Ostrander Bonds with "Star Wars: Agent of the Empire"

One wonders how Lord Vader will introduce himself for his first appearance in John's Ostrander's new "Star Wars" spy thriller series for Dark Horse Comics, ominously entitled, "Agent of the Empire."

"Vader. Darth Vader."

OK. Not likely, but when Ostrander announced the new title at C2E2 in April the fan-favorite writer behind such hits as "Grimjack" and "Suicide Squad" described the book as "James Bond meets 'Star Wars.'"

Ostrander is, of course, no stranger to the Star Wars Expanded Universe having created, developed and written numerous series for Dark Horse and their licensing partners, Lucasfilm Limited, over the years including "Star Wars," "Star Wars: Legacy" and the currently running "Star Wars: Legacy - War."

"Agent of the Empire," set in the time of Darth Vader, Han Solo and Princess Leia, follows the exploits and adventures of a new protagonist added to the pantheon of characters -- both good and evil -- introduced by George Lucas and dozens of other creators since "Star Wars: A New Hope" opened in theaters across North America on May 25, 1977.

The first of a series of planned miniseries will be illustrated by French artist Stephane Roux, best-known for his run on "Zatanna" at DC Comics with writer Paul Dini.

The agent in question, inspired by both James Bond and Jason Bourne, is named Jahan Cross and he works directly for Armand Isard, the Director of Imperial Intelligence. According to Wookieepedia, Isard worked closely with Vader and the Inquisitorius to hunt down the survivors of Order 66 during Emperor Palpatine's reign. Order 66, which marked the beginning of the Great Jedi Purge, was most famously featured in the 2005 film, "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith." Isard himself was first mentioned in Michael A. Stackpole's novel "X-wing: Rogue Squadron" in 1996.

But don't start booing and hissing Cross just yet. In this exclusive interview, Ostrander told CBR News that in "Agent of the Empire" he will examine the question, "Can you work for something as evil as the Empire without being evil yourself?"

Ostrander also teased another new forthcoming Star Wars series from Dark Horse with long-time collaborator, artist Jan Duursema.

CBR News: The gang at Dark Horse and you gave the elevator pitch for "Agent of the Empire" at C2E2. I love the high concept, but can you dig a little deeper and tell us what we can expect from this new title?

John Ostrander: Star Wars, I think, is like a prism; you turn the prism and get different views. I think we're doing that with "Agent of the Empire." We're looking at the events leading up to "A New Hope" from a somewhat different angle and see what the light shows with those characters and events. A basic question is, can you work for something as evil as the Empire without being evil yourself?

The black and white answer might be, "You can't," but I'm not so sure. Our protagonist can certainly be ruthless but he also believes in the Empire, for reasons we'll get into with the stories. I'll also be doing what I usually do -- working in as much useful continuity as will work in the stories. It'll be familiar but new -- at least that's the plan.

You described Agent of the Empire as "Star Wars, with a touch of James Bond and the Bourne series." With the Empire so vast it only makes sense that these types of agents would be operating. How did you arrive at the idea? Are you a fan of the aforementioned spy stories?

I've done lots of spy themed stuff in my career. "Suicide Squad" over at DC Comics is just one example -- there's a "Suicide Squad" Omnibus out there right now at your local comic book dealer and I thank you for the opportunity to plug. [Laughs] I am a big fan of espionage stories and movies. I also like to do what I call narrative alloys -- take something from this genre and blend it with that genre. My series "Grimjack," also out in lots of trade paperbacks and an omnibus, thank you very much, did that -- borrowed from sword and sorcery and noir private eye. Some of the tropes between Bond or Bourne and Star Wars are similar: exotic locales, large scale villains, cool action sequences and so on. As I work on it, it's actually surprising how well the two fit.

So many stories set in the Star Wars universe are of the classic Jedi versus Sith variety. They're tried and true and you have told many of them yourself, so why the departure to this new brand of storytelling?

They may be a little too tried and true. Fans can get jaded, I think. Certainly, they want Star Wars to be Star Wars but, hopefully, they also want something a little different than what they've seen before.

I assume the Imperial Intelligence agent we will be following is the one gracing the teaser poster revealed at C2E2. Who is he? And more importantly, what makes him tick?

His name is Jahan Cross and he works directly for Armand Isard in Imperial Intelligence. He was 10 years-old when the Republic ended so he remembers the Clone Wars -- vividly. For him, the only alternative to the Empire is chaos. I could tell you more, but then he'd have to kill me.

Also featured is a femme fatale-inspired droid firing a blaster? Who is she? Is she also an agent of the Empire?

She is IN-GA 44 and she is Cross' assistant. She has special features built in that will be useful. I'd tell you more but then she would have to kill me.

Of course. One more character is looming large on the teaser poster and that is Darth Vader. What role does the Sith Lord play in this series?

The series is going to be a series of miniseries. Vader's appearance on the poster is to both set the time frame and represent the concept that characters from this era of Star Wars will appear in the series. What characters will appear in which story will depend on the story itself. I'm not going to do a story just to jam in one of the original characters; on the other hand, why do a series set in this time if you're not going to make use of these iconic characters? Especially Vader.

Is he the Big Bad in "Agent of the Empire" or is there another? After all, there are always two...

There's no "Big Bad" overall for the series. While there is a narrative that will proceed as the story goes forward, each miniseries will be self-contained. I'm not saying that Vader isn't "big" and "bad;" he might find my lack of faith disturbing.

The appearance of Darth Vader gives us an approximate time of when this series takes place, but specifically what year or years is this story set?

The plan right now is to set the stories between roughly 3 BBY and 0 BBY. Will we eventually expand beyond 0 BBY? That's a possibility but it will depend on the readers.

Again, with the presence of Darth Vader might we see other characters from the original trilogy? I believe at C2E2 you teased we might see Han Solo, Princess Leia and/or a personal favorite, Leia's best friend Winter Celchu.

Again, it depends on the story but, yeah, I have plans in that way, starting with the first arc, depending on the continuity. In that respect, bringing in Luke, Yoda or Obi-Wan might be very difficult. Others, however, they're almost begging to show up. So we'll see.

So often when working within the Star Wars universe, you are paired with artist Jan Duursema. Is this yet another collaboration or will you be working with someone else?

Jan and I are working on a new series together which will blow your mind as soon as you hear the title, but it's not "Agent of the Empire." The artist here will be Stephane Roux, a French artist newly moved to Milwaukee. He's done covers for different Star Wars comics and he is really a fabulous artist. He's also excited about the series and has done some wonderful character sketches.

Can you share any details about this other series yet? And if not, when will we learn more? Maybe at Comic-Con International?

Jan and I are working on it and Dark Horse and Lucasfilm Limited will decide when it gets announced, not me. And that's all I can say. Or Jahan Cross will kill me. Or my editor, Randy Stradley.

OK. Last question before someone gets killed. Your other Star Wars series, "Star Wars: Legacy - War" is coming to a close and you're on the record of stating that there will be casualties. You've been building toward an epic confrontation between Cade Skywalker and Darth Krayt ever since "Legacy" #1. Is it safe to say only one of these two great warriors will survive?

It's not safe to say that either of these two great warriors will survive the final issue.

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