfighter attack by mercenaries, scavenging the wreckage for Jedi artifacts. Cade joined up, and became a pretty good bounty hunter. Of course, as with every Skywalker, destiny calls, and Cade is thrust into the middle of the war between Fel and Krayt. However, Cade does not make a sudden turn to the Jedi way. Bucking conventional wisdom, Ostrander and Duresma keep Cade on the fringe, trying to sit out the galactic war, but always willing to use his Jedi training or natural Force skills if circumstances dictate.
What makes this story works is that the Sith have the variety and depth of the Sinestro Corps from Green Lantern. The many named Sith - Darths Krayt, Wyrrlock, Talon, Maladi, Nihl, etc. - each have an agenda, skill set, and personality, and could probably carry their own series (and yes, if Tomasi or Johns was writing it, I would read a series about Sinestro, the Cyborg Superman, or Ranx in a heartbeat). Likewise, Cade is not one- or two-dimensional - he's a protagonist who has been given a pretty bad hand in life and is doing his best to avoid being re-dealt a new, worse one.
I think my favorite thing about the new characters, though, is Marasiah Fel, the daughter of the deposed Emperor. She is the idealistic, fight-for-what-is-right character that most writers would put front and center. It would be easy (and predictable) to have her be the Skywalker descendant, fighting the Sith and standing for truth and justice. Instead, she is relegated to the second tier (at best). She may be fighting the good fight, and she might beat the Sith (it's hard to say), but that's not the story Ostrander is telling. He's telling a story about Cade, a complicated young man that finds his family heritage too much, and has just shrugged it off.
I can't finish this review without praising the artwork of Jan Duursema. The art in this book is top-notch. There are roughly 20 or 30 important characters - both alien and human - contained in this volume, and each is distinct and consistent throughout. There are also a ton of new starships and alien species, and each looks different than anything from before (although Imperial fighters have the same cockpit design they had 150 years earlier). The sheer effort at making this book look so good must have been phenomenal. The only disappointing thing about Broken, and in fact, all Star Wars trades by Dark Horse, is that not all of the cover art for the issues contained inside is displayed. The front and back covers of the trade display two covers, and I believe one more is shown in the interior, and that is it. With such great art, it's a shame Dark Horse can't give us everything.
[If you'd like to write a guest review for Collected Editions, email the address listed on the sidebar. You can also see our full Collected Editions review index.]