I want to establish that I have not found the Star Wars comics to be all that entertaining. I don’t hate them, but find them underwritten and sloppy, especially for actioners, relying on association with the films rather than good characters and story telling. So when I was sent a copy of Agent of The Empire I didn’t expect much. Scripter John Ostrander surprised me with his old empire tale introducing an Imperial investigator Jahan Cross and his conflict with a corrupt Colonel Milosh Muhrlein. Hmm, internal empirical intrigue? How does the evil power of the universe police itself. By page 2 we meet his android, Inga, who has gathered up the intel that makes it clear the Colonel is GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY!
But the Colonel has been around the block and is prepared and we get a fight lasting 4 pages, and the investigator has outright killed the colonel. So – that’s how the evil empire polices itself! Of course this only causes more problems back at the Imperial Palace, because the Colonel was connected, family wise, and the depths of his illegal actions may be far deeper than originally suspected. The head of Imperial Intelligence is pissed at his agent’s recklessness, but has to agree with his logic.
By this point I am LOVING this comic. We get a glimpse of old empire workings from the inside. Even an understanding of the human-centric empire treats those humanoids that don’t quite look like them. Agent Cross is an evil James Bond in a way, maybe not evil – but certainly not good. He even has his own Q to turn to for gadgets and new developments. It is easy to get hooked.
Then – sigh – they had to do it – enter Han Solo and Chewy. Old friends at the “academy”, Han and Cross meet up while Han is in a scuffle with local – oh, who cares. The last pages of this book fall into the old pattern of weird dialogue, forced story-line to time-line moments, and just plain poor logic. It feels like someone pitched a great idea and someone higher up said “but how do we tie it to the movie?” Here’s a suggestion – don’t. You have a great character in Cross, a fun concept of watching the watchmen, a chance to peer into the inner workings of the empire, and we get another Han and Chewy blah blah blah instead.
I hope the rest of the five part series stays more with Cross and less with Solo, but I suspect the pattern will not be broken. If you love the Star Wars line, you should love this one. If you are thinking of taking a look, it is great introduction because it shows the franchise in comic book form at both its best and worst. Well on the way to a five star rating, then those last few pages took it down a peg.