What They Say:
Star Wars: Crimson Empire, the story of the last Imperial Guardsman, returns after over a decade of anticipation! The reach of the New Republic is expanding, but the days of fighting for the galaxy have not ended. A threat against Princess Leia and Han Solo’s family disrupts usual business on Coruscant-and Luke Skywalker’s Jedi training on Yavin 4! In another part of the galaxy, a former Imperial Guardsman turned bounty hunter, Kir Kanos, is ready to settle an old score after three years in hiding-if a new adversary doesn’t kill him first!
With Star Wars as the defining moment for me in my childhood when it came to science fiction, space opera and entertainment in general, I’ve spent a long, long time reading about that world. At least until everyone and their brother jumped on the bandwagon and there were series upon series. After the drought of the 80’s and early 90’s, the deluge was enough to push me away. My sampling was essentially the first sanctioned novel trilogy and the Crimson Empire comic series that was lush, beautiful and breathtaking when it first came out. And that was just the covers. I’ve stayed out of Star Wars fandom for the most part ever since, and I even missed out on Crimson Empire II because of it. But when the first issue of the third storyline, the one to close it out, ended up in my hands I couldn’t pass it up. Seeing Mike Richardson’s name there with artwork by Paul Gulacy? That’s a temptation far, far too high.
Star Wars: Crimson Empire III does acknowledge it’s been some time since the previous round and they’re smart enough to provide a single page recap to set the stage well enough, where we also learn that it’s been thirteen years since the defeat of the Empire and several years since the death of the last clone that Palpatine had created. But with the vastness of the Empire and the long ranging plans of said Emperor, it’s little surprise that there are things still underway. The story focuses on the last of the Imperial Guards, a man known as Kir Kanos who has been killing time, almost literally, but working as a bounty hunter under an assumed name. We get a look at his post-mission time on some backwater world where he’s collected his fee but there are those trying to take him down. But even that’s just a cover in a way as there are other forces that want to bring him elsewhere, lead by Boba Fett, which in turn feels like the entire bounty hunter scene on board the Imperial ship from Empire Strikes Back. Continuity nods like that are, admittedly, geeky fun.
While we start to get a look at what’s going on in this little known part of the galaxy, and it does make clear that those long range plans are about to be realized, we also get some solid focus on events with in the New Republic. And it does offer a bit of a lighter tone as well. With Princess Leia serving as the Chief of State and her husband off on a mission elsewhere dealing with putting down another enemy, we see her interacting with other emissaries and the difficulties of it all that are made worse by her kids sneaking into the chamber and distracting the heck out of her. It’s light, cute but also brings in a different tone along the way as she learns that her very capable head of security, Mirith, wants to resign as she knows she’s not the right person to deal with Kanos. Even though he’s been under the radar for awhile, she knows it’ll come around again and wants to get the right person into play.
There’s also a tangent involving Luke as we see him back on Yavin 4 going through training with a couple of young apprentices. It’s welcome to again see him calm, finding his role in things and providing an echo of what he was taught as well by Yoda back on Dagobah. There’s a good deal of material about all the characters that is considered canon over the years, and they make allusions to some of the friendships and things he’s been through, but mostly there’s just an element here from a friend he’s met in his travels that’s arrived here, giving him the small omens of what’s to come in order to connect him to the larger storyline. It’s not a firm connection at this point, but you know he’ll be a big part of it so it’s easy to slide on this aspect a bit.
With as much history as there is here, and the time between installments, getting into Crimson Empire again can definitely be a challenge. But with what came before, there’s likely to be some solid payoff to it in the least as it progresses, and I liked getting back in touch with this particular characters again. Richardson spends a lot of time writing about Kir Kanos here, as well he should since he’s the catalyst for things, and it works well to bring us up to speed on him. We also get some general state of the New Republic material, some cute family stuff and the overall big picture idea of what the new threat to the Republic will be. It’s straightforward here for the most part, but it does it as it should and needs to. And it’s all very, very appealing with Paul Gulacy’s artwork. There’s some great details to the backgrounds here, the right kind of look for the characters and the smooth adaptation of known figures in a way that doesn’t distort them or make them hard to figure out while not directly aping them. I really loved his work on Leia and her outfit in particular, but I also got into his sort of old west backwater material for where we first catch up with Kanos. It’s a solid issue that should draw both old and newer readers in and hopefully draw attention to those two previous series once more as well.