The Hundred-Year Darkness

In Marvel comics Star Wars 009, Luke Skywalker finds himself in dire straits on Nar Shaddaa when he is captured by a towering and oddly muscular Hutt named Grakkus. Knocked unconscious, Luke will wake in the home of Grakkus the Hutt and quickly discovers that this Hutt is a collector of Jedi lore and artifacts. Considering that Luke’s journey to Nar Shaddaa was part of a quest to discover anything/everything about the Jedi Order, it could easily be argued that his capture by Grakkus was the will of the Force. This possibility becomes even more likely when Grakkus commands Luke to use the Force to open a Jedi holocron, giving the young Skywalker until the count of five to do so.

Now, for those who are unaware, a holocron is a small polyhedron that a Jedi (or Sith) uses to store and pass on important information. Activated by a Force-user, once opened a holocron projects a holographic image of the individual who originally recorded it, and this hologram will then provide lessons on the information contained within. When Luke is ordered by Grakkus to open a holocron, Luke’s response comes as little surprise, at least to the reader. He states, “I’ve never even seen one of those things.” Of course, the massive Hutt is unswayed, not caring what Luke has to say. Since Luke admitted his father was a Jedi, carries a lightsaber, and is seeking passage to the  location of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, Grakkus is convinced Luke can open the holocron…

…and the Hutt isn’t wrong.

Having counted to five, Grakkus orders his guards to kill Luke, and it is in this very moment that Luke is able to call upon the Force and open not only the holocron that Grakkus holds, but every holocron in the room. Suddenly, Luke and his captor are surrounded by the holographic images of long-dead Jedi, each of them beginning their teachings.

Hundred Year Darkness (2)
Holographic images of past Jedi present the information stored within their respective holocrons.

Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics – Star Wars #009

Needless to say, but there is a lot that could be said about this moment in Star Wars 009, especially in regards to Luke and his burgeoning potential with the Force. The thing is, I’m not really interested in digging into every angle or every thought the scene conjures in my mind, in part because this piece would quickly become a dissertation.  Instead, what I really want to share is my “holy shit” reaction to one of the statements made by the image of an unknown Jedi projected by a holocron. That long-dead Jedi states the following:

Once we were brothers in the Force. But from the Hundred-Year Darkness were born the Sith.

When I read that line, I immediately stopped reading the comic because I just couldn’t contain my excitement. There are moments when I am experiencing the Star Wars universe (or another universe I love) when I am overcome with joy and have to let it burst out of me. When that happens, I just go with the flow, and in this case, I stopped reading and called a friend to tell him what I had come across in Star Wars 009.

Why did I react this way? Simple: the Hundred-Year Darkness comes straight out of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU).

Mentioned by name for the first time in the Dark Horse comic Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lords of the Sith 3: Descent to the Dark Side (published in 1994), the Hundred-Year Darkness was an ancient, century long conflict between Dark Jedi who were experimenting with forbidden alchemy and the Jedi Order which recognized the danger these Dark Jedi possessed. For the sake of brevity, I will spare you all the minute details about the conflict, but in the end, the Dark Jedi lost the war and their survivors – including their leader Ajunta Pall – were exiled from Republic space. In the unexplored regions of the galaxies Outer Rim, these exiles came across a world named Korriban which was inhabited by a primitive civilization known as the Sith. Worshiped as gods, the Dark Jedi were given the title Jen’ari (Dark Lord), becoming the very first Dark Lords of the Sith. 

With just one line in Star Wars 009, a momentous event from the EU – an event which leads directly to the formation of the Sith and serves as the preamble to ALL of the Jedi/Sith conflicts – was preserved in the Disney Canon. But how much of it was maintained beyond it’s name and the basic facts we learn from the unknown Jedi? Well, that is the mystery, one I have wrestled with since Luke unlocked the holocron. 

In reality, there is no easy way to answer the question, particularly since the mysterious Jedi utters few words about the Hundred-Year Darkness. The first piece of his statement – “Once we were brothers in the Force” – points to a time long before the Hundred-Year Darkness, a time when the Jedi Order was whole. What really makes this line stand out though is that it mirrors a line spoken by the spirit of Sith Lord Marka Ragnos in Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith 2: Funeral for a Dark Lord. Ragnos states “Once we were mighty Jedi of the Republic, brothers in the Force…,” and goes on to describe the formation of the Sith Order. The fact that the two short statements almost perfectly match is, of course, not a coincidence. With the Hundred-Year Darkness first appearing in Tales of the JediStar Wars 009 author Jason Aaron was clearly giving the Dark Horse series a small nod by quoting Marka Ragnos. Admittedly, this raises another interesting question: since the Hundred-Year Darkness has been maintained, does this also mean Ragnos – who lived nearly two millenia after the Hundred-Year Darkness – also exists in the Disney Canon? 

MarkaRagnos
The specter of Sith Lord Marka Ragnos speaks to his listeners about the formation of the Sith Order.

Photo Credit: Dark Horse Comics – Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith 2: Funeral for a Dark Lord

Personally, I hope he does. Then again, I also hope Ajunta Pall, whom I mentioned previously, is also  maintained in the canon. In large part this is because Ajunta Pall, unlike Marka Ragnos, is an actual participant in the Hundred-Year Darkness and ends up as the very first Dark Lord of the Sith. In my mind, it makes sense not only to preserve the conflict in name, but also specific aspects like characters, battles, and locations. I say this knowing full well that if/when the Hundred-Year Darkness is retold, it will not be exactly the same. This is no more apparent than by the simple fact that the Dark Jedi in the Disney Canon will find their way to the Sith homeworld of Moraband and not Korriban. The planet itself is exactly the same, but the name change ensures that the story cannot perfectly match. 

Then again, it doesn’t HAVE to perfectly match. While I would personally love for not just Ajunta Pall but all the Dark  Jedi to be returned in the new canon, chances are that just won’t happen. And frankly, that’s okay. In just two sentences in Star Wars 009, the mysterious Jedi establishes the most important facts about the Hundred-Year Darkness, points I have already mentioned. Otherwise, in the Disney Canon, how the Hundred-Year Darkness unfolds is really open ended. For example, whereas the Hundred-Year Darkness ends in the Expanded Universe with the Battle of Corbos (depicted in the featured image), perhaps the final showdown between the two Jedi factions will take place on another world in the new  version of the conflict. Honestly, either way is perfectly fine by me; two versions of the Hundred-Year Darkness simply means two versions to enjoy, learn about, and analyze. 

Still, it’s certainly possible that the Hundred-Year Darkness never receives a new treatment, at least beyond small references here and there. At the moment, Star Wars storytelling is focused primarily on the period surrounding and following the Original Trilogy, and the galaxy’s ancient history might remain relatively vacant of new stories for years to come. However, the seeds of that ancient history have been planted in small and subtle ways – such as the reference to the Hundred-Year Darkness in Star Wars 009 – and I really hope those seeds end up blossoming into full-fledged stories down the road.

But until those seeds do blossom, and even after they do, you’ll find me continuing to explore and enjoy the ancient history in the Expanded Universe. 

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