Top 10 Star Wars Comics!

Hey everybody!

I’ve been playing with movies again! At the weekend, I cobbled up a video running down my favourite 10 Star Wars comics from Dark Horse, since it’s a topic that’s been coming up a lot throughout this blog. So I thought you might like you see it!

First of all, this list was hard to put together. There are a lot of awesome comics from Dark Horse; trying to whittle the corpus down to just ten was super difficult.

10. Dark Lords of the Sith
I’ve talked about the Tales of the Jedi series here. Dark Lords of the Sith is, for me, such a good story because it’s the first in this series that feels comfortable in its surroundings. It introduces Exar Kun, who is a tremendously great character, but continues the tale of Ulic Qel-Droma begun in Knights of the Old Republic. It was very difficult to decide between this and The Sith War – or, y’know, to have a joint entry, especially seeing as how they’re very closely related, and could legitimately be grouped as such. But DLS has that special place for me simply because, as I said, it feels more natural, and not quite so bogged-down in scene-setting.

9. The Wrong Side of the War
The final story arc in the Empire run, I loved this tale when I first read it because it told a really awesome story. After building up Janek Sunbar in To the Last Man, which just felt like another Empire story (albeit a really enjoyable one), everything seems to coalesce in this story to make it one that feels like a real “timeline” story, like it has actual meaning for the characters. It also brings together a number of characters from the Empire run into something like a cohesive story, and links strongly to the Jabiim storyline from In the Shadows of their Fathers, an excellent story that sadly just missed out on making this list! In a sense, it also feels like it needs My Brother, My Enemy as a kind of coda for the story, but overall, I feel it’s worthy of standing on its own.

8. Claws of the Dragon
It was hard to decide which Legacy story to include, as I read these comics all in one go, thus it feels like one long story to me. However, Claws of the Dragon has a similar feel to DLS, where the scene has been set, and we’ve had all of the foreplay in a sense, so we’re now into the real meat of the series. All of the main characters we’ve seen so far have important roles, and of course, who can forget that shocking reveal! Exceptional storytelling.

7. Darklighter
One of the best, and indeed, if I was ranking these things purely on the storytelling and not on their sentimental/personal effect for me, it would have ended up much higher. Darklighter weaves the tale of Biggs prior to his death in the trench run, and he emerges as one of the most compelling characters of the entire saga. This comic uses a lot of the cut scenes from A New Hope that featured Biggs and Luke, so it’s pretty amazing to actually have that side of things too.

6. Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand
This was one of the first Star Wars comics I read, and I was tremendously impressed with it. We follow Mara Jade immediately following the fall of the Emperor, as she tries to put her life back together. It shows awesome development of the character, and while a lot of the Mara Jade stories tend to be almost irrelevant in terms of the overall timeline, this turns out to be really very enjoyable.

5. The Last Siege, the Final Truth
So #5 and #4 are examples of essentially a two-volume entry that really do deserve to stand on their own. I love the Quinlan Vos storyline, and used to regularly re-read it from Republic through the Clone Wars, and could quite happily have included almost every entry in this top ten. However, the Siege of Saleucami really deserves to be singled out for greatness itself. For long-time readers of the Republic and Clone Wars stories, this tale has a lot to offer, as we see a lot of the “stable” of characters from throughout that series come together, almost as one last hurrah. Particularly important here, however, is the inclusion of the two-part Trackdown story, where we learn about Tholme training with Anzati assassins very much in a samurai-esque fashion, which speaks highly to the meta-origins of the franchise. Stunning artwork abounds – including Oppo Rancisis unleashed! Whoa!

4. Light and Dark
This entry is really a place-holder for the entire Quinlan Vos storyline, which began in Twilight and ran all the way through the Republic series. It’s pretty much top-notch storytelling, and I’m planning to do a blog showcasing just why I love it so much at some point. However, Light and Dark features four standalone stories that come together into a beautiful tale of Quinlan’s career during the Clone Wars. As a big Count Dooku fan, I particularly like seeing the Sith Lord’s manipulations during his eponymous Jedi: Dooku story (as well as all those Ishi Tib!). If you only ever read one story from the Clone Wars run, however, it ought to be this one.

3. Betrayal
My top three were, in one sense, no-brainers, but as I said earlier, this was also a really tough decision to make, given the high quality of Dark Horse comics over the years. The highest-placed of the three Empire entries is Betrayal, the inaugural arc of that series. I can still remember the sense of unadulterated joy the announcement of this comic stirred for me, as we were promised a different look at the Empire, stories set within the corridors of power rather than purely from the rebels’ point of view. Betrayal introduced Grand Moff Trachta, and features a web of deceit and, indeed, betrayal so dense that it takes a couple of read-throughs to really see the beauty of it. Highly recommended to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen!

2. The Path to Nowhere
If you’ve read my recent ramblings about the Dark Times series, you’ll know how highly I rated this comic. It’s a really beautifully-told story, one that interweaves the lives of Vader and the Emperor with the rogue Jedi Dass Jennir and the rag-tag crew of the Uhumele. There’s a real sense of the quest as the good guys try to find Bomo Greenbark’s missing family, with truly horrible results, and while this comic is actually incredibly bleak and grim, it’s nevertheless so wonderfully constructed that you can enjoy it as a piece of art. Truly amazing work, this.

1. Crimson Empire
Should be no surprise about the top spot, if you read this blog from last year. This was the very first Star Wars comic I read, and introduced me to the medium along with a whole cast of awesome characters, headlined by Carnor Jax and Kir Kanos. Some amazing artwork, and a storyline that is utterly compelling, all the more so because it doesn’t feature any of the big movie characters, this tale should be on everybody’s shelf. It’s as simple as that!

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So there you have it, guys, my top ten! I’m sure I could probably augment this, adding in some more around the Legacy and the Quinlan Vos stories, as I predominantly view these things as storylines and don’t break them down into individual arcs. I enjoyed this look through the comics, anyway, and I think I might soon do something for the novels, as well!

What are your thoughts? Do you approve? Are you surprised there were no X-Wing/Knights of the Old Republic/Original Marvel stories in there? Are you scandalised I didn’t pick Dark Empire for my #1 slot? Let me know what you think!

Buy them from amazon:
Dark Lords of the Sith
The Wrong Side of the War
Claws of the Dragon
Darklighter
Mara Jade: By the Emperor’s Hand
The Last Siege, the FInal Truth
Light and Dark
Betrayal
The Path to Nowhere
Crimson Empire

Empire Lost

Hey everybody!
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!

Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost

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).

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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.

Council of Blood

Hey everyone,
Following the recent few weeks reading Eddings, I’ve returned to my Star Wars reading for a while, and Crimson Empire. I’ve already talked about the first arc in this trilogy at some length, of course, so want to follow that up with some shorter blogs about the other two. Today, then, I present to you: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood!

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Published in 1998-9 as a direct follow-up to the first, we see Kir Kanos continue on his vendetta against the Imperial Ruling Council for their part in the overthrow of the resurrected Emperor. After his defeat of the wannabe Emperor Carnor Jax, Kanos assumed the role of the bounty hunter Kenix Kil to help him move around the galaxy while there is a bounty on his head. Kanos takes jobs for the Hutt, Grappa, while also eliminating members of the Ruling Council.

Crimson Empire II is much more of a political thriller than the first installment. That is to say, it tries to be more of a political thriller. The goings-on of the Ruling Council, as they are whittled down by Kanos in disguise, try to convey the chaos of the wake of Carnor Jax’s death. However, I’ve read it twice now, and it still feels a bit too muddled and such. Once the main story gets going, what feels like a completely unnecessary further plot twist is added that only really serves to confuse the issue, rather than adding another of layer or somesuch.

The Ruling Council is an interesting idea that wasn’t really developed in the first arc, but here is treated like we should all know what it is. Hm. More, there are aliens on the Council – including a Devaronian and a Whiphid – which seems highly incongruous and is not really that satisfactorily explained. However, it is an interesting idea, and I did enjoy seeing it all.

We also get Mirith Sinn again, who is trying to track down Kanos by using the resources of Grappa the Hutt’s organisation. Not entirely sure why, considering she’s a New Republic official, so could surely have stayed where she was? Hm.

The comic introduced Nom Anor, a mysterious cloaked figure who is pulling the strings of the would-be Emperor, Xandel Carivus. Originally, it was intended that this storyline would lead into a crossover storyline between Dark Horse Comics and Bantam Spectra that dealt with the invasion of the known galaxy by a group of Dark-Side Force users who, it was intended, would have been the ancestors of the original Sith. Bantam lost the novel licence to Del Rey, who went with the invasion story but took it in a whole new direction. Nom Anor, however, was kept on as the herald of the invaders, taking on a whole new persona when he returned in 1999’s Vector Prime.

Overall, I like this story, but feel like it could have done with perhaps an extra comic to help smooth the story over. It’s still good, but it doesn’t really come up to the quality of the first one. Definitely worth a look, however!

Crimson Empire

Hey folks! After what has been a very exciting week for the heritage hunter within me, I’m reverting to type now for the more geeky side of life – now that I’m not spending most of my time behind the wheel of my car! As I’ve mentioned numerous times since I started doing these blogs, I’ve been re-reading the Star Wars fiction from the time of the classic trilogy onwards, and have now gotten to eleven years after A New Hope, and one of my all-time favourite graphic novels: Crimson Empire!

Crimson Empire

You may recall, of course, that Crimson Empire was the first graphic novel I read? Well, if you don’t, shame on you! Go back and read my blogs! Ahem. Anyway, back in the good old, pre-prequel days, I came across this book and it really just blew me away. It tells the tale of two former guardsmen from the Imperial Royal Guard, Kir Kanos and Carnor Jax.

Crimson Empire

The initial story arc of Crimson Empire was published between December 1997 and May 1998, and has been widely praised for the massive fight scene at the end between Jax and Kanos (it takes up over eighty panels across twelve pages). For me, I think it is most memorable because of the story itself. Traditionally, the Empire have been the baddies, and yet here we have a tale where the protagonist is a Royal Guard. By making Kanos honourable to his duty, he becomes a good Imperial, which is something that has been taken up a few times in comics since, but never quite as breathtaking as it is here.

The whole Crimson Empire saga was written by Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley, the president and vice-president of Dark Horse Comics, respectively, so you don’t get much more impressive than that! The original story idea came from Stradley while he worked on the Marvel Star Wars run in 1984, of having an Imperial Guard out for revenge following the Emperor’s death. The story was not allowed, proving that you just have to start your own company if you want to produce your own stuff! The art of Paul Gulacy and P Craig Russell really helped to define what Star Wars comics were for me in these early forays. Much like that of Christian Gossett as I discovered Tales of the Jedi. There is an almost cinematic feel to the artwork, particularly in scene transitions and the like, but perhaps the single most amazing comic art I have ever seen is the reveal of Kir Kanos in the squall on Yinchorr, just before the climactic duel. That is just fantastic! It is, as always, the story that I’m so engrossed with, however, and the Crimson Empire story is just incredible.

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As mentioned already, it takes place in 11ABY, where the New Republic is established but still struggling to make headway in the outer systems. The Empire is crumbling, but is now headed by one of the Emperor’s Royal Guard, Carnor Jax. It soon becomes apparent that Jax is in this position through subversion, and Kir Kanos is out for revenge. There is a major plot point that depends on readers being at least familiar with the events of Dark Empire, as Kanos’ flashbacks tell us how Jax came to rule the Imperial Remnant.

There is a wonderful feel of the fringe within this story. Jax knows Kanos is aware of his treachery, and his bounty has made Kanos a fugitive of the Empire. As such, Kanos is hiding out in the Outer Rim, where he attracts the attention of some New Republic envoys for killing a group of Imperials. As we learn more of Kanos’ story, Jax moves in to capture him, leading to a final confrontation on the training world Yinchorr, and that climactic duel between the two.

Crimson Empire

The issue of just how cool is Carnor Jax’ armour?! aside, the story is intense, a bit moody, but doesn’t forget that this is a Star Wars story, as many similar tales are wont to do. The Imperials lead a raid on the New Republic base on Phaeda, where we first see Kir Kanos in his full guard regalia. There is a massive pitched battle, during which Kanos shoots a TIE fighter out of the sky in what has become true over-the-topĀ Star Wars style.

Aside from two panels in which Luke Skywalker appears in Kanos’ memories, the only movie character to appear in this story is Wedge Antilles, now a general in the New Republic. This made such a massive impression on me as a lad, showing that there could be really compelling stories in this universe that do not rely on the Big Three. It’s something that I wish we could see a lot more of, rather than the odd tale here and there.

Something else that I wish for, the characters of the Crimson Empire series are largely confined to this series alone. While Carnor Jax is later said to have apprenticed under Lumiya as a Dark Jedi, the rest of the cast appears to exist in its own little vacuum. I would have liked to have seen Mirith Sinn referenced by someone in the New Republic, for instance, but never mind. Even Kir Kanos himself, while making an appearance in the Star Wars Miniatures Game in 2010’s The Dark Times set, only exists within the Crimson Empire world. Unless you want to count the RPG module Nightsaber, where Kanos appears on Dathomir under the alias of Burr Danid. Interestingly, however, the planet Yinchorr was revisited in 2000’s Jedi Council: Acts of War, where we see the place before the Imperial Training Center was established.

But that’s all a very minor point, and in no way detracts from the story! There is so much to enjoy here. First and foremost, as with a lot of the earlier Dark Horse stuff (ie, before the prequels came out), there is a lot of text, which is great for someone like me as I come to comics primarily for the story. But there are so many little things, like the Shadow Stormtroopers under Carnor Jax’ command, that can make fans like myself swoon in delight! (Incidentally, Shadow Stormtroopers and Agent Blackhole will most likely appear in a later blog, as that whole aspect of the Star Wars universe has always intrigued me).

Shadow Stormtroopers

Kir Kanos himself is a really compelling character, as I’ve already alluded to. Being an Imperial Royal Guard, he is one of the elite troopers serving the Emperor, whose loyalty is unwavering. To make him the protagonist of a comic book, let alone an entire series of comic books, was fairly new back in 1997, but it seems now that the concept has been over-done. The only other convincing tale that I have read in this vein is also by Randy Stradley – that of Janek “Tank” Sunber (the subject of yet another upcoming blog!), with Stradley writing under the pseudonym of Welles Hartley. Kanos is not a sympathetic character, as he is out simply for revenge on those he deems responsible for the Emperor’s death. Despite throwing in his lot with the New Republic, he does so only to further his own ends, and refuses to co-operate [SPOILER!] when he kills Carnor Jax [/SPOILER!]. There is, however, that honour and nobility about him, as he refuses to sway from his duty to avenge the Emperor and yet does not attack the New Republic folks he meets, which I suppose is crucial for his appeal to the readership. His vigilante-like activity, coupled with the artwork, actually reminded me almost of some sort of Clint Eastwood storyline!

Kir Kanos

Crimson Empire itself spawned two sequels. Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood came out from November ’98 to April ’99 and was notable, among other reasons, for introducing the character of Nom Anor, who would be taken over for an entirely different purpose by Del Rey’s New Jedi Order later in 1999. The third book, Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost was shelved for years before finally being released between October 2011 and April 2012. The stories follow Kir Kanos as he continues his revenge against those responsible for the Emperor’s death, first with the Ruling Council, then Luke Skywalker.

Crimson Empire

I’ve only read CE2 once, and have not actually read CE3, so will provide updates as and when I get to them. Crimson Empire itself, however, is such a huge part of my Star Wars life that it really deserves its own blog!

In addition to the three story arcs, three shorter comics have also been published, more like tie-ins to the main storyline. First of all, The Bounty Hunters: Kenix Kil came in October 1999 and explained why Kir Kanos is masquerading as a bounty hunter at the beginning of Council of Blood. Hard Currency came out in March 2000 when CE3 didn’t look too far off, then Third Time Pays for All came out in April 2011 as more of an official prequel to the third installment. All of these tales have been collected together into the beautiful hardback edition of The Crimson Empire Saga, which I can definitely recommend to folks who would like to see what all this fuss is about!

Crimson Empire

For people who have never picked up a Star Wars comic before, I cannot recommend Crimson Empire enough.

Buy it from amazon:
Crimson Empire
Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood
Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost

The Crimson Empire Saga

(As always, the artwork used in this blog is not my personal property, but is used for illustrative purposes. Please let me know if you own it and do not wish it used in this manner)