Monday, April 30, 2012

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Crimson Empire I

Crimson Empire I 

Crimson Empire is a 6 part miniseries that was released from 1997 to 1998, and collected in a trade paperback later that same year. It is the first of three titles in the series.

              Crimson Empire is the first in a trilogy of comics that detail the life of Kir Kanos, a member of the Emperor's Royal Guard, and his life following the climactic battle of Endor that resulted in the death of the person he was sworn to protect. Driven by honor, Kanos is a pleasingly one dimensional character that applies his sworn principles- commitment to allies, undying devotion to the Emperor, honorable fighter- to every situation he encounters in the book, sometimes with extremely surprising results. Though the artwork is mixed in quality, the overall story is strong enough to place it in the upper echelon of Star Wars comics.
            Set a few years after the Battle of Endor, Crimson Empire is the story of Kir Kanos' quest for revenge against a man he trained with and fought alongside, former Guard and current warlord Carnor Jax. The initially simplistic story takes an intriguing turn when Kanos is introduced to a band of Rebels on the world of Phaeda. The Rebels go through an interesting evolution in their perception of Kanos. Much of this centers around the leader of the movement, a woman named Mirith Sinn.
            Mirith is initially skeptical of Kanos, but slowly comes around to his side, much like her rebel comrades. Unfortunately her character is kind of bland outside of her perception of Kanos. We get a few scenes where she does stuff on her own or with her rebel friends, but they almost always end in disaster or a mess that someone else has to clean up. In fact, Kanos' shining moment in the first half of the comic is when he comes to Mirith's aid after she makes a boneheaded tactical error against the Imperials. The other rebels fare no better, and with the exception of Carnor Jax, who is a good but not great antagonist, the supporting cast is pretty weak.
            Crimson Empire culminates in an intense, epic duel on the world of Yinchorr. Kanos and Jax meet for the last time in a long, beautifully illustrated duel that evokes the fast paced saber duels from the prequel trilogy. The sequence highlights the talents of each character, as the battle goes back and forth with little ground given by either warrior. The stalemate is broken by the arrival of Mirith and her lieutenant, however things do not turn out in the expected manner despite their intervention. The surprising ending takes the plot- and the character of Kir Kanos- in an extremely interesting direction and seems to set up a great sequel in Crimson Empire II.
            Kanos is one of the more interesting characters in the Star Wars universe, despite being relatively one dimensional. This works because what we have seen of him is so compelling and strong that some of the things he seemingly lacks- empathy, meaningful relationships with other characters, ambitions- are easily dismissed. His devotion to the Empire and Emperor he once served is riveting, as is the lengths he would go to in order to claim revenge for the death of his beloved Emperor. Other than this, his character doesn't have much depth, but this makes him an infinitely more intriguing protagonist than many featured in Star Wars comics.
The strange looking planet in the upper left ruins what is otherwise a decent cityscape.
            The art does some things amazingly well, but falters in the seemingly easiest of areas. The first of these areas concerns the use of planets/moons in the backdrop or establishing the setting. Unlike the rest of the pencil drawn ink colored work seen throughout the book, the planets have a bizarre, computer generated look to them. It clashes sharply with the otherwise excellent detail found in the artwork and the deliberate mixing of styles is perplexing to me. 
His eyes creep me out.
            The only other area I have a major problem with are the faces. Many characters have weird, elongated faces that are terrible at conveying emotion or over exaggerated (many characters have enormous eyes) to the point of disbelief. Characters like Mirith and the various Imperial antagonists (including storm troopers, who suffer from disproportionate and inaccurate renderings of their iconic helmet) are the worst, though the Emperor looks awful in a short cameo. Only Kanos looks relatively good in most of his scenes. Seemingly evoking Clint Eastwood's character from the Dollars trilogy in both personality and appearance. Kanos' rugged, scarred appearance perfectly compliments his no nonsense, hard edged character.
Action scenes often have quite a bit going on at once,
            While the art does have some flaws, it gets quite a bit right too. Battle scenes are gorgeous here, including the aforementioned duel between Jax and Kanos. Fans of large scale engagements won't be left out though as there is a sizable battle between Imperials and Rebels that showcases some good work on the iconic vehicles of the Star Wars universe and a chaotic brand of combat. Even fans of space battles get a treat as Rogue Squadron and Wedge Antilles make a brief appearance midway through the book. Overall this is one of the best drawn books for fans of action scenes (the final fight is one of the top four or five moments in all of Star Wars comics,) but it is very weak in a few crucial aspects.
            Crimson Empire is a classic Star Wars comic book, suffering from only a few minor flaws. With a focused, intriguing protagonist and plenty of awe inspiring action sequences, Crimson Empire I stands head and shoulders above nearly all of its peers as one of the must have Star Wars comics from the '90s.
Final Score

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