Review by Frank Plowright
Thrawn is a Grand Admiral who escaped the round-up of Empire leaders after Return of the Jedi, and now leads those who still believe in the Empire, plotting to overthrow the New Republic. In Heir to the Empire he proved his efficiency while eventually suffering a setback. Dark Force Rising opens with a scene in which Thrawn’s tactical efficiency is reinforced, but he’s also entered into an alliance with a wild card, rogue Jedi C’Baoth, who’s very keen to capture the pregnant Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.
Mike Baron’s adaptation of Timothy Zahn’s novel presents an opening chapter catching up with the whereabouts of all the major characters from Heir of the Empire and offers more information on the plot of Mon Calamari being considered a traitor to the New Republic. There’s little attempt to conceal the true source of the problem from readers, but the cast can’t be sure. Additionally, both the Republic and Thrawn’s forces are short of battle cruisers, and the smuggler Talon Kaarde knows the whereabouts of a large dreadnaught fleet. The question becomes where best to sell it. He’s currently allied with Mara Jade, but that may change.
Establishing the political situation and the assorted allegiances leads to a somewhat dry opening section. In almost any other situation an art combination of Terry Dodson and Kevin Nowlan would be welcome, but they place a greater emphasis on cast likenesses than was seen in Heir to the Empire, and that leads to a lot of frozen expressions taken from visual reference. As seen by the sample page, though, when staying away from likenesses and moving onto the hardware, the art opens out.
Central to this mid point of the trilogy are the dreadnaught fleet and the Noghri race, previously unknown to the Republic, but fiercely loyal to Darth Vader and all that he represented. That loyalty has transferred to Thrawn, but it’s on their planet that Leia ends up, separated from all but Chewbacca and C3PO. It’s interesting to see her partnered by characters very closely associated with others, and this story makes good use of her caring, yet feisty and capable character as established by the films. Too many other Star Wars plots reduced her to the role of token woman. Dark Force Rising is cleverly put together, and seemingly very different strands gradually combine to one end. What it lacks is any big action spectacle. Threats are made and plots are conceived, but action scenes are few and brief until the finale, and even then it’s a selection of small moments rather than one defining battle. It’s possibly the inevitable consequence of moving everyone into place for the trilogy’s conclusion with The Last Command.
Dark Force Rising is now more easily found along with Heir to the Empire and The Last Command presenting the complete Thrawn story as Star Wars Legends: The Thrawn Trilogy.