The second issue of “Agent of the Empire” is not quite as impressive as the first, but then again, this issue doesn’t have an appearance by Han Solo, there are no Stormtroopers to be found, and only a handful of aliens will be familiar to “Star Wars” fans.
John Ostrander does, however, write a fun adventure that is filled with intrigue and suspense. Jahan Cross continues his Imperial-sanctioned investigation and manages to run afoul of the Stark (no relation) family. The Starks own a droid factory and the patriarch of the family, Iaco, has recently perished under less than specific circumstances. Therein lies the mystery, with Star Wars characters peppered around the edges. Stark’s widow is a Nautolan (think Kit Fisto), and several other species are present at the party thrown by Ambassador Vorlin: Ithorians, Sullustans and Yakora.
The action in the story isn’t focused on the aliens, but rather on the espionage. Jahan Cross has lived up to his name and crosses some folks he shouldn’t. As much as the first issue was a revelation for “Star Wars” fans, James Bond fans will be able to bask in the Bond-like suspense of this issue. Indeed, there are scenes in this book where “Bond” could be substituted for “Cross” and the story would be just as impactful.
The aforementioned aliens keep the story securely placed within the Star Wars galaxy, though. That galaxy is filled with detail and dynamic settings, all delivered by Stephane Roux.
Roux’s work is uneven in this issue. Some panels, like when Jahan Cross hops on a speeder and appears surrounded, don’t align with the story as, panels later, Cross appears to be not closely chased. Other panels have some painful choices in perspective, anatomy or both. At times, Roux relies a little too heavily on photo referencing (why else would Ambassador Vorlin bear a resemblance to Ron Jeremy, or maybe Rob Ryan) and chokes the creativity out of the panel. When he just draws comics, and plays up the cartoonish expressions comic books thrive on, the work comes across as much more sincere and charming. Roux makes some stellar choices with page layout and has some fun playing up characters and the action around them, which more than makes up for some of the earlier-mentioned inconsistencies.
This series is a nice addition to the “Star Wars” brand that Dark Horse has been boasting for the past two decades (really?!?). Jahan Cross and IN-GA are wonderfully fresh characters that blend seamlessly into the excitement and adventure of the post-“Revenge of the Sith” Star Wars universe. This issue stretches the brand a bit, but I have no doubt there will be a much stronger presence in the next issue. John Ostrander does a great job of building up the Star Wars galaxy, and this series is no exception. If the “Clone Wars” cartoon series simply isn’t enough (or perhaps it isn’t the right time period of “Star Wars” for you) be sure to give this title a look over.