Friday, June 9, 2017

Retro Dark Horse: Star Wars: Agent of the Empire - Hard Targets

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire - Hard Targets is a 5-part mini-series that again focuses on Jahan Cross, an agent for Imperial Intelligence.  The story starts with Cross in a brief battle with Boba Fett.  Then the story jumps 10 days earlier, to an event celebration on Alderaan attended by Cross.  On Alderaan, we meet Count Dooku of Sereeno (a decendent of the Count Dooku from the prequels), his son Bron, and the count's security head Candra Tymon who are also attending the celebration.  Bail Organa is trying to recruit the Count, Adan Dooku, into the Rebellion, but Dooku resists.  Count Dooku is killed by Jahan Cross dressed as a Mandalorian.  A few days later, back on Coruscant, Cross and Ysanne Isard exchange words and Cross learns that someone on Serenno paid to have Count Dooku killed.  He is assigned to protect Bron and ensure the Empire's pick for regent of Serenno is appointed since Bron is too young to rule.  The regent is to be chosen from the six ruling houses of Serenno and Jahan's father, Davim Cross, is the Imperial Diplomatic Special Envoy overseeing the appointment.  The Empire's choice for regent is Lord Rodas Borgin an unpleasant and unkind man.  Davim Cross decides to confine the lords of the six houses on a wind craft so they can work out who the next regent will be.  Bron and his bodyguard, Tymon, are also aboard.  The wind craft is attacked by Vex, a former acquaintance of Cross's, and her band of pirates and she kidnaps Bron.  Cross gives chase and catches her at a spaceport.  She is taken into custody by the local security forces and take to a prison facility called The Spike.  Cross breaks Vex out of prison and she tells him Lord Rodas Borgin arranged the kidnapping.  Cross confronts Borgin who does not hide he was behind the kidnapping and later, Cross learns he is being recalled from the mission at Borgin's request.  Cross knows Borgin is not in the Empire's best interests and enlists Tymon and his father to help him.  Cross and Tymon travel to Otoh Dooku, Borgin's underwater sanctuary, to rescue Bron.  They are chased by Borgin's security, but manage to escape.  Boba Fett shows up to kidnap Bron.  Borgin's security team confronts the group and Cross and Fett succeed in subduing the attackers while Tymon and Bron escape.  Fett has a brief encounter with Cross repeating the scene that started this 5-part mini-series and then chases after Tymon and Bron.  At a spaceport, Tymon launches in a shuttle as Cross catches up to Fett and in another brief skirmish Fett accidentally destroys the shuttle.  It turns out it was all a ruse which Cross reveals to Borgin.  Fett kills Borgin, thinking he was setup, and we learn that Bron was sent to Alderaan by Davim Cross to be raised in hiding and Tymon was alone aboard the shuttle that was destroyed.  The Empire chooses another house's leader to be the Count of Serenno, one with less ambition and able to be manipulated by the Empire.

The story is packed with the usual twists and turns you would expect of a spy thriller.  Characters come and go and paying attention to the details is important in a dense story of this nature.  Jahan Cross proves to be a more nuanced character in this, his second and final story arc, than in his inaugural story.  In the tale, he does not blindly follow orders, but instead does what is best for the Empire.  He recognizes Lord Rodas Borgin is a bad choice and he is able to manipulate events saving Bron and guaranteeing a better leader for the Empire is installed as the new Count of Serenno.

The cover for issue #1 shows Jahan Cross in the middle with Bron Dooku holding his father's dead body while Candra Tymon stands ready.  In the background are Bail Organa and Princess Leia who make brief appearances in the story.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire - Hard Targets #1a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (October 2012)
For issue #2, the cover shows Vex in the foreground.  Also shown are agent Cross, Lord Rodas Borgin, and his head of security, the Kahtooinian Hovus Jorrick.  Darth Vader is in the background.  Vader makes a brief appearance in the story as the man responsible for the Cleansing of Serenno, an event that saw the sons of the six houses kill their fathers and assume leadership of those houses.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire - Hard Targets #2a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (November 2012)
Cross and Vex are shown on the cover for issue #3 along with Imperial Intelligence scientist Alessi Quon and Director of Imperial Intelligence, Armand Isard.  The robot next to Quon is IL-SA, made to look like IN-GA from the first mini-series.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire - Hard Targets #3a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (December 2012)
Cross, Tymon, and Bron are the focus of the cover for issue #4 with Boba Fett in the background.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire - Hard Targets #4a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (January 2013)
The cover for issue #5 shows Cross punching Boba Fett as well as Borgin, Vex, and Bron.  Vex never actually appears in the issue, but the artist can be forgiven for this mistake since so many characters are used throughout this spy thriller.

Star Wars: Agent of the Empire - Hard Targets #5a - Dark Horse Comics, U.S. (February 2013)
The writer, John Ostrander, does a terrific job juggling the characters and providing cameos for Boba Fett, Bail Organa, Princess Leia, Winter Celchu, Ysanne Isard, and Darth Vader.  Unfortunately, this second mini-series is the last story arc for Jahan Cross.

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