Star Wars: Agents of the Empire.
Hard Targets: 4 of 5.
Review by: Donny Cates
Writer: John Ostrander
Penciller: Davidé Fabbri
Inker: Christian Dalla Vecchia and Davidé Fabbri
Colorist: Wes Dzioba
Letterist: Michael Heisler
Cover Artist: Stéphane Roux
The penultimate issue of the Hard Targets storyline is far from slowing the action down. The James Bond of the Empire, Jahan Cross, says he has a plan, and it’s finally beginning to look like he really might.
It’s easy for Star Wars titles like these to get mired in minutiae, to pay service to long term EU fans. Lord knows these titles can be scary to new and eager fans of the original trinity looking for more of the same. Ostrander does an amazing job with this title by making it an easy read to wrap your head around for any level of SW fandom. The story, while large in scope and breadth, feels like a personal one in his hands, and despite the overwhelming prevalence of smart ass droids and bounty hunter spaceships, could easily read as a great stand alone story without the Star Wars backdrop.
The books dialogue (especially that between Jahan and Candra, young Count Dooku’s security) is punchy and and at times Azzarelloesque (New word. I invented it just now. It’s mine) the parallels between Cross and Bond (that have been made a million times by better writers than me.) are particularly prevalent in this issue as the Thunderballian (Also mine) underwater battle that takes place midway into the issue. I could have done with some more crazy Star Wars sea creatures but other than that the sequence is beautiful and reminiscent of a certain Death Star trench battle that took place in some other little known sci-fi film.
The art by Fabbri is gorgeous here and the amazing color work of Dzioba compliments the clean and textured line work perfectly. Each page and new setting is fully and lushly fleshed out and gives off a sense of permanence that makes the book fit like a glove with the assorted EU titles.
Like most espionage stories, the lines between righteous and evil are ostensibly blurred in this title and the key line “Sometimes what you need is a bad man who is on your side” bring the point crashing home in this issue and serves as a through line for the tone of the series. With the plot coming near full circle in this issue with the inclusion of a certain fan favorite bounty hunter making his fated appearance, Hard Targets is ramping up to what seems like an epic conclusion in yet another worthy inclusion to the EU from Ostrander and the fine folks at Dark Horse.