Star Wars: Outlander is a fascinating entry in the Expanded Universe. It was one of the earliest comics in Dark Horse’s Republic series, which started before The Phantom Menace and continued into the Dark Times. Republic would later be acclaimed for its Clone Wars arc, featuring Quinlan Vos, everybody’s favorite gloomy Jedi. However, the early Republic comics seemed set to feature Ki-Adi Mundi, a very different type of Jedi (he’s the cone-head alien on the Jedi Council).
Outlander came out in 1999, a time when The Phantom Menace opened up a whole new corner of the Star Wars for storytellers, but without all of the constraints imposed by later stories. The Galaxy felt fresh and full of possibilities. Outlander is also a sign of what was to come with the Expanded Universe. The story is fairly straightforward – Ki goes to Tatooine to investigate reports that a rogue Jedi called Sharad Hett has joined Tusken raiders – but it reverberates throughout much of Dark Horse’s run of Star Wars comics. Even as the Republic series moved away from Ki and focused on other Jedi characters, characters from Outlander play an important role in later events.
I enjoyed the story. It has elements of a classic revenge story, with some unexpected twists. I appreciate that Sharad Hett never becomes a caricature of a Dark Jedi. It’s not even clear that he’s fallen to the Dark Side. The subplot with bounty hunter Aurra Sing probably could have been excised (I suspect Lucasfilm wanted Dark Horse to include her because they were trying to make her the “next” Boba Fett). The text bubbles conveying her internal thoughts really didn’t add much to the story. While the art can’t quote compare to the heights of Jan Duursema’s later Republic comics, I found Outlander‘s artwork had its moments of beauty, particularly the scenes set during dusk and dawn.
Star Wars: Outlander is the type of Expanded Universe story I find myself missing since Disney rebooted the Star Wars canon. It’s not a perfect story, but it really committed to telling the story of characters who barely appeared in the films. It’s not hard to imagine hundreds of other Jedi having hundreds of other small-scale adventures just like this one before the fall of the Republic.