We all know that Dark Empire was one of the most important pieces of Star Wars media ever released. It was the first Star Wars comic published by Dark Horse, and it proved that the franchise still sells in the comic format. What Heir to the Empire was for the books, Dark Empire was for the comics, and together they were just the start of the 1990s EU rebirth.
Because of its success, author Tom Veitch was asked to write a sequel, and Veitch clearly was all on board for expanding his Dark Empire story. Besides the 6 Issue Dark Empire II series, he also had planned to release the short novella Lightsider via Dark Horse, a story that would have bridged the first and the second Dark Empire series. I bring this up here, because as far as we know, Lightsider was the catalyst of the whole debakel regarding Dark Empire III.
It is clear that Veitch had intended to at least get a Trilogy done, since Dark Empire II ends on a big cliffhanger. A final sequel was expected and needed. But because of the cancellation of the Lightsider novella, there was some drama behind the scenes. This drama led to artist Cam Kennedy leaving the project alltogether, and Veitch only being given 2 Issues to finish his storyline.
Thus, a full 6 Issue Dark Empire III died, and was replaced by the 2 Issue final Empire's End.
For me, this is one of the EU's biggest failures. While Empire's End did conclude the most important storylines, and brought us the definitve end of Palpatine, it felt extremely rushed. Veitch seemingly crammed the basic story for a 6 Issue run into just two Issues, because A LOT happens on very few pages, and the story's pacing suffers for it.
What also doesn't help is Jim Baikie's artwork. He's clearly trying to immitate Cam Kennedy's unique style, yet this only shows that only Kennedy can pull that style off. So even visually, Empire's End stands out from the rest of the Dark Empire Trilogy.
How would a full 6 Issue Dark Empire III have looked liked? I really don't know how much of what we got in Empire's End was originally from Veitch's plans for Dark Empire III, but the story we have would have definitely benefitted from being told over more Issues and giving the story time to breathe. So many moments in Empire's End would feel more epic if they were given a few more panels to really let us readers soak it all in (and if it was drawn by Cam Kennedy of course).
In the final product, we got a storyline that doesn't really finish (the Ysanna Tribe leaders being frozen in carbonite; guess they are trapped forever?), and an ending that just.....ends. Palpatine is dead, most of Luke's Jedi Students are aswell, and on the last page the Galaxy Gun and the planet Byss get destroyed. Hard cut, that's all folks! Happy End, i guess? Again, this story suffers from the limited pagecount.
Dark Empire, the first series especially, is something that i truly love and enjoy, and while i do have my problems with Dark Empire II, this series deserved to end on a better note. And even if a full Dark Empire III would have ended up being bad, i still would have liked to get the authors full vision, and a true conclusion to his Trilogy. Imagine if the Thrawn Trilogy only got to release the first two books, and
The Last Command was forced to be a short story that concludes all the storylines.
But in the end, we can at least be happy that Dark Horse let Veitch finish his story at all, even with what we got. And while i don't hate Empire's End (as i know the backstory as to why it turned out the way it did), i do find it to be a dissapointing end to one of the most influental and important pieces of EU history.