Who’s stronger than who and who can beat who in the Star Wars universe or any universe for that matter is usually decided by the fans and by the writers since the truth is that the writers can give one character as much as they need to overcome their opponent. But the fact is that both Exar Kun and Darth Sidious, aka Emperor Palpatine, are both incredibly powerful Sith Lords that in their respective times were able to devastate the Jedi in their own ways. One major difference however is that Palpatine did so in a much more underhanded way, which is ingenious really since he wormed his way into the senate, keeping quiet for a long, long time and even killing his own master, Darth Plagueis, before making his attempt to overthrow the Galactic Senate and, eventually, the Jedi. Kun had his own run-in with the Jedi, but where Sidious was a silent blade in the shadows, Kun was a heavy-fisted hammer blow that was meant to snuff the Jedi out and simply dominate because he felt the need to impose his will.
Strangely enough, Kun believed that he could hold the balance between the light and dark side of the Force, but obviously, his ambition and his need for power pushed him to one side without much effort. Still, Exar Kun was the type of Sith that could muscle his way into just about any situation he wanted when he was alive and using Sith sorcery he was able to create a wide swath of damage in his time. Many have stated that Palpatine would have annihilated Kun no matter if he were flesh and blood or if he’d met the emperor in his spirit form that was stuck on Yavin 4 in the Legends canon, but this feels a bit dismissive of the Sith Lord since Kun was one of those that dominated entire races just as well as Sidious has in the past, and created what could have amounted to his own empire had he not been too ambitious.
There’s a big problem with trying to figure out whether a character from the far-flung past would be able to beat a character that’s from recent times since it stands to reason that Exar Kun and Palpatine both had a peak when their powers were at their greatest. It also stands to reason that people aren’t thinking about their weaknesses nearly enough, since both men have very exploitable weak points in their character that could be factored in to make this a much more even fight. Exar Kun is just as skilled, if not more so, with the lightsaber as Palpatine is, and his use of the Force is just about as strong at one point. Both Sith were brought down thanks to hubris since they believed themselves too powerful to be stopped and were too arrogant to think that anyone could possibly overcome the level of power that they’d amassed. To be fair it took a great number of Jedi to take Kun down since they utterly destroyed him, but also ended up destroying everything around him as well.
To his credit, Palpatine managed to be a little more resilient since in the Legend and current canon he ended up utilizing the act of cloning to keep himself around, but neither were that efficient even if they were effective. While Kun’s spirit languished on Yavin 4 until it was exorcised by Luke Skywalker’s students, Palpatine was still kicking around the galaxy in one manner or another, meaning that yes, he had cheated death far more effectively than Kun ever could. So to be fair, when it comes to overall brainpower and the ability to scheme, Palpatine was far superior. A lightsaber duel would perhaps be a better test of sheer skill, but this wouldn’t be an easy fight for either Sith since it would be far closer unless Palpatine managed to use the same trick that helped him to slaughter three Jedi Masters before he and Mace Windu had their showdown. But there’s no telling if Kun would fall for this, or if he would resist it and take the fight directly to Palpatine in the most vicious manner.
This fight wouldn’t be as easy to call as some might think since despite being one of the most powerful Sith ever, Palpatine is still a human being with faults, and his arrogance has hampered him in the past. The same could be said of Exar Kun since the ancient Sith Lord thought himself to be unstoppable for a while. It would be a good fight though, at least viewed from a distance since the energies being unleashed during such a battle wouldn’t be likely to spare anyone nearby. But as far as who would be standing at the end, my bet would be Exar Kun, at least in some scenarios.
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