Thursday, December 15, 2011

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire #1

Writer: John Ostrander
Artist: Stephane Roux
Company: Dark Horse Comics

Lately, Star Wars has been on my brain. Not a huge surprise, really, as the world that George Lucas created is a playground for creators to come up with great ideas for different kinds of stories. One such creator, John Ostrander, is the man behind many of the more notable tales in the Expanded Universe of the Star Wars license. The work that he was able to do with characters like Quinlan Vos and Cade Skywalker, characters that could have easily felt like one dimensional stand-ins for the classic archetypes, is rather exceptional. He makes you care about his characters and the problems that they are up against are not usually meager or easily forgettable. With Agent of the Empire, Ostrander introduces a new character to the Star Wars mythos...James Bond.

And oddly enough, it kind of works. This first issue, which granted is a little on the slow side at times, has an air of insanity and hilarity to it. The character of Jahan Cross is most definitely a stand in for everyone's favorite British spy, right down to having his own Q. The idea almost seems too humorous compared to things like the Jedi Order and the Stormtroopers of the Empire, but again, this is Ostrander that we're talking about. He makes it work.

From page one, we quickly find out everything that we need to know about Cross. He's a skilled individual, a man that always completes his task, and that he is loyal to his cause. It's strange to actually root for what is essentially a member of the villains, but the popularity of characters such as Vader and Boba Fett is so strong that we should be used to such a phenomenon by now. That coupled with the action and the interesting, behind the scenes look, at the day to day life of the Empire makes for a compelling read peppered with wit and action. Ostrander even populates the story with a great subset of characters, everything from a brand new type of Droid that acts as Cross compatriot to a few cast members that have been a part of the Universe since the very first movie.

As always with the Dark Horse Star Wars books, the art never dips out of the solid range. Stephane Roux, a French artist who's recently done work for DC on the Zatanna title, does a great job with this one. The action, though it doesn't include light saber battles, feels distinctly Star Wars and reminds me of many scenes right out of the newer trailers for Star Wars the Old Republic. The level of detailed emotion that he's able to get in the face's of his characters is impressive, and goes a long way to convey some of the smaller beats of the story. If I did have to complain about something about the art, it would have to be Julien Hugonnard-Bert's inks, mainly because there is a bit of inconsistency with them. One moment is perfect and the next, the action or smaller moment feels muddled.

Still, besides a few minor things, Agent of the Empire has quite a bit going for it. The level of fun is off the charts and if you're in a Star Wars mood or just feel like reading a book that finds a level playing for both fans of the original trilogy and the fans of the more Expanded Universe.

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