Review for Star Wars: Agent of the Empire – Hard Targets #1 (of 5)
It’s page one of John Ostrander’s Star Wars: Agent of the Empire – Hard Targets
#1, and I’m already beyond ecstatic that I’m reading this comic. Why? One word: Fett.
One more: continuity. In the stretch of time spanning the release of Dawn of the Jedi #5
and Hard Targets #1, I’d taken to reading John Ostrander’s column on comicmix.com
(highly recommended). In one particularly insightful diatribe (9/30/12), we are treated,
by the master scribe, to his views on continuity: he’ll often research and abide by it,
but “if [it] gets in the way of a really good, […] story, then… continuity be damned!”
Well, in Dawn of the Jedi, Ostrander follows through on this, easing the burden of
continuity by setting his story in a different time period. Agent of the Empire, however,
set in the interesting and oft-under-exploited time period between the two Star Wars
movie trilogies, is steeped in continuity, surrounded by it on both sides, and thrives for it,
rather than being caught in the crossfire.
The opening scene features Boba Fett, fully in-character, trading pitch-perfect
trash-talk with a down-and-out Jahan Cross – indeed, this is our main character’s
reintroduction at the beginning of this second AotE mini-series: getting thrashed!
Immediately we’re moved to a reception on Alderaan, where Ostrander plays an outright
joke against the bulwark of continuity, having Cross pretend to mistake an un-introduced
Winter for Princess Leia. Of course, those steeped in Star Wars continuity will (I’m
assuming here, based on my experience – y’all’re as geeky as me, right?) guffaw before
the cat is even out of the bag for the characters, clued in by the disdainful look of the next
lady over, Winter’s ever-white hair, and the knowledge that she often plays Leia’s
double, but it only works if you’re just-so-steeped. Just the same, our main character is
also from Alderaan, and his youth-and-white-hair look almost retroactively legitimize
that of fellow-Alderaanian Winter, albeit without the seasonal nomenclature!
I suppose, after my mini-geek-out session (Star Wars is why I got into comics in
the first place), what I mean to say is that writer John Ostrander proves just as adept at
weaving the strands of continuity to his own ends as he does sidestepping them to create
something new in what many see as the limiting realm of licensed comic book franchises.
Dawn of the Jedi feels a bit less concerned with adhering to Star Wars lore, and though it
flourishes for it, a different approach is called for with Agent of the Empire, and
Ostrander delivers in spades.
What follows are the deceptively simple beginnings of what looks to be shaping
up as one of the most engaging Star Wars stories since Ostrander last put pen to the
galaxy far, far away. Without giving away anything that might ruin your enjoyment of
this return/debut issue, suffice it to say that our protagonist gets his way, as, he would
believe, should all agents of the Empire, for they’re only sent out to act against those who
would betray the unassailable legal morality of the Empire. The story takes a turn for the
truly interesting, however, when those very assumptions are called into question, with
Agent Cross confronting his boss, Armand Isard (another insane nod to continuity, a
pivotal character often mentioned, but rarely given actual “screen” time), as to whether or
not his mission had actually served the good of the Empire or the good of one corrupt
individual within the Empire’s bureaucracy. Isard’s reply is that the decision to be made
is above either of their pay grades, and that if Jahan can’t get the mission done without
questioning its rightness, he should resign.
So the stage is set, with Cross sent off by Isard to work with his father (!!!) on the
planet Serenno to ensure the appointment of Rodas Borgin, an Imperial sympathizer, to
the position of Regent until the recently-deceased Count’s heir comes of age. Of course,
the seeds of doubt have been planted in Cross’ mind, as in ours: will Jahan be able to
follow through on his mission, or has working for the Empire finally become too much
for someone who stars in his own comic book? We can only tell one thing for sure: it’s
damn good to have John Ostrander writing a Star Wars comic again!