GONK reviews this week’s Star Wars comics: Crimson Empire III – Empire Lost #1
After a gap of over 12 years, Crimson Empire returns with the final chapter in this trilogy as Kir Kanos, the last surviving Imperial Guard, continues his quest to avenge the death of Emperor Palpatine. Crimson Empire III – Empire Lost #1 brings back the team behind the earlier two story arcs, with Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley doing the story, and Paul Gulacy returning for pencilling and Dave Dorman bringing us more stunning covers.
The first issue of Empire Lost sets the stage for this story arc by re-introducing us to Crimson Empire’s main protagonists, Kir Kanos, Imperial guardsman-turned-bounty hunter; and Mirith Sinn, New Republic agent and now Chief of State Organa’s personal security chief. But it also brings in a whole slew of other established characters, from the Solo kids to I’m not gonna say. Hint: one of them is on the variant cover by Paul Gulacy and Ronda Pattison, but the other cameo was even more a surprise from the past.
After the yellow scrolling text (when was the last time we’ve seen those in the comics?), we get a tease of the new threat facing the New Republic, although this opening act is just as much a Star Trek opening as it is a Star Wars opening. The second act zips us worlds away as Kir Kanos, in his guise as the bounty hunter Kenix Kil, walks in unarmed yet turns the tables on an ambush, before an outside party summons Kanos’ attention and whisks him off to see a new boss. On Coruscant, Chief of State Organa’s day isn’t complete without her kids causing mischief in the council chambers, when Mirith Sinn attempts to resign her position as family protector. Over on Yavin IV, after teaching some of his students the finer points of the ataru form of combat, Master Luke Skywalker receives an old friend who brings a warning for the Republic, and for the Solo family. And Kir Kanos arrives to meet his new host.
Gulacy’s art was generally good, capturing the feel of each of the settings and characters. While the depiction of Leia and young Anakin Solo seem to fit well, something about the drawing of Luke’s face didn’t quite hold up as well. Mirith Sinn felt a little too X-Men-ish to me: is it the tight black outfit with a red Cyclops-inspired eyewear? Kir Kanos also has the superhero style going, with his bulging muscles as he carves his assailants up. And then there’s the nanny droid – the Solo kids have a curvy nanny-bot that puts Bender’s floozybots to shame. Yep, my main art critique is about a hypersexualized droid – would Leia really have that to take care of her children? I really like the artwok of the aliens, especially in the Kir Kanos opening – great Klatooinian and Kajain’sa’Nikto faces, and the Yuzzum. I do have to wonder a bit about the green Gran addressing Leia on Coruscant.
Dave Dorman’s iconic style makes for an epic cover piece. So cool that Dorman is doing the covers for this series.
Beside the opening teaser, Richardson’s script breaks the story into chunks to show the main three plotlines, which doesn’t give a lot of space to any of them, but each still manages to provide some action and dialogue to give a sense of “this is an ordinary day in the life of this character… until it gets interrupted by a hook to this plotline”. The art style tries to keep things hidden – Kir Kanos doesn’t get a facial closeup until the end of the issue, while much of his early scenes are shadowy and focus on his body and weapon. Likewise, Luke enters the lightsaber combat with his dark hood up, but reveals his face when his visitor appears. Even the identity of the ship’s crew in the teaser opening is only revealed at the last second, as they discover a threat and are silenced by it. Only the halls of power on Coruscant are well lit, and we see the three Solo children sneaking around, and Leia presiding over a government session and other official duties before meeting with her rowdy kids and with Sinn. Everybody gets their own bit of the action, with the odd juxtaposition of Kir Kanos’ awesome display of lethality followed up by the antics of Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin, then followed up with Luke Skywalker besting his students. I suppose it helps show us what the stakes are, when Luke’s companion warns of danger to his sister’s family. In this case, following these three different threads all at the beginning helps to set the stage that this story is going to be big. As a first issue setting up a highly anticipated story, Empire Lost #1 does not disappoint – we see the key players as they make their opening moves. I’d prefer a little more “in media res” but when bringing back a story set in a time period we haven’t seen in a while (late New Republic era, before the events of New Jedi Order), I’m willing to see the board with the pieces in their opening positions. Overall, a solid start, and I’m eager to see what happens next.
For you Crimson Empire enthusiasts out there, here’s a timeline of the Crimson Empire-related stories so you can catch up with the story:
- Crimson Empire was originally a six-issue story that ran in 1997-1998, and was later collected into trade paperback and hardcover versions, and made into an audio version. Kir Kanos begins on a one-man quest to bring down Carnor Jax, a former guardsman who aspires to the Imperial throne, but earns the love and later the emnity of the New Republic agent, Mirith Sinn.
- The Bounty Hunters: Kenix Kil was a one-shot comic published in 1999 showing how Kir Kanos establishes his cover as Kenix Kil, bounty hunter.
- Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood was a six-issue story that ran from 1998-1999, later collected into trade. Kir Kanos takes on Jax’s successors, the traitors of the Interim Council, while Mirith Sinn goes undercover to work for Grappa the Hutt. Nom Anor makes his first appearance in this story.
- Handbook 2:Crimson Empire, a one-shot in published in 1999 serves as a reference guide to the Crimson Empire stories so far.
- “Hard Currency”, a four-page comic published in four parts in Dark Horse Extra (#21-#24) in 2000. Kir Kanos heads into a trap by Massimo, who had previously betrayed Sinn to Grappa.
- “The Third Time Pays for All”, published in the April 2011 Dark Horse Presents #1 – This eight-page story serves as a prequel to Crimson Empire III. Kenix Kil brings in a bounty, while Mirith Sinn gets a job as security head for Chief of State Leia Organa.