COMIC REVIEW: Star Wars – The Crimson Empire Saga

All three stories featuring the mysterious scarlet-robed warriors are now collected in one edition, but is it red sky at night, geek’s delight? Or red sky at morning, geek’s warning?


I remember Crimson Empire being one of the first pieces of Star Wars Extended Universe (EU) content that I ever read. I mean, who didn’t watch Return of the Jedi and wonder about the mysterious red-robed Imperial Guards? The original Crimson Empire miniseries and its first sequel (Council of Blood) were published between 1997 and 1999 at a time when EU content felt very thin on the ground. The prequels were about to hit and Star Wars fans were crying out for content of any sort. It was followed more than a decade later by Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost, rounding out the tale of Kir Kanos, a loyal member of the Imperial Guard fighting against those he feels betrayed his Emperor.

This mammoth volume collects all three of the series, associated one-shot comics and the Crimson Empire Handbook, itself containing 30+ pages of character profiles, and weighs in at over 500 pages! At about £17 via Amazon, that’s a lot of book for your money.

Set after the events of the Original Trilogy (11 ABY for those who speak fluent Star Wars Dates) our protagonist is Kir Kanos, one of the elite guard who was utterly loyal to the Emperor. At this time the Emperor, whose spirit had been occupying clone bodies, had been betrayed and his last clone destroyed. Having fought his way through the brutal Guard training on the planet of Yinchorr, Kanos finds out about the betrayal and sets about avenging his former protectee. In doing so, he carefully manoeuvres  around the politics of a galaxy far, far away as he forges alliances in an attempt to track down the traitors.

The book does a great job of showing how tough the guardsmen were, something the  films never had the opportunity to portray. In truth, Yoda’s abrupt dismissal of the guards in Revenge of the Sith made them seem pretty like flimsy protection. Kanos is not only a ruthless hand-to-hand fighter, but a keen strategist and across the series he builds an impressive body count.

The art on the main series are handled by Paul Gulacy; he has a distinctive style and one, for me, which hasn’t stood the test of time too well. There’s something about the proportions of the features on characters’ faces which doesn’t strike me as quite right and he has a propensity for having characters look directly out-of-panel or across the panel, which all seems a little too regimented. It’s a shame, as his storytelling is good and all of the renderings of familiar ships and armours are well-handled and those that are new seem to fit into the world well.

The story is quite complicated, as it deals with a large number of different factions and characters. It’s not complex, as such, but it’s not something which lends itself to easy explanation, and I think after the first series it somewhat loses its way as the plot moves away from a simple revenge story into attempting political machinations.

A long time passed between the publishing of the second and third parts of the trilogy, and this really tells in two ways. Most obvious is that the third series, Empire Lost, was created after the prequels and so rather than just the familiar OT era ships we get a lot of prequel era equipment. This isn’t a unique problem to this book but by packaging all the series together it makes it stand out like a sore toe. It just feels very odd having nothing but OT ships in the first 2/3rd of the book and then suddenly years after this there’s supposed to be lots of older prequel era kit knocking about; doesn’t sit right with me. The other aspect is the digital colouring which graces the newest series is more pronounced, more of the detail is provided through the colour than the inks.

I didn’t dislike the series but viewed from today’s standpoint it doesn’t fare well against other EU content that the past 15 years has provided us fans with.

 

Rating: 3/5
GS Reviewer: Dave W

 

Edition Info:

Writers: Mike Richardson & Randy Stradley
Art/Pencils: Paul Gulacy, Javier Saltares, Isaac Buckminster Owens
Inks: P. Craig Russell, Christopher Ivy, Randy Emberlin
Colourists: Dave Stewart, Michael Bartolo, Jason Hvam, Digital Broome, Lisa Stamp, Staissi Brandt
Letterers: Sean Konot, Michael Taylor, Amador Cisneros, Pat Brosseau, Michael Heisler

Collects: Crimson Empire #0-6, Hard Currency, The Bounty Hunters: Kenix Kil, Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood #1-6, The Crimson Empire Handbook, The Third Time Pays for All, Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost #1-6

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