Comic Review: Star Wars: Crimson Empire III – Empire Lost #1

Star Wars: Crimson Empire III-Empire Lost #1
Written by Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley
Pencils by Paul Gulacy
Colors by Michael Bartolo
Cover Art by Dave Dorman
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: October 26, 2011
Cover Price: $3.50

Being a Star Wars geek, the 1990s were a great time to be an Expanded Universe enthusiast. George Lucas had opened the gates to authors, writers, artists, and video game designers to assist in developing the canvas of the Star Wars saga beyond the span of the movies. There are several highlights from those years, and one of the titles that stand out from that time was the Crimson Empire comic book series.

Dark Horse Comics had taken a solid hold on the comic book front as far as Star Wars was concerned, and many fans believed that FINALLY the galaxy far, far away was at long last being treated with the serious outlook it deserved. While the novels paved forth a road for Luke Skywalker to resurrect the line of the Jedi Order, the comics complemented this, and in some cases, expanded past it.

Crimson Empire, for some reason, stood out beyond this. It was a completely original concept – focusing in on the remnants of the Royal Imperial Guard – and avoiding too much of a correlation with the Skywalker/Solo clans; which was refreshing for its time. The series concluded with Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood and clues were given that a third series would be on the way. That was back in 1999.

Now, 12 years later, Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley, and Paul Gulacy reunite to conclude the tale they began – along with the continued tradition of Dave Dorman‘s absolutely brilliant cover artwork.

The premise of the Crimson Empire trilogy follows the Imperial Royal Guard known as Kir Kanos. In the series, we learn that some of the Royal Guardsmen are Force-sensitive; a prerequisite instituted by Darth Sidious to keep a close eye and control over potential Force warriors – to control them, rather than allow them become potential threats against the Empire.

The Imperial Royal Guardsmen were elite combatants who swore total loyalty to Palpatine. While the Empire falls in their combat against the Rebellion, we learn that another battle is taking place among the ranks of the Royal Guard, which leads to the elimination of all Guardsmen except Kir Kanos. The scale of Crimson Empire follows Kanos’ path, as he tries to find his way in a galaxy that has no need of an Empire any more – at least not an Empire with loyalty to Palpatine.

Crimson Empire III begins thirteen years after the Battle of Yavin. Two years following the events of CE2, Kanos maintains living in anonymous obscurity as a bounty hunter to make a living on remote dirt bag planets. His mission still remains: to seek revenge on those who caused the death of the Emperor, but clearly, things have been demanding for the ex-Guardsman.

With over a decade since having worked in the Crimson Empire storyline, Richardson and Stradley have clearly decided to bring in aspects of the Star Wars movies and Expanded Universe that have come out since the last release. In the context of the story, there are numerous references that touch on incidents from the novels (though no back story knowledge is necessary; they are just nice little Easter eggs for hardcore fans); including elements from the Tom Veitch Dark Empire series.

It may have been tempting to overload the comic with elements from the Prequel Trilogy (aliens, ships, planets, and so on); thankfully those bits-and-pieces that show up are minor. In fact, the creative team behind the scenes of Crimson Empire III has made a sterling effort to tie the “feel” of the first two stories into this concluding adventure, without overburdening the ambience of the medium with too much updated comic trends or overwhelming the reader with unnecessary Prequel-Era scenery. Gungan haters can breathe a sigh of relief.

Clearly, from the get-go, Crimson Empire III is leading to some climactic moments. While the first two chapters avoided too many aspects of the Skywalker/Solo storyline; this time they are a significant part of the plot. Chief Of State Leia Organa-Solo appears, as do her kids; and Luke Skywalker makes his appearance in a training session of Jedi apprentices on Yavin IV. Surprisingly, Boba Fett also makes the dramatis personae of this adventure; but even more surprising to me was the reappearance of a highly unlikely character – Vima-Da-Boda from the Dark Empire series.

With this first issue, the writers are clearly in the stage of “setting-the-scene” and placing the characters in the places they need to be. While these chapters of storylines are usually the least exciting, Richardson and Stradley do a remarkable job at heightening the expectation of things to come. Finally, after all these years, Kir Kanos will come face-to-face with Luke Skywalker; and it will be interesting to see what the outcome will be.

Bringing back Paul Gulacy as penciller for this series was obligatory in my mind. In fact, I think if Dark Horse had gone with any other artist, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to this series at all. Gulacy’s art work in the Crimson Empire series is as significant as the characters themselves; moreover it helps to define the characters. The manner in which he shapes Kanos in the series is important, and I could never imagine another artist trying this.

The coloring by Michael Bartolo is worth mentioning too. While it maintains the palette of the initial series, there’s something very striking about this series’ coloring compared to the original two. The scenes of Yavin IV capture unseen essences of the locale, while the familiar Coruscant scenes remain consistent with the imagery we have seen of it previously. I am sure there is some deliberate reasoning behind this approach that reflects elements of plot, that we will see more of as the story progresses.

Also, Dave Dorman’s cover artwork is, as always, brilliant and captivating.

Generally, I had very high expectations for Crimson Empire III; and while it’s hard to say at this point whether these expectations have been met, the first issue is an excellent step in the right direction. This first issue is a must-read for Crimson Empire fans; and I highly recommend it to new fans to the Expanded Universe, as it will serve as a nice intro to the former two chapters.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

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