As discussed previously, I’m back with the Star Wars comics for a short while, and have been reading through the Crimson Empire saga. The first arc in this series really helped to define the entire medium of Star Wars comics for me back in the day, and will forever remain one of the best examples in the entire genre. The second, Council of Blood, is a good story that could have benefited from some extra pages to help with the flow. The third, Empire Lost, is a fairly recent release that I have finally gotten round to reading this week, and is the subject of today’s blog!
Empire Lost has had something of a troubled genesis. Released in 2011-12, the original storyline was intended for a 2001 release, set within the time period of the New Jedi Order and featuring a climactic duel between Luke Skywalker and Kir Kanos, which had been Randy Stradley’s original story kernel back when he was writing for Marvel comics. Following the release of Vector Prime in 1999, and the direction Del Rey took the Star Wars universe – and, perhaps crucially, the direction they took Nom Anor – any further Crimson Empire story was shelved, though the 2000 short comic Hard Currency was published, more as a postlude to CE2 than anything else. Despite rumours in 2008 that the story was again in development, it wasn’t officially announced until 2010, with the first issue appearing in October the following year.
A short, eight-page prequel was released in April 2011 called The Third Time Pays for All, and serves to help us catch up with where the characters will be in the story. Mirith Sinn is back with the New Republic, serving as now-Chief of State Leia’s head of security, while Kir Kanos is still grubbing around as the bounty hunter Kenix Kil in an effort to raise the money he will need to finance his vendetta against Skywalker.
The actual story of CE3 is really very good. The character progression of Kir Kanos over the entire saga is something that I have really enjoyed, and this story certainly doesn’t disappoint. There is a lot going on, and more than either of its predecessors, Empire Lost ties itself firmly into the EU, with appearances by Leia, Han, Luke, even Admiral Pellaeon makes his comics debut! (Not counting the Thrawn trilogy adaptations, naturally).
The story feels almost James Bond-like, with Kanos abducted by a renegade Imperial group intent on restoring the glory of Palpatine’s Empire. Their leader, Ennix Devian, definitely feels like a Bond villain, and his audacious plan to attack both the heart of the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant feels like something such a chap would concoct. Kanos escapes to warn the New Republic, specifically Mirith Sinn, before the two head off to begin negotiations with Pellaeon and Feena D’Asta for a peace accord between the Empire and the Republic. The meeting is sabotaged by Devian, and D’Asta is killed. Sinn and Kanos head for the D’Astan Sector with Feena’s body, and enter an alliance with her aged father against Devian. As Devian attempts to kidnap Pellaeon, Sinn and Kanos intervene with Baron D’Asta’s help, and Kanos and Devian duel to the death – Kanos defeats the “thug” Devian, though is wounded in the shoulder. Sinn resigns from the New Republic, while unbeknownst to her, Kanos survived the duel and is helped by Baron D’Asta to move on from the Empire.
Gratuitous Boba Fett appearance aside, this story is a solid one, and a worthy conclusion to the series. Perhaps more than CE2 was to CE1, this one feels very much like a continuation of the tale, with a lot of references to the second book. I greatly appreciated the way the comic integrates itself with the larger EU, as well – it is set following the novel Planet of Twilight, and for me, it is a much more interesting and enjoyable story than the novel that follows it up, The Crystal Star.
I was quite surprised at how much this story feels like a New Republic story, as well. Long-time Star Wars readers will hopefully know what I’m talking about here, but there is a very definite ‘feel’ to the Star Wars stories of the 1990s, the constant battles with the Empire, the eternal kidnapping attempts on Leia’s children, etc etc. There is a sequence early in this story where yet another kidnap attempt is made, and rather than rolling my eyes at the thousandth iteration of this trope, instead I felt like I was once again reading these pre-Prequels stories with that sense of swashbuckling heroism that the Bantam era managed to put across so well. Despite being a “new” story, CE3 feels like a synthesis of the old in a true throwback style. Excellent stuff!
I really enjoyed the idea of the Restored Empire, which has a long history that feels entirely natural and not at all contrived. While the novel Darksaber shows a sort of unification of the Imperial remnants under Daala (who passes on the leadership to Pellaeon at the end of that novel), it feels entirely plausible that not absolutely every remnant would have been gathered up in that way. Ennix Devian is quite the interesting character, as well – if circumstances had been different, I would have liked to have seen more of him in the Empire era. It strikes me that CE2 was missing a strong central villain – by having Nom Anor too shadowy, while the Ruling Council being too distilled to actually be the nemesis of the story, it seemed to fall short, while CE1 had the excellent Carnor Jax, and CE3 provides the intriguing ‘Kaarenth Impaler’, Devian. Hopefully Marvel and the ‘new continuity’ won’t overlook him in the future!
Something that initially troubled me was the idea of Pellaeon’s peace accord with the New Republic, which he doesn’t reveal in the novels until Specter of the Past, which is set six years after CE3. Initially I was left wondering why it would take so long for the Imperial Remnant to broach the subject of peace again, but then, Pellaeon and the Imperial Remnant don’t actually appear in any of the intervening stories. That itself, however, then raised the issue for me – just what are they doing while the New Republic deals with the Yevetha, Kueller, and the Sacorrian Triad? Again, had circumstances been different, that would have been an interesting time to explore.
All in all, it’s a really good book, and I can highly recommend it to any fan of Star Wars. The entire Crimson Empire saga is definitely one of the high points of Star Wars comics, and despite the slight dip in the middle, this third installment is a really great conclusion.