It could be argued that comics are the most fertile ground for Star Wars storytelling that we have left. Yes, it’s still happening in novels, and in TV and in video games, and all of those are valid avenues with the potential for great work, but comics are something else entirely. With Agent of the Empire, Dark Horse Comics is hoping to reignite the fan fervor for great comic stories from the Star Wars universe. And after reading the first issue, I can tell you that they’re well on their way.
Set three years before the Battle of Yavin (which is at the end of Episode IV, for those of you keeping up with the timeline), Agent of the Empire follows the exploits of Jahan Cross: diplomat, spy and intergalactic man of mystery. When we first meet him he’s shaking down an Imperial officer for taking bribes with the help of a sleek (sexy if you’re into the robot thing) droid named INGA. He’s got that whole “Cop on the Edge Who Plays By No One’s Rules” thing going on, but couched in the middle of an old-school Star Wars atmosphere evoked flawlessly by the art of Stephane Roux. The Imperial uniforms we remember from the first films are here, as are the ships and the general feel of the thing. You get the sense that Luke and Leia and the gang are about to burst on the scene because, well, they are.
But back to Cross. He’s smooth, he’s tough and he’s out for blood, specifically the blood of dealers in the Corporate Sector, a nest of rich vipers that operates outside Imperial authority. This setup is cool enough on its own, but add in the James Bondesque fact that Cross has not one, but two gadget experts to help him out before his mission, plus a cameo by a young man named Han Solo (who went to the Imperial Academy with Cross), and you’ve got the beginnings of a story that could become flat-out addictive. There are so many places to go here, so many corners of never-before-seen Imperial power to explore, that this series is bursting with possibility.
Writer John Ostrander has produced a pitch perfect introduction to a new realm of the Star Wars universe here, punctuated with action and humor and all the things that make this franchise great. Agent of the Empire means that Star Wars comics are back in full force, and if you’ve been longing for a great story in this canon to remind you of the glory days, you may have just found it.