Set shortly before “A New Hope,” it’s James Bond meets Star Wars and it’s pretty good.

REVIEW: “Star Wars: Agent of the Empire — Hard Targets” #1 — Click to read entire review

“The first ‘Star Wars’ trilogy is the most difficult time period to write original stories without retreading what’s already been done, but in ‘Star Wars: Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets’ #1, writer John Ostrander and artist Davide Fabbri present a slick, cool and strangely likable character in Jahan Cross of Imperial Intelligence.

Cross is the Empire’s James Bond, and this story takes place shortly before the events of ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’ on the peaceful planet of Alderaan. Star Wars expanded universe fans will recognize numerous cameo appearances including Ysanne Isard, the hardened female Imperial leader from the ‘Rogue Squadron’ novels, a younger Princess Leia and the most infamous bounty hunter in the galaxy, Boba Fett. With these characters and others, Ostrander has utilized established Expanded Universe lore and riffs off it, while at the same time presenting an original character readers can latch on to in Cross.”

After being absent from the previous issue, lead character Cade Skywalker and his crew return to the pages of Star Wars Legacy. As expected, the issue didn’t disappoint.

Note: This series takes place 137 years after the Battle of Yavin.

Brief plot synopsis:

After being betrayed to the Sith by a former crew member, an alien named Rav, Cade Skywalker and his squad of pirates seek some payback. They find Rav at his Golded Gorg Cantina and force him to swear an oath of loyalty to Cade, which he squeamishly does. Unknown to Skywalker, Rav has plans of his own, as he is spying on his old friend for a more sinister employer who is Sith in nature. To complicate things, a mysterious figure has been stalking Cade and his crew, keeping tabs on their every move…

Some thoughts on the issue:

-John Ostrander’s writing is on par with what we have come to expect with this series. He makes an effort to prevent secondary plots and characters from being forgotten by readers as they get a page or two in the issue, and the lightsaber wielding Imperial Knights are the first to come to mind. I find their story intriguing as they are neither Jedi nor Sith but still posses Force powers. I look forward to reading where Ostrander goes with the Imperial Knights, considering their Force allegiance is interestingly colored grey at best.

-Jan Duursema revives her role as Legacy artist in this issue, bringing a more definitive style that is less cartoony than Alan Robinson’s art in Legacy #22. She captures facial expression very well, and her battle scenes are clear and complete with mayhem and disjointed limbs.

-Inker Dan Parsons smooth lines and solid facial definition don’t go unnoticed, and colorer Brad Anderson’s lightsaber trails look totally cool.

-Just when I was about to knock the high number of Star Wars slang terms in this issue (while cool, they can be jarring at times as everyone may not know what a ‘Manky Gornt’ is), I read the letters page and discovered a pleasant surprise. In every future letters column of the series Assistant Editor, Freddye Lins, has added a ‘Huttese Glossary.’ This glossary defines the Star Wars slang terms used in each issue. How great is that? All comic books should have letter columns.

-Some one liners:

“Mind the helm. I’m going to go talk it out with Blue. (I hate talking).” – Cade Skywalker

“Hey Artoo– Go tell Syn that he wants you.” – Cade Skywalker

“Hey, why can’t you fly the ship?! I want to impress Ahnah with my big gun!” – Jariah Syn

-Remember that 1996 book, Shadows of the Empire? Well, the mafia-esque gang, Black Sun, has survived into the Legacy era and makes an appearance in this issue.

-Speaking of survival, I am convinced that R2-D2 is indestructible as he makes an appearance under the ownership of Cade Skywalker. R2’s constant presence throughout the ages parallels that of the characters in the Vertigo series, Fables. This is to say that R2-D2 can never cease to exist as long as normal people love his character enough. I’ve faced the music; this mystical boon is clearly attributed to R2 as he never seems to go away…

The final word:

Star Wars Legacy remains at the top of my list of Star Wars titles. It’s an energized, original story about the Star Wars universe as we don’t know it.

3/5 stars

Star Wars Legacy #23

Picture Luke blowing up the Death Star.

Now fast forward 137 years and you have entered the world and of Star Wars Legacy. The series portrays a time where the movie characters are long dead, the Republic has been overthrown by the Empire, whose power was subsequently usurped by the Sith.

Typically this series features Luke’s descendant, Cade Skywalker. However, Cade and his small band of pirtes take a back seat as the supporting cast gets some face time in this action packed issue!

Brief synopsis:

The scene is the watery planet of Dac, and the action starts immediately as Emperor Darth Krayt and his Sith minions commence genocide on the native species of the planet, the Mon Calamari. Meanwhile, the Admiral of the rag tag Galactic Alliance fleet, a Duros named Gar Stazi, can only watch his holoprojector as the Mon Calamari massacare is broadcast throughout the galaxy. Useless to the fish-like aliens due to a lack of man power, Admiaral Stazi also lacks any significant fire power since the Imperious, a stolen Super (Duper) Star Destoryer of the Sith, has yet to get its weapons systems online…

Back on Dac, Mon Calamari and Rogue Squadron member, Monia Gahan, is trying desperately to escape the Sith genocide and return to her fleet. She is unexpectedly aided by two Imperial Knights, whose loyalties were sworn to the Empire before the Sith seized power. The Knights give Gahan distressing information about the Imperious that needs to reach Admiral Stazi posthaste in order to prevent an impending disaster…

And so, the race begins!

Some thoughts on the issue:

-Writer John Ostrander delivers in this title. Of all the Star Wars books, Legacy is by far the darkest, most interesting, and best written as its subject matter is uncharted territory. In the other Star Wars titles, the settings are familiar, and the characters, while interesting, don’t live up to their movie predecessors. But in Legacy the galaxy is Ostrander’s canvas, and the characters he creates are unique and engaging.

-Alan Robinson’s style of art contributes to this books success. He draws bizarre creatures very well, which is a must in a Star Wars title, and the main characters are easily discerned from the masses. Robinson’s battle scenes look great and have more violence to them than Star Wars fans may be accustomed to. I say this because the action doesn’t slow down in this issue as Stormtroopers lose heads, Imperial Officers get split in two, and Mon Calamari get fried. Personally, I appreciate the bloodlust as it sets the tone for the book, and the series. Anything less would be lame and expected.

-Some one liners:

“The Mon Calamari will have time to suffer and reflect on their crimes until all are extinct. I will purge the galaxy of their culture and history. Such will be the fate of all who oppose the Sith” – Darth Krayt

“We are Imperial Knights. We do our duty by the Emperor and the Force- No matter the cost. That is the difference between you and me.” – Sigel Dare

-Get this. In the back of the comic, there’s a letters page! How awesome!

-If you’re the type of person who can’t enjoy a Star Wars book without a lightsaber cutting something, this issue will satisfy your tastes as Sith Lords slice and dice Mon Calamari, then mix it up with Imperial Knights.

The final word:

Star Wars Legacy is easily my favorite Star Wars comic, as the stories are fresh and the characters worth investing in. I almost didn’t notice that the series’ main character, Cade Skywalker, appears in zero panels and is never mentioned in this issue. When the lead guy doesn’t show, and the issue still holds its own and then some, it’s obvious that the Force is with Legacy!

4/5 stars

Star Wars Legacy #22