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A graphic novel by Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley (1998, Dark Horse Comics)
Crimson Empire, Book 1
10 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

The new imperial leader hunts for the final threat to his power: the last remaining Emperor's Royal Guard.



5 stars

Read on November 3rd, 2002  
    Truly an outstanding book, with incredible artwork to go with it.

Revisiting this book has made it even better. I still don't think that the Force was required in Jax, for any reason at all. Still, since he doesn't use it often, it's easy to forget that he has this power.

Another aspect of the book that bothered me, but is not really the fault of the book itself, was the way the Empire treats its soldiers. The Royal Guard are the best of the best. Of those, Vader picks the best, and kills him. Later, the Emperor makes the four top students fight, accepting the two victors. It doesn't make sense to kill nearly all of the best soldiers, except that it must make the others realize that they are expendable at the Emperor's whim. Nobody is safe. Jax continues this tradition. I have trouble believing he would allow an entire Star Destroyer to be destroyed with its full crew, when he had the power to avoid that. I guess he was tired of the incompetence of his general.

On the New Republic side of things, Mirith Sinn doesn't seem to be a great commander. The New Republic doesn't decide leadership issues with blood fights, so the challenge doesn't make sense here, leading me to wonder about past decisions that brought her people to that level of distrust. She also doesn't listen to her most trusted second in command, the Trandoshan, when he is trying to tell her she put her troops in danger. Finally, when she realizes that her informant is playing both sides, she allows her troops to use the same base he knew about, and she allows herself to be captured!

Still, it was great to see Kanos face off against all of his opponents. There are some great scenes -dramatic scenes- of him standing in front of some landscape, looking menacing.

The art is really what drives this book. Every scene in every page has something to say. The colors are so vibrant, and the people so realistic. It is truly awesome. I don't know how Mirith changes clothing so fast in the battle, but I appreciated her outfits! Jax had a great battle-mask, making it a mix of the Royal Guard and Vader. The most beautiful shots, though, were of the starships, especially the Star Destroyers. The artists used large formats, half a page or a full page, to depict them, often from unusual angles, like nose-on. Terrific choices.

Some of the art looked like it might have been done using computer graphics. The backgrounds, especially distant planets, looked a little surreal for normal artwork. Surprisingly, I liked it.

This book was so much better than its sequel, which doesn't really answer the rage that builds up in Mirith in this one. It is unfortunate, because it could have really been something special, like this one.



4 stars

Read on October 31st, 1999  
    This was a great story, with great art.

First, the story.  I am really enjoying Dark Horse Comics forays in to the Star Wars world that doesnít include the main heroes of the original trilogy.  The Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt comics and Rogue Squadron have all been great so far.  This one is even better.  Crimson Empire takes place on two backwater planets, far from Coruscant and Luke, Han and Leia, immediately following Dark Empire II and Empireís End.

Carnor Jax, a former Emperorís Royal Guard, has taken control of the Empireís ruling council, and wants to soon call himself Emperor.  Nothing stands in his way except another former Royal Guard, Kir Kanos, who knows that it is Jax who helped destroy the last of the Emperorís clones.

Kanos inadvertently obtains the help of a New Republic commander on this backwater Imperial planet, and that is when we learn about the awesome training of these guards.  Their "squall", on a platform in the shape of the Imperial logo, high above a wide pit, is really neat to "watch", as are their weapons.  The weapons are of a much more impressive design than those seen in Return of the Jedi.  Kanos helps defend the small Republic base from an inept Imperial attack, and gains the confidence of its leader, Mirith Sinn, who is captured because of a double agent, and is tortured by Jax.  She reveals information of the escaped Kanos, and is then released, to be followed as she goes to help the man she betrayed.

But Jax arrives on the backwater former training planet of the Royal Guards first, and he and Kanos fight in a duel to the death.  That there is more than one death shows what kind of man Kanos is, and leaves Sinn with vengeance on her heart.  That will undoubtedly be the focus of the sequel, Crimson Empire II.

The artwork was fantastic throughout the graphic novel, with striking colours, great fates, and blurry for the items that would be out of the main focus.  If it didnít have to be sharp, it wasnít: the viewscreens were just a little grainy, for example -enough to be realistic.  There was even variation in the dialog art, in that when a character was punched in the gut, the words looked strained. 

The only mistake the authors made, I felt, was giving Jax Force powers.  They have shown in Dark Empire I and II that people can be "given" these powers, but I thing that goes against everything we know about the Force, especially after The Phantom Menace showed that it was genetic.  But I can forgive that, since it was barely shown, and the rest of it is so great.

Wedge is the only "regular" who makes an appearance here, though the Millenium Falcon is mentioned.  Wedge looks older!  And I love his new ship!  In fact, all the ships were quite spectacularly drawn, and there were no new ships introduced -finally.

The interaction between the characters was well done.  Kanos worked only for himself, even though his abilities saved the Republic base.  He took out an entire squad of stormtroopers single-handed at the beginning, and nearly half a garrison near the middle of the story!  It was great seeing a Guard in action.  Sinn was eager to recruit him, even though she knew of his past -a true diplomat warrior.  And Jax was as evil as they come, but well done also. 

Iíve said this before, but I canít wait for the sequel now.  Every time Iíve said that, the sequel has been a bomb, but this time Iím hoping.  Crimson Empire was better than Dark Empire, and a thousand times better than Dark Empire II and Empireís End.  I hope they can keep up this kind of quality.


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