Dark Horse is launching a new Star Wars series this week, about one of the Empire's top spies. GONK targets the first issue of Agent of the Empire for review.

John Ostrander is back with a new Star Wars series, Agent of the Empire. Known for his work with Jan Duursema on the Republic and Legacy series, he is now teaming up with Stephane Roux, who has previously done the covers for the Jedi - The Dark Side story, and will be pencilling Star Wars for the first time.

Agent of the Empire, Dave Wilkins variant coverAgent of the Empire is a James Bond-type spy series in the galaxy far, far awayset a few years before A New Hope. Jahan Cross is the Empire's top secret agent, reporting directly to ISB director Armand Isard. In this first story arc, Iron Eclipse, Cross and his droid sidekick, the sleek IN-GA 44, are off to the Corporate Sector, using Cross' cover of being in the Diplomatic Service.

Issue #1 jets into the action, Bond style, with Cross and IN-GA investigating an Imperial station commander for dabbling in black market droids, and of course, they need to fight their way out. Back at the office, Cross and Isard (playing M) give us some exposition and Isard sends Cross on his new mission: figure out what the heck the Iron Eclipse project is. The role of the gadget-making Q has been divided up between IN-GA 44's technician, the alien Alessi Quon, and the spectacled gadgeteer, Royd Pew, and with some new tech picked up, agent Cross and the Maria-like fembot are off to Etti IV, where they run into Cross' old classmate from the Academy, Han Solo. Cross joins Solo and Chewbacca in a brawl against some sore losers, and then keeps the pair from being hauled off by the local cops by waving his diplomatic immunity card around, before the local Imperial attache shows up and takes Cross off to the Imperial mission.

So far, no tuxedoes yet, but I'm sure with a formal diplomatic reception coming up, we'll see the debonair side of Cross next issue. Good opening action, and Cross' background is hinted at throughout - in the first act, we see a small flashback, and get some other pieces of the man in the Imperial Palace, and from Han Solo. While it's important to remember that ultimately, the Empire is an evil regime (we are reminded that Alessi Quon is not entirely welcome in the Imperial Palace as a non-human), watching this man working for the good of the Empire has got me hooked. In the past we saw Mara Jade working solo to remove the corrupt or traitorous in the Imperial ranks as more an assassin, but here we have the spy working with the best tools of the intelligence game: diplomacy, cool tech, and his wits. Fun stuff. Ostrander and Roux get a thumbs-up! Roux definitely has skill in depicting characters, and some of the bits of characters in action are pretty sweet. When I first read the issue, I kept comparing Cross to Race Bannon from Johnny Quest (and The Venture Brothers) - there's a strong resemblance there, but I'm over it.

Wacky cameo: Station commandant Colonel Muhrlein has a display of weapons in his office, including the sword of Kahless.

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