Review by Jamie McNeil
The Crimson Empire Saga collects a groundbreaking story arc that brought a fresh and intriguing perspective to Star Wars lore by making the central character a member of Emperor Palpatine’s Royal Guard. The last surviving bodyguard Kir Kanos has sworn to avenge Palpatine’s death and those he considers responsible, the traitorous former guard Carnor Jax, the Ruling Council he conspired with, and the Skywalker family. Kanos is an extremely dangerous individual forged in the fires of the legendary Squall on Yinchorr, but if a very generous bounty doesn’t help solve the problem, at least it will slow him down. Mirith Sinn is the Rebel Commander who helps Kanos, then becomes intrigued by this ‘enemy’ with a complex honour code. Spanning planets, custom offices, secret bases, criminal hideouts, deserts and jungles, there are an array of interesting characters from crooked politicians to dodgy customs officers, Hutt crime bosses and cannibalistic aliens, honourable enemies, clones and a number of familiar faces. Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley co-wrote Crimson Empire and Council of Blood, Richardson returning almost a decade later to pen the third installment Empire Lost. The entire series is illustrated by Paul Gulacy.
Crimson Empire introduces Kir Kanos, his nemesis the would-be emperor and orchestrator of Palpatine’s demise Carnor Jax, and the Rebel commander Mirith Sinn who finds herself indebted to Kanos throughout the series and vice versa. Council of Blood focuses on the Imperial Ruling Council who helped Jax conspire against Palpatine, Grappa the Hutt and the Black Sun crime syndicate manipulating events so that they can profit from the war between the Empire and the New Republic. Empire Lost sees Kir Kanos putting his final plans for vengeance in place. Mirith Sinn is now head of Security for Leia Organa Solo, while a man named Devian leads a splinter group of hard-line Imperial troops, the Restored Empire, and is setting out to crush the now corrupt Empire and destroy the upstart New Republic.
Randy Stradley authored all of the interconnecting short stories, some gathered here for the first time between book covers. His work with Javier Saltares on their Kenix Kil story is also found in Star Wars: The Bounty Hunters, but suits this collection better, almost seamlessly becoming part of a greater narrative and connecting the first two books. ‘Hard Currency’ with Isaac Buckminster Owens is a Clone Wars Adventures style cartoon not entirely necessary to the saga, while ‘The Third Time Pays for All’ is illustrated by Paul Gulacy with a gritty realism and has a chilling ending adding layers to Kanos’s character. Both these stories interconnect Empire Lost with Council of Blood. Rounding off the collection is ‘The Crimson Empire Handbook’, a mini-encyclopaedia profiling key players.
The Crimson Empire Saga is also available under Marvel’s Star Wars Legends line of graphic novels. Copies are not cheap with second hand books starting around £70 and new ones about double that. Digital editions cost far less, so three books with all the additional material at a fraction of the price is much better value for money if you have the right technology.