Friday, November 2, 2012

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse review

    James Bond in Star Wars.

    It's such a wonderful premise, I wish we'd seen it before. We've had loyalist Imperials before. Soontir Fel, Gilad Pellaeon, Maarek Stele, Kir Kanos, and Janek Sunber are some of my favorite characters. However, there's always a nice undercurrent to the storyline that these individuals are struggling against the tide. No matter how honorable and noble a person may be, none of that means anything if your cause is rotten.

     Our protagonist is Jahan Cross, a member of Imperial Intelligence who has all the suaveness of James Bond but a bit more professionalism. He also occasionally cracks a smile at something other than the death of a henchmen. I don't know if the idea for an Imperial Agent protagonist came before or after the Old Republic announced their use of a similar character but I suspect it's just natural parallel development. After all, who would be the best employer for a spy in the galaxy but Imperial Intelligence?

    Jahan Cross is a nice balance of idealism in the Empire's purpose and cynicism about the universe. Alderaan has yet to be destroyed and the Jedi Knights were mysterious enough that you could believe they weren't the heroes they were. It was a gusty move by the writers to have Jahan badmouth the Jedi Knights yet it invokes pity more than derision. Jahan is yet another dupe of Darth Sidious and all of his efforts to protect the people of the galaxy are only keeping Darth Sidious in power longer.

    Iron Eclipse is a mini-series chronicling Jahan Cross investigating a smuggling ring which turns out to be so-much more. There are numerous nods to Sean Connery's James Bond with Jahan Cross employing techniques ranging from starfighter piloting, seduction, sharpshooting, seduction, intimidation, and seduction to win the day. Okay, not that much seduction but it's interesting to see the ease with which Jahan persuades attractive women to fall under his spell.

    Human or alien.

    The miniseries takes place in the Corporate Sector, a lesser known part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe that is one of the two places in the galaxy which can be considered a foreign country to the Galactic Empire (the other being Hutt Space). Jahan Cross is continually stymied by the fact the Empire's reach isn't nearly as far as it normally is for him. We also get some nice tie-ins to the Clone Wars era with explanations as to what happened to a number of the corporate bodies which followed Count Dooku into war.

    My favorite part of the story is the revival of a character I liked from the Old Republic period: Iaco Stark. Iaco Stark was a sleazy corporate raider who managed, through a variety of genre savvy methods, to nearly defeat the entire Prequel-era Old Republic. Unlike most villains in Star Wars, he managed to escape and live to tell the tale. This story shows what happened to him and I confess a certain level of disappointment. The Iaco of the Stark Hyperspace War would have eaten the bad guys of this story for breakfast.

     The art is gorgeous with the period-piece in space feel of 1960s spy culture making the covers exceptionally lovely. Also, despite my complaints regarding Iaco Stark, the story is enjoyably serious with the villains having a suitably grandiose plot. I even liked the token love-interest of the story, Faabri, who proves herself more capable than she absolutely had to be. In short, this is an excellent Star Wars story and I hope Dark Horse continues to make them.


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