In a galaxy far, far away...
I used to be obsessed with STAR WARS. Nowadays I'm not as fussed. Age, new interests and the bad taste left by George Lucas' prequel films have left me a bit blasé about the whole deal.
However, every now and then I like to sit back and read some of the tie-in books which Lucasfilm have been cranking out since 1991. And, as I seem want to do, I tend to focus on the bad guys. So, here for your reading pleasure is a small selection of the various muckers who followed in Vader's bloody boot steps...
Grand Admiral Thrawn
The antagonist of Timothy Zahn’s excellent HEIR TO THE EMPIRE trilogy of novels, Thrawn immediately stakes his claim as the finest villain of the STAR WARS universe (including the films):
a) As a military commander, Thrawn is no Vader, and he is not able to use the Force.
b) He is an alien, slightly anamolous considering the usual makeup of the Emperor's legions.
c) Highly intelligent, he is able to elucidate how his opponents will act according to their specific backgrounds and cultural roots (not to mention the odd bit of espionage)
d) While he is a military commander, he is not Colonel Kurtz. He shows more compassion for the lives of the men who serve under him, recognizing unlike his predecessors, that his success is dependent upon his minions
e) As the highest ranking official of the Empire, he is in the unenviable position of commanding a drastically reduced fighting force. There are no Death Stars and massive planetary invasions or space battles in Zahn's universe, and Thrawn has to rely upon thurough planning and intelligence to hammer his enemies with what has at hand. The fact it takes until the final book of Zahn's trilogy to see Thrawn fall is a testament to the succcess of the Grand Admiral's tactical genius with limited resources.
f) More of a stylistic choice than a personality trait, but part of what makes Thrawn so fascinating is that his creator always writes about him from another character's perspective. The reader is left to build a picture of his character without the writer providing Thrawn with his own voice. Added to his lack of a backstory, Thrawn remains one of the most enigmatic and just plain entertaining characters to emerge since the original trilogy's close.
This guy is madder than a sack of monkeys.
The deranged clone of a dead Jedi Master, C’boath is initially Thrawn’s secret weapon in his war against the rebels, using his powers to co-ordinate the Admiral’s forces in a series of synchronized surprise attacks.
Contemptuous of his allies’ plans, C’boath is obsessed with creating a new Jedi order in his own twisted image and makes his own attempt to turn Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side.
The Director of Intelligence is the bureaucrat of the bunch, but don’t let that put you off, Isard is one stone cold bitch.
So untrustworthy even the Emperor considered having her executed, Isard is as duplicituous as they come. Whether it is blackmail, murder or a planetary plague, she is willing to do anything to preserve the Empire (and her position within it).
Her death is suitably ignimonious - shot in the stomach she is left to die by her associates.
Admiral Delak Krennel
More of a petty despot than a real galactic threat Krennel is an opportunistic military man who decides to go it alone, killing a high-ranking noble and stealing his holdings (a few systems of planets and moons and such).
Rather than support the likes of Thrawn and Isard in their attempts to re-establish the Empire, Krennel is content to hold on to what he's got, smart enough to realise that the New Republic is less likely to turn on him if he doesn't make a nuisance of himself.
Emperor Palpatine's clone(s)
These bastards pop up just as the rebels start getting the act together and suddenly we're back in the good old days of shoot outs, space battles and genocide on a planetary scale.
AKA the cool one.
A former Imperial Guard, Jax is responsible for sabotaging Palpatine's clone bodies so that they age rapidly and kill the wily tyrant.
He's also the first villain since the Emperor to show a sense of style, pimping out his Guardsman duds in a cool black'n'red combo, and giving his personal bodyguards black armour. Of course he probably could have done better keeping up his fighting skills and hiring some minions who could a) aim and b) move stealthily. They get wiped out so fast its embaressing.
Taking on the entire galaxy with only 4 ships requires balls the size of the Death Star, but reaching way beyond your means is all in a day's work for Daala.
More liberal-minded than her predecessors, Daala is the first Imperial commander to actively challenge the Empire's rules on gender in the military.
Easy to anger, Daala lacks Thrawn's ability to coolly judge a situation, nor Isard's political nous. However, her ruthlessness does have its moments of success: When she realizes the warlords who control the Empire's remaining resources are more concerned with attacking each other than the Rebels, she has them all gassed, clearing the way for her to get the Imperial war machine to come rearing back to life with a suicidal bliztkrieg across the galaxy (good thing that idea doesn't pan out).