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Comic Review: Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire: Iron Eclipse #1-2
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Agent Of The Empire - Iron EclipseStar Wars: Agent Of The Empire: Iron Eclipse #1-2
Written by John Ostrander
Pencils by Stéphane Roux
Inks by Julien Hugonnard-Bert
Colors by Wez Dzioba
Cover Art by Stéphane Roux
Dark Horse Comics
#1 Release Date: December 14, 2011
#2 Release Date: January 11, 2012
#1 Cover Price: $3.50
#2 Cover Price: $3.50

If Imperial Spy Jahan Cross has an operational number, I would not be surprised if it actually was 007. Because the character of “Cross, Jahan Cross…” is very much based upon James Bond, and as much has been said by Dark Horse about this central protagonist of the new Star Wars comic series, Agent Of The Empire.

Espionage storylines aren’t anything new in the realm of Star Wars. We’ve had many characters that have taken on the “spook” roles in the past, including fan favorite Mara Jade. However, I believe that with issues #1 and #2 of Agent Of The Empire, we have something quite different. While the Bond influences are obvious, explicit, and meticulous; I also detect hints of Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible here and there.

What is very different about Jahan Cross’ storyline is that it brings forth the glorious action of the Bond/Bourne/M:I espionage thrillers (both the tawdry and the exciting) into the fertile Star Wars universe. Being an agent for the Empire also makes it an intriguing concept as well… For decades, the Empire has been the dark and formidable group of “baddies” in the Star Wars galaxy; and this time, we find a protagonist working for them who is not evil in the slightest. Sure, he serves the Empire, but he is dependable, determined, and believes he is doing the right thing.

Agent Of The Empire opens very much like a typical James Bond film. We catch Cross in the middle of a mission, facing ridiculous odds, and manages to accomplish the impossible with the aid of some experimental spy gadget technology. He returns to base, briefs his superiors on what he’s learned, and moves to his next mission. Before doing so, he confers with some Imperial technicians for more of that experimental gadgetry I mentioned earlier.

Yes, Issue One of Agent Of The Empire is very similar to the beginning of a Bond thriller, with one major exception: we have a wonderful appearance by Han Solo and (his brand new companion, at that point in Star Wars history anyway) Chewbacca (who is sans bandolier aka naked). Solo and Cross quite literally bump into each other, and it’s learned at that point the pair have a history together. It’s hinted that we will see Solo and his new Wookiee chum again in this series.

While Issue #1 served as our “beginning of a James Bond movie set in the Star Wars universe,” Issue #2 is finally where we chomp down into the bantha steak of our narrative. In this chapter, Cross is investigating the remaining members of the Stark family. Long term Expanded Universe fans will recall The Stark Hyperspace War – this indeed is the same family, and yes, there are some considerable ties made to those prequel-era events that were unveiled in much earlier Dark Horse comics.

The James Bond motif continues in this issue also, with a fun chase sequence, the mandatory formal dinner/party event with our main character in what passes for a tuxedo in the Star Wars universe, and some kinky sexy time. Yes, folks, you read that right – although there is no explicit nudity (meaning, some nudity without the dangly bits showing), and no actual “sex scenes,” there is a sequence implying that Cross is indeed as lucky with the ladies as Bond is.

Except I don’t think Bond has ever shagged a Twi’lek.

I can just imagine the possibilities opening up for those “Internet Rule 34” artists out there. They know who they are!! “Yeah, baby!”

Iron EclipseSo far, across the first two issues of Agent Of The Empire, the writing is solid and captures your attention. The Bond template, however, while a lot of fun, is a bit of a detraction overall in these issues, but I get the feeling that this is purposely setting up for some innovative and interesting storytelling both later in this series and also further along in the inevitable second series. John Ostrander, the writer, however, has proven himself as a dependable writer among Star Wars fans (he was behind the entire Star Wars Legacy comic series), so I have faith in the direction he is taking us on for this ride.

The characterizations, both through art and writing, are also of good quality. The familiar character of Armand Isard (head of Imperial Intelligence) makes an appearance, and it is interesting to see him as “the boss” or “the old man” as opposed to the ruthless manipulator he’s previously been shown as in other Star Wars media. Cross’ HRD droid, IN-GA 44 (or Inga, for short) is also attention-grabbing, though not much has been explored of her yet to make out any depth.

Cross himself is still somewhat of the mystery action man. I can totally see the relevant Bond and Bourne archetypes in there, but I imagine we still have much to learn about our protagonist. There are several hints in both issues as to his history and background and motivations, which are cleverly inserted so that we can keep guessing about our main dude.

The artwork for Agent Of The Empire, so far, is quite good. Stéphane Roux brings convincing characterization across, with the help of Julien Hugonnard-Bert and Wez Dzioba, but I am detecting some emphasis being made with the colors here. As an Imperial, Cross’ outfit should (ordinarily) be the dark grey we have seen in the movies. As frames progress, we see it in different color shades, notably an earthly beige. I am thinking that the artists are working closely with Ostrander’s intended storyline and that this may give us a pointer as to the direction he is taking this character.

Admittedly, I had my doubts about Agent Of The Empire. The concept of a James Bond meets Star Wars in comic book form sounds worse than Moonraker. Sorry, Roger Moore, but that film does indeed suck.

However, Ostrander, again, has surprised us with a wonderfully fresh and different take on the Star Wars galaxy – this time from a character whose perspective is NOT influenced by light side or dark side, good guys or bad guys, but by his own perception of duty and his own concept of what is right. It’s refreshing, and damn it, I want more”¦

…especially if we get more of that Twi’lek type of scene…

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

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