The best part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe is the relevance it tries to gain every so often by brushing up against — or in the case of “Star Wars: Agent of the Empire — Iron Eclipse” — completely submerging in the higher profile characters of the original trilogy. John Ostrander, thankfully, can handle that without completely losing any grip on the Expanded Universe characters as he has shown readers time and again and does once again here.
The star of this title is Jahan Cross, an agent of the Empire. He goes in and does the precision dirty work where a phalanx of Stormtroopers or the blade of Darth Vader would simply be too much. Cross just so happens to be acquaintances with Han Solo, so that provides the established character connection. Cross isn’t a scoundrel and Ostrander writes him as a man dedicated to the Empire, proving in this issue that the Empire is above all. Being a newer character, Cross affords Ostrander the opportunity to add flourishes and accentuate the underbelly of the Empire while also being able to truly cut loose without usurping anything beholden as canon. Although I found myself cheering for Cross, there is a fine line there knowing he serves Emperor Palpatine.
Stephane Roux’s clean, vibrant figures bounce through the panels, fighting the never-ending battle for order. It’s not simply figures fighting as Roux delivers the full range of a Star Wars adventure from Wookies and droids to spaceships and laser blasts. The battle between Jahan Cross and Iaco Stark has all the makings of a confrontation from the films thanks to Roux, but the conclusion to that tussle is telegraphed a little too loudly.
Cross may be an agent of the Empire, but this series has built him up into an enjoyable character. He’s no Han Solo or Luke Skywalker, mind you, but his adventures can therefore be more open. All the same, it just doesn’t feel right to cheer for a character so tightly bound to the galaxy-crushing boot of the Emperor. This likely isn’t the last we’ll see of Cross as Dark Horse clearly has future plans for the character based on the final panel of “Star Wars: Agent of the Empire — Iron Eclipse” #5; I just hope John Ostrander is included in those plans. If he wants to bring along Han Solo again, that’d be even better.