Star Wars: Agents Of The Empire – 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge – John Ostrander (Part 2)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
John Ostrander is no stranger to writing for the world of Star Wars comics. Having penned many well loved Star Wars series for Dark Horse, such as Star Wars: Legacy, Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi, and even greatly contributing to Star Wars: Republic, Ostrander has shown time after time that he is a great candidate for writing anything Star Wars related. With Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire, Ostrander tried to craft a spy thriller set within the Star Wars universe, throwing in James Bond elements with the classic Sci-Fi realm.
Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire – Iron Eclipse
Jahan Cross is an agent of the Empire, doing mission off the radar for the betterment of the Empire’s stranglehold on the Galaxy. With his bot IN-GA 44, Jahan goes undercover to discover a strange plot involving the royal Stark family. With high-flying action and excitement that whisks him to every end of the galaxy, Jahan Cross has just as many friends as he does enemies. With allies like Han Solo and Chewbacca in his corner, as well as men like Iaclyn Stark opposing him, Jahan Cross is always up for just as much trouble as he is excitement.
Agent of The Empire is most readily compatible to Star Wars meeting with James Bond to tell a fun tale. Jahan Cross is more Han Solo than the man himself, being a charismatic ladies man who tends to get into more trouble than he’s worth. Tasked by the Empire to investigate the Stark family, Jahan Cross stumbles across the Iron Eclipse, a mysterious “casino” run by Iaclyn Stark. As Jahan investigates, he meets the beautiful sister to Iaclyn, Elli, and also quickly strikes up a romance with her stepmother, Dah’lis Stark. When Dah’lis is murdered, Jahan Cross is quickly held responsible in an obvious frame job by Iaclyn. Jahan must work quickly to not only clear his name but also discover what the true purpose of the Iron Eclipse is.
As I said above, Jahan Cross is basically James Bond tailor-made for a Star Wars story. He’s an exciting and charming spy who makes Han Solo look like a choir boy. Ostrander embodies all the elements you’d need to make a main character like this compelling, giving him a great past tied to the Star Wars lore and making him equally vulnerable as he is cunning. At his best, Jahan keeps you hooked in with his snappy dialogue and exciting adventures. At his worst he drones on with political chit-chat with his superior. These are both the high and low points of the series as Ostrander unfurls plenty of great character moments for Jahan while also trying to strike the balance of telling a solid tale.
The big problem with Agent of the Empire is also one of the best parts about it too; it’s set in the world of Star Wars. There is plenty of rich lore for Ostrander to draw upon but for people who aren’t keen on following the way that Star Wars chooses to tell its stories, you may feel lost or overwhelmed at parts. The story takes plenty of liberal jumps, having moments where you feel Ostrander is telling far more than he is showing. The character names for your antagonists all feel remarkably similar, creating confusion at times as to which character is which. When all you have is a story that feels like it’s being told to you, it’s easy to zone out and miss the point of particular scenes, like the lightning fast exposition that explains who Iaco Stark is and why he relates to the Hyperspace War.
As much as one could complain about how the story feels more tell than show with some so-so exposition, there are moments where Ostrander just nails the use of said literary tool. The perfect example of exposition done right is the brief character history you get late in the game explaining Jahan’s past. You learn about how he was on planet during the battle of Coruscant and how that effected his character in the long run. It’s a rather brief explanation but one that works nonetheless due to the emotion Ostrander instills into the quick scene. It explains a few things that Jahan says or does earlier in the story, serving as an epiphany in regards to what makes his character tick.
One of the best parts of the entire Star Wars universe has to be all the unique settings that come from it. Every world feels rich and different from the last you see, something that Ostrander takes complete advantage of with his script. From royal cities to strange casinos and even a particular planet that brings some great guest characters into play, there is plenty of different settings to satisfy evening the smallest of Star Wars nerds. Ostrander uses the different environments available to compliment the action that is delivered through the story, having Jahan use his environments to his advantage to make some great scenes feel like they belong on the big screen.
Ostrander packs in a healthy mix of fun and uninteresting characters for a story that doesn’t need many additions to the cast due to its brevity. Fan favourites like Han Solo and Chewbacca balance out the cast of relative unknowns that Ostrander develops over the course of the five issues. Characters like Iaclyn Stark, who are meant to serve as the antagonist come of somewhat flat and one-note, never truly threatening Jahan or his allies. It makes it impossible to invest in these soft enemies, which makes you have to care about Jahan even more since your dedication to the characters has to be placed somewhere. Elli Stark is an enjoyable “Bond Girl” so to speak, being beautiful and fun to read about. Other than a completely random character moment that makes no sense in the last issue, Elli is a decent character who falls apart right before the end only to be salvaged at the last second. Although the characters are a bit of a mixed bag here, rest assured that the character of Jahan Cross will more than make up for some of the weaker elements of the entire story. Ostrander goes to great lengths to get this character over with the reader and even though some other characters suffer as a result, Jahan’s still a joy to read, being the perfect James Bond for the Star Wars world.
Collects: Star Wars: Agent Of The Empire – Iron Eclipse#1-5
Best Character: Jahan Cross
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “Keep me informed Agent Cross. And keep the body count to a minimum, hmm?” – Armand Isard
Best Scene/Moments: Jahan launches a plan to get the sheriff off his trail – Issue 3
Best Issue: Issue 3. This issue is plenty of fun because of how Jahan handles the problems at hand. He needs to make quick, bold, and dangerous decisions to ensure he can complete his mission, even if it means convincing the world that he has died. It’s all classic James Bond related stuff in this issue that feels like it epitomizes who Jahan is as a character.
Why You Should Read It: Agent Of The Empire should be read because it’s a Star Wars story that feels like a perfect blend of Stars Wars and James Bond. It’s not too intergalactic that you’ll feel lost but it maintains those elements that every Star Wars fan will know and love. Jahan Cross is a compelling lead character that is worthy of the price of admission alone, with Ostrander sprinkling in some other well-loved characters for a bit of fan service to Star Wars fans everywhere.