By Todd Matthy
The Star Wars franchise has always extended beyond the movies. So much so that if the label “Star Wars” wasn’t on certain books, comic books, and video games, they might as well be called something else. That’s was my impression when I started reading the first issue of Dark Horse Comics new series “Agent of the Empire” until a certain dynamic duo appear.
Written by John Ostrander and penciled by Stephane Roux, “Agent of the Empire” is the story of Jahan Cross, an Imperial secret agent. Like James Bond, Cross and his Droid companion IN-GA 44 take care of situations too delicate and dangerous for the average storm trooper yet beneath the notice of Mara Jade (aka Mrs. Luke Skywalker). “Agent of the Empire” revolves around Cross investigating a secret project called “Iron Eclipse,” bringing him to the Corporate Sector of the Empire and a chance encounter with Han Solo and Chewbacca.
As I said earlier in the review, if it weren’t for the appearance of Han and Chewie (along with a few other references) this would be a secret space agent story. The comparison to James Bond is a fair one because the first issue follows the formula of a Bond movie’s first act: the secret agent has a scuffle to show off his abilities, gets yelled at by his superior officer, meets with his tech guy, and is off to some exotic locale. The only thing missing was an exotic, alien, girl. (There are still four more issues.) Standard first issue set up from Ostrander until Han and Chewie show up to give the book a much-needed shot of adrenaline. Ever the veteran, Ostrander does a good job of establishing the relationship between Solo and Cross while sustaining enough momentum that the story doesn’t grind to a halt.
Art wise, thought Stephane Roux did a fair job. Her figures are a cross between Randy Green’s body language and Phil Noto’s facial expressions, especially the eyes. I especially enjoyed her large shot of the Imperial Palace on Coruscant and the comedy she brought to Cross testing new weapons. (Keep your eyes peeled for a reference to a Muppet scientist and his assistant during that scene). Credit on the art should also be given to colorist Wes Dizioba, who has quite an aptitude for mood setting.
The first issue of “Agent of the Empire” is a first issue that was more introduction then actual story. If you are a hardcore Star Wars fan and want to explore a new corner of a galaxy far far away pick it up. If you only care about characters from the movies, pick it up for a Han and Chewie fix.