It Must Become More Than A Political Abstraction
“It must become more than a political abstraction.” With those words, Emperor Palpatine sought to change the public perception of the Empire during its rise, moving from a conceptual ruling body to an effective military force that struck fear in many people. While the Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith comic mainly deals with the titular character and his journey further towards the Dark Side, it also takes some time to develop the Empire during this time and looks at its evolution from its inception post-ROTS to its development as one of the greatest military and political entities in history. However, its notional start is very early-on.
The start of the Empire as a political abstraction could be inferred as early as Issue 1, when Mas Amedda speaks in front of a crowd on Coruscant, preaching about the fall of the Republic and the birth of the Empire into a new age. While Amedda is showing the rise of the Empire through dialect, it is mainly an abstraction for most of the run, undefined and sloppy. For instance, in Issue 12, Vader uncovers a conspiracy in the Imperial ranks, with some reportedly placing a kill order on Vader’s head. Vader, in retaliation, kills 5 Imperial officers at random to instill fear into the rest and deter them from attempting to assassinate him. Vader was not the only one trying to evolve the Empire, there was another along with him.
Having coordinated the fall of the Jedi Order and the subsequent political takeover and reorganization of the Republic into the Galactic Empire, Sheev Palpatine was hard at work attempting to maintain the Empire’s image early in its inception, but it was proving difficult. For instance, Palpatine discusses with Vader that it is time for the Empire to evolve. But the problem is that he has “allowed a convenient fiction to persist- that the Empire is merely an extension of the Republic”, which can be personified in the Clone Troopers, symbols of the Republic, now in service to the Empire. Because of this, the Clones serving the Empire could be an aspect of this fictitious extension since they served the Republic and are currently serving the Empire, same soldiers under a different flag. Another part of Palpatine’s statement is that the Imperial Senate remains and because of it, the Senators think they still are a contingent of “voices coming together to govern.” Palpatine wants to destroy this fiction of a Senate, mainly through military force. To achieve this, he orders Vader to go to Mon Cala, which will serve as an example of the Empire’s might in helping to reveal its military strength. Through the conquest of Mon Cala and subsequent capture of King Lee-Char, the Empire definitively showed its military might in defeating and taking over the Mon Cala people and its transition away from a political abstraction to an effective military capable of ruling the galaxy, with Vader saying once Mon Cala is taken, “There is no Mon Cala. There is only the Empire.” Which shows that once Mon Cala fell, there is nothing to stop the Empire from controlling the galaxy. This is echoed in Tarkin’s statement to an Imperial colonel where he says, “The power of an Empire is not in what it destroys, but what it controls.” However, while the Imperial military seems poised to fundamentally evolve, the Emperorship is still stagnant.
This is seen in Issue 20 where Vader, while on a hunt for rogue Inquisitors, accidentally kills a Senator. Palpatine is furious because that Senator was important to his plans and that if he “cannot maintain order here, the seat of my power, whispers will begin that I cannot maintain it on other worlds.” Which shows that Palpatine has not solidly defined his rule yet, there are still some cracks in the political armor. Overall, the Empire during The Dark Lord of the Sith comic run evolved in some aspects while not evolving enough in others, showing that the Empire was not completely defined in their rule yet during 18 BBY.