When Disney announced a Tales of the Jedi animated series, it resulted in many a Star Wars fan pondering if it would be connected to the comic series published by Dark Horse in the 1990s. We now know that the new TV program won’t be directly related, but interest in the ostensible series must have been piqued, as this fine Epic Collection puts together several issues that have been out of print for some years. While no longer canon, these issues add wonderful wealth to Star Wars lore, and explore a fascinating period in the property’s timeline.
It’s a bit hard to remember what it was like for Star Wars fans in the early ’90s when one considers the volume and wealth of material currently being put out today. In 1991, there were no public plans for any future films, but the Expanded Universe had been created in the wake of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy of books. These titles were enormously successful, and a slew of different novels and comics were created to tell new tales in the Star Wars universe. The Tales of the Jedi series published by Dark Horse Comics was to give light to events that happened five thousand years before A New Hope. As a burgeoning history nerd, this comic series scratched a particular itch for me in the ’90s; it was wonderful to explore the history of the Star Wars universe, while following a slew of characters unrelated to the Skywalker clan.
Collected in this trade are four different Tales of the Jedi miniseries: Golden Age of the Sith (#0-5), Fall of the Sith Empire (#1-5), Tales of the Jedi (#1-5), and The Freedon Nadd Uprising (#1-2). It’s a hefty tome, with two separate storylines represented in the runs amassed. Tom Veitch and Kevin J. Anderson carry the writing duties on these titles and were the forces behind other seminal works in the Expanded Universe (The Dark Empire trilogy and the Jedi Academy trilogy come to mind).
The first two arcs (Golden Age and Fall of the Sith Empire) are the earliest Tales of the Jedi books in the Star Wars timeline, focusing on the early days of hyperspace travel and two force-sensitive explorers called Gav and Jori Daragon. Since hyperspace flight was in its infancy, the larger universe has yet to be mapped, and pilots took great risk to pick a random spot on the uncharted map and jump to that region. The two come across Korriban, a Sith home world where dark Jedi had been expelled to centuries prior. Two competing Sith Lords, Naga Sadow and Ludo Kressh, duel over the fate of the two travelers, with Sadow seeing their arrival as an opportunity to control the larger universe. Eventually, Sadow and his Sith forces invade Coruscant, only to be thwarted by the Jedi, banishing the villain to Yavin 4.
The second arcs were the first published Tales comics, focusing on the individual adventures of Nomi Sunrider and Ulic Qel-Droma 1,000 years after the Fall of the Sith Empire. Ulic, along with his brother and Jedi Master Arca, are sent to deal with a war on Onderon between the civilian government and a clan of beast riders. They uncover the body of a Dark Jedi named Freedon Nadd, who while dead, will play a pivotal role in the later adventures of Ulic. Nomi Sunrider, after losing her husband, finds herself on a journey of discovery with her young daughter in tow. The two dueling storylines begin to entwine during the Freedon Nadd Uprising, where cultists of the long-deceased Sith Lord mount a rebellion against the Republic order.
So, are these titles worth reading today, knowing they are part of the Legends continuity and not officially canon? There is so much historic detail in these issues, it was thrilling to return to the world Veitch and Anderson created (and continued to build on in their books set in future timelines). There is a perceptible love for Star Wars coming from these books, and it’s as contagious today as it was in the 1990s. That alone should justify this book’s inclusion in any Star Wars fan’s collection.
The covers for each issue are stunning, and one of the main reasons why these books jumped off the rack when they were originally released. They have a cinematic quality that made these comics feel like they were true compendiums to the films. The Dave Dorman covers for the initial Tales and Freedon Nadd runs are some of the best Star Wars visuals ever created, and there is a very good chance you have seen these paintings even if you never read this series. Pencilers Chris Gossett, David Roach, Tony Akins and Denis Rodier’s work in the Tales and Nadd runs still looks great today, and while they don’t quite live up the movielike promise of the book’s cover, they competently give the title scale and depth. Unfortunately, the pencils inside the Golden Age of the Sith and Fall of Sith Empire, predominately shaped by Dario Carrasco Jr, simply don’t stand up and feel rushed and lack the cinematic feel a book of this nature needed.
The collection is bookended with a slew of details about the publication of the Tales series, as well as sketch pages and reproductions of the covers used in previous compendiums. These are nice additions and make this book a worthwhile pickup even if you own some of those out-of-print trades from the past.
Whether you have nostalgia for that odd period in Star Wars history where the comics and novels were the only place to find new material, or a newer fan looking to understand the history of the Jedi and Sith, this Tales of the Jedi Epic Collection is a necessary read. Even if it isn’t official canon, you can see the lineage of these titles in the DNA of current Star Wars books and shows, giving this run an everlasting eminence.
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