Ryan Chartrand

Put yourself in the “Star Wars” universe, but more than 125 years after “Return of the Jedi.”

Now picture these characters: Luke Skywalker’s great, great grandson; a feared bounty hunter who contributes to the eradication of Jedi in a post-apocalyptic setting; a space pirate who runs with two like-minded gangsters; a drifting drug addict who forgets his problems by using death sticks; and the last remaining Skywalker who could give hope to a Sith-crippled galaxy if only he wasn’t jaded by his traumatic childhood.

Now imagine that these characters are all the same person.

It’s all about Cade Skywalker, the antihero around which Dark Horse Comics’ “Star Wars: Legacy” comic book and graphic novel series is centered.

“Legacy” takes a darker-than-the-movies approach to engage readers in a profoundly intricate narrative that serves as a prime example of how characters from the original “Star Wars” saga are unnecessary to recreate the magic George Lucas first brought to the silver screen in 1977.

If Episodes VII, VIII and IX are ever made, “Legacy” could easily rival the breakthrough 1990s Timothy Zahn trilogy of “Star Wars” novels as the best possible literary framework from which screenplays could be adapted.

“Legacy’s” psychologically rich themes are complex, yet relatable. Its characters are shrouded in mystery, but are understandable. And its visionary creators – writer John Ostrander and his team of 10 artists – remain so true to classic “Star Wars” archetypes that the John Williams orchestra can practically be heard while turning pages.

“Legacy” has not gone unnoticed, as the comic book itself is Dark Horse’s No. 2 monthly seller behind only “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” according to Wookieepedia.com, making it the most popular “Star Wars” comic book on the market since it was launched in June 2006.

Even more adult readers have latched on to a pair of trade paperback graphic novels that were released as compilations of 12 of the 22 40-page comic book issues to date. “Broken,” released in May 2007, and “Shards,” released last month, are comprised of introductory issues before the series launches into the “Claws of the Dragon” story arc.

Along the way in “Broken” and “Shards,” readers are introduced to a cast of characters they will quickly become attached to. These characters are almost on par with those of the original trilogy and decidedly better than those of the prequel trilogy. They include: the aforementioned Cade Skywalker; his two gun-wielding pirate associates, the Zeltron female Deliah Blue and the human male Jariah Syn; the Force-inclined Princess Marasiah Fel; her father, the exiled Emperor Roan Fel; Sith such as Darth Talon and Darth Nihl; and self-made Sith Emperor Darth Krayt, a dictator who makes Palpatine look like a voting-rights advocate.

It needs to be said that the binary rule of Sith (i.e. Darth Sidious/Darth Vader) no longer exists under Krayt. Instead, he rules over a legion of Sith who have overtaken Coruscant and turned it into a post-apocalyptic hell that bears no resemblance to the crown jewel of the galaxy seen in Episodes I and II.

Perhaps more interesting than Krayt, though, is Talon. Although in some ways a shameless integration of sex appeal into the storyline, she carries more intrigue than any of Krayt’s other minions because she amounts to a female version of Darth Maul. Her femme fatale ways briefly cross paths with Cade in a couple pages that show the fearlessness Ostrander has in weaving the story.

“Legacy” capitalizes thoughtfully on its sparing use of original saga iconography, which includes the ghost of Luke, a hallucination of Vader and R2-D2, which is somehow still beeping and rolling around just fine.

Without Cade, though, “Legacy” would be irrelevant. His conflicted nature and deep-rooted pathological rejection of his family’s heritage creates a compelling revision of “Star Wars” conventions that authors are too often scared to tinker with. The best scene in the original saga is Luke staring at Tatooine’s twin suns, desperately longing for adventure. Some of the most powerful art in “Legacy,” in contrast, depicts a stoned Cade staring blankly into a ghost of Luke and explaining why he would much rather blend in.

Cade’s resentment of the Jedi code largely stems from watching as a child when his father, Kol, sacrificed himself to save fellow Jedi. Cade and the Sith who killed his father, Nihl, then unwittingly set out on an inexorable path toward a lightsaber duel in which a grown-up Cade can stake his claim to revenge if only he is willing to tread the dark side of the Force.

If Luke could only know that his great, great grandson would have blonde dreadlocks, earrings and tattoos.

Cade, after all, is an embodiment of what the “Legacy” series is about – “Star Wars” with its hair down, completely unchained. It’s heavy metal meets “Star Wars” and gangsta rap meets sci-fi.

And now that they’re acquainted, hopefully “Legacy” will never have to jump out of hyperspace.

Tristan Aird is a journalism senior and loves sci-fi more than a free textbook.

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