It should be stated earnestly that I am just not a Star Wars person. I saw the first trilogy on theatrical re-release as a child, every subsequent trilogy first-run in the theater (for better or for worse), and am still gritting my teeth through every assembly-line tv show iteration on Disney+ with my own excited child. I have picked up whole hosts of prose throughout the decades, and, yes, even tried the Star Wars comics in recent years, each of which are objectively good reads with a whole host of great talent behind them… and yet, I just can’t peg myself as a Star Wars fan. They catch me with the world building, cool aliens, and snappy robots, and then my interest peters out right around the time we reach the actual plots, all somehow involving space-themed political intrigue balanced on a tightrope of flimsy morality. In this respect, however, with billions of people clamoring for anything and everything Star Wars since its conception in 1977, I realize that I am the problem here. I’ve come to terms with it.
What I can also offer as a downplayed grand statement, instead, is that I love the work of artist Cam Kennedy. Luckily, these two contrasting things crossed over a few times briefly in the 1990s with Kennedy’s saturated inks and watercolors featured in Dark Horse’s Star Wars: Dark Empire and Dark Empire II with Tom Veitch on script, and later with Judge Dredd’ co-creator John Wagner for a short series of Boba Fett comics. (The latter pairing had previously had worked with for DC’s 1980s miniseries Outcasts, as well as some stellar Judge Dredd stories, and other U.K. collaborations).
Much like the rest of the Star Wars grand history, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to how this cluster of bizarro but utterly prestige Star Wars comics came to be, but much of it can simply be summed up by noting that, with Dark Empire being released around the same time as Timothy Zahn’s sprawling Thrawn Trilogy novel series, the Star Wars universe was given a swift kick in the ass to become something greater and farther-reaching, thanks to — most importantly —the ramshackle, glue-and-duct-tape, construction of a secondary canon in the franchise that would later become known as the Expanded Universe. Along with video games, a truckload of other novels, and just about every other multimedia marketing technique available at the time, a whole new era of Star Wars was born — born not from series originator George Lucas (it’s far too colorful for that, let’s face it) but from the minds of creators who had been appreciating the universe for nearly a decade since the 1983 release of then-final movie installment “Return of the Jedi”.
We’re not here to talk about the Extended Universe in its entirety, though; I don’t think there’s any plane of existence in which I have the strength to even try. We’re not even here to talk about Tom Veitch’s storytelling abilities (which, for my money, are better spent on Animal Man for DC just a few short years later) or how John Wagner, bless him, ever managed to get himself wrapped up in Star Wars of all things. No, we’re here to spotlight Cam Kennedy, whose work thankfully — and much to my main point — can do pretty much all the talking for me. Despite a script and plot that is about as linked to current Star Wars canon as the USS Enterprise or the hot lady Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, the stories for all three series are easily ignored (and in some respects, forgivably so) in the face of Kennedy’s art work. With thick, inky figures highlighted through acidic, startling splashes of color, the action comes in waves that forgo the need for words, trading the (outdated) narration for visual speed and dynamic panel layouts.
I always feel at my silliest when trying to talk about Cam Kennedy’s art because, for all rational reason, there are few words to describe the ferocity and abandon with which Kennedy used an acid green, hot pink, or moody purple; and even fewer words to portray how Kennedy’s storytelling was unmatched — even against his own writers — when it came to playing out action and intensity simple through where he made a readers’ eyes move next. Everything anyone needs to know is right there on the page, easily understandable to anyone looking at it.
You’re more than welcome to find all of these comics and read them yourself, of course — collections featuring these stories are still available — now bearing a “LEGENDS” banner to ensure that fans know that they’re not meant to count in the grand canonical scheme of things — and to some, the dated and melodramatic scripting in each is a welcome blast from the past or a fun romp through the “before days” of Star Wars trilogies before a new wave of fandom arrived, heralded by Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. Honestly, those seeking the value of reading a wacky-ass story that goes entirely off the rails, you just can’t beat either Veitch’s Dark Empire or Wagner’s terse, ridiculous Boba Fett — but for any that remain as unconvinced by the Star Wars story in any traditional way of it being told, you can find a new love for it in the pigment-soaked pages of Cam Kennedy’s heart-stopping Star Wars work.