His name is Cross. Jahan Cross. Agent in service to the Empire. Cross undertakes deep stealth missions to uncover corruption and stop threats to the Empire with the help of Imperial Intelligence’s latest gadgets and weaponry.
If you thought Agent of the Empire sounded like James Bond meets Star Wars, you’d be absolutely right. This book doesn’t give nods to the Bond franchise but definitely follows the same script. From the cold open, to the gadgets, to the women in Cross’s life, this comic is filled with Bond trappings with a story custom tailored to the Star Wars universe. The Bond elements are a lot of fun and aren’t so heavy handed to drown the book in them. We’re not getting the gadget-laden adventures of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond or the witty-repartee of Roger Moore’s Bond, but a nice balance of the core qualities of the character and genre with Cross’s unique personality traits and the Star Wars universe layered on top of it all. As you might expect, Agent of the Empire is filled with seduction, high-speed chases (of the speeder and ship variety), and lots of well executed fight scenes. The different take on gadgets was especially clever, because what’s useful or impressive is rather different in a universe where everyone’s packing a blaster, but Agent of the Empire finds surprising ways to slip in experimental tech without undercutting anything readily available in the Star Wars universe.
I really liked Jahan Cross by the end of this volume. He’s witty, kind, but unafraid to get his hands dirty when his back’s against a wall. His backstory is rather interesting, even if it’s delivered without any real provocation. The side characters are all great, from Cross’s versions of Q and M to the villains of the piece, to the plucky sidekicks Cross picks up along the way. Everyone is well written and portrayed, and the book makes excellent use of droids and aliens to vary up the cast in ways not typically available to the spy action genre. The plot itself was pretty awesome for hardcore expanded universe (EU) fans, as it ties directly into several plots from over the years, but Agent of the Empire does a great job of catching up those who didn’t read the volumes that tie into it.
While I was pleased with the writing that resulted from this unlikely pairing, the art left much to be desired. Ships, droids, and speeders look great, but character design was inconsistent and sometimes off balance to the point of being distracting. There were many panels where I found myself paying more attention to a character’s suddenly freakishly huge nose or wide-spaced eyes instead of what the character was actually doing or saying.
If you’re not a fan of James Bond, Agent of the Empire isn’t going to do anything for you, but if you enjoy that tried and true formula, Agent of the Empire will give you a brand new take simply by being set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .