Welcome back, Rebelscum fans! Once again it's Shadows of the Empire week at the site. We’re breaking down the story that explores the fascinating period between the end of The Empire Strikes Back and the beginning of Return of the Jedi, released as a multimedia project from Lucasfilm back in 1996. There’s a ton of great Shadows of the Empire coverage to explore, but make sure to check out our “Expand Your Mind” article to explore the creation of the project, why it's a significant part of Legends, and the coolest collectibles you should add to your personal stash.
Like most Expanded Universe material that was released prior to the Disney purchase, Shadows of the Empire is strictly within the Legends timeline and has not been reintroduced into the new canon. This is actually somewhat surprising, as the project was initially conceived of by Lucasfilm directly as a way of reinvigorating public interest in Star Wars. The Hasbro “Power of the Force” line had launched in 1995, with the Special Edition films planned for the 20th anniversary of A New Hope in 1997 and The Phantom Menace debuting in 1999. Lucasfilm needed something in 1996 that added something new to the Star Wars universe, and so they conceived the highly ambitious Shadows of the Empire project.
The extent of Shadows of the Empire was vast, as the project told one concurrent story with a novel, junior novelization, comic book series, video game, soundtrack, trading cards, role-playing games, posters, model kits, and collectibles. Described as a “film without a film,” it was a story so well-received among fans that it even gained the approval of George Lucas himself, who lamented that he would’ve made an actual film with the story if he heard it in the 1980s.
Let’s take a look at the other Star Wars material you can explore if you love Shadows of the Empire!
Shadows of the Empire and New Canon
Several elements of Legends have been incorporated into canon, with characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn, Darth Bane, and Durge included in new projects. While Shadows of the Empire itself has yet to be canonized, many of the additions it added to the Star Wars universe have become heavily important. The Black Sun organization continues to play an important role in the canon after being prominent in The Clone Wars, Rebels, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Perhaps with Dave Filoni fronting creative control at Lucasfilm, we will see characters like Xizor or Dash Rendar pop up again.
Unlike stories like Heir to the Empire that directly contradict the events of the sequel trilogy, there’s little in Shadows of the Empire that would threaten the projects set in the new canon. Although a Forces of Destiny short released on Disney+ gives a contradictory explanation for how Leia gained Boush’s disguise to the one established in Shadows of the Empire, there are no major inconsistencies.
Shadows of the Empire was successful enough at the time that it became referenced in the films; the Outrider was inserted into Tatooine in the Special Edition of A New Hope in 1997 and Xizor has a cameo in the podrace in The Phantom Menace.
Shadows of the Empire and Legends
The events of Shadows of the Empire are among the most significant in Legends, which was fiercely bound together by an overarching timeline. Here are some of the other projects that connect to Shadows of the Empire:
- The direct sequel comic Shadows of the Empire: Evolution (1998) explored Guri’s pursuit of her own sentience after Xizor’s death in events that lined up directly with Return of the Jedi.
- The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy of novels The Mandalorian Armor (1998), Slave Ship (1998), and Hard Merchandise (1999) spotlighted the bounty hunter characters Boba Fett, IG-88, Dengar, Bossk, Zuckuss, and 4-LOM in events after Return of the Jedi. This was the next major storyline focused on bounty hunters after Shadows of the Empire and references many shared traits and events, even including a flashback scene including Prince Xizor.
- The 2011 novel Shadow Games returned to the world of smuggling from Shadows of the Empire and featured Dash Rendar in a pivotal role.
- Dash Rendar’s rivalry with Han Solo mentioned in Shadows of the Empire was expanded upon in The Han Solo Trilogy of novels The Paradise Snare (1997), The Hutt Gambit (1998), and Rebel Dawn (1998) which featured Han confronting Dash. The books also explored the smuggler’s code that Dash mentions in Shadows of the Empire.
- The 1999 video game X-Wing Alliance features several missions to assist Dash Rendar and pilot his ship Outrider. The Outrider also popped up in the 2002 Jango Fett-centric game Bounty Hunter.
- The Hand of Thrawn duology from Timothy Zahn Specter of the Past (1997) and Vision of the Future (1998) reference the further exploits of Black Sun as Luke Skywalker reflects on the death of Xizor.
- The one-shot comic Shadow Stalker explored the further adventures of Shadows of the Empire character Jix as he operates under Darth Vader’s command.
- The 1998 comic The Jabba Tape starred Big Gizz and Spiker, two of Jabba’s swoop gang introduced in Shadows of the Empire, as they pillage through the remains of the Hutt Empire following Jabba’s death.
So what are your thoughts? Does Shadows of the Empire make you want to explore more of Legends? Do any of your favorite Legends games, movies, or comics expand upon Shadows of the Empire? What part of Shadows of the Empire would you like to see brought into canon? May the Force be with you!