Story: John Ostrander
Art: Luke Ross
Coloring: Jason Keith
Lettering: Michael David Thomas
Cover: Luke Ross, Jason Keith
Reviewed by: JF Boivin (11/10/2005)
Sagoro Autem doesn't like to be forced into servitude as a captain in the Imperial Navy of the newly-titled Emperor. But a demonstration by Darth Vader during an assembly of captains convinces him to keep his loyalties to himself. Nonetheless, he is informed by Isaru Omin, a former friend from his Senate Guard days, that stormtroopers are coming to take Autem into custody. Omin sacrifices himself to allow him to escape. Autem goes to meet one of his contacts in the Coruscant lower levels, a Bothan named Ch'ord Sy'fon, to get a ride off-planet. Meanwhile, Vader hires three bounty hunters to track Autem down. Autem is unexpectedly saved twice by one of the hunters, Evan Hessler, from the other two hunters and from Vader himself who was informed by Ch'ord Sy'fon. Autem then finds out that "Hessler" is in fact someone he has been searching for five years.
This story was originally supposed to be published as #80, but it was moved up. This issue also has a couple of firsts: it is the first issue of Republic to take place after Revenge of the Sith, and it has the first mention chronologically of the name "stormtrooper." Ostrander puts a close to a few of the characters that he created in previous stories, while at the same time showing the very first days of the Empire. Sagoro Autem is from "Honor and Duty" (Republic #46-48), and later popped-up during the Clone Wars as a mercenary in Jedi: Shaak Ti, then as a Republic captain in "The Siege of Saleucami" (Republic #74-77). Here we find out what happened after "Honor and Duty", and how those later appearances fit together. Isaru Omin was also an important character in that story as Autem's friend and partner in the Senate Guards, as was Autem's son. There are also a couple of cameos in the Imperial captains scene. Captain Jan Dodonna of course had a previous cameo in the "Dreadnaughts of Rendili" story (#69-71) and Captain Jace Dallin was a friend of Plo Koon's in "The Stark Hyperspace War" (#36-39) and later in "The Siege of Saleucami". Talk about tying up loose ends.
That scene is actually pretty well-written. The Imperial captains are introduced to Darth Vader by the Emperor himself. When Dallin mentions his doubts about the Jedi being traitors, Vader executes a pretty powerful Force grip, which shows how much more powerful he was in the early days. This scene is the perfect lead-in to what happens next, with Autem hiding from the Imperials, although why Vader himself is looking for him is left unclear. Even when Palpatine suggests that Vader hire bounty hunters (a prelude of things to come in The Empire Strikes Back), he still is the one who waits for Autem at the transport ship after the Bothan set Autem up. At this point, I would have tought hunting Jedi was a priority but I guess Vader has the motivation to track down the occasional Imperial traitor. Also ambiguous is why are the Imperials looking for Autem in the first place, although someone mentions a few possiblities (one of them being that he did time on Brentaal IV, a reference to the aformentioned Jedi: Shaak Ti appearance.) This is not a negative observation, but just pointing out that there are a few question marks left.
The bounty hunters are pretty cool. There's a Shistavanen Wolfman named Severian, a Dug named Tartuta and "Evan Hessler" who is actually Autem's son. Except for Hessler, the hunters are incredibly vicious and cruel in their attacks and don't follow the bounty hunter's code at all. This all leads to a satisfying happy ending, where Autem finally finds his family after all these years. With this one-shot, Ostrander once again shows he can write interesting characters and make them interact masterfully with the existing Star Wars universe. A very enjoyable read, although I highly recommend reading "Honor and Duty" first to add to the enjoyment (which sadly hasn't been collected in a trade paperback yet.)
I really love it when artists also ink their own artwork. It gives them more control over the tone and texture of the panels. Luke Ross and Jason Keith also worked on Dark Horse's Samurai: Heaven & Earth series written by Ron Marz (the TPB is announced for February 2006 for those interested). Ross' art is very good, but he seems to use photographic references a lot. There's nothing wrong in doing that, especially when it is to depict Dodonna to look like a younger version of the actor from the movie, but sometimes it takes me out of the story when I see a picture I've seen somewhere else before. For instance, there is the close-up of the Emperor on page 2, the aliens on page 12, and the clone trooper on top of page 14. Aside from that, the artowrk is very nice, as is the coloring work by Keith. One of my favorite panels is the one on page 4 where Vader uses the Force and throws an officer almost to the ceiling. There is such movement in the arm and the cape, you can almost feel the power in the air. Also the Shistavanen really looks fierce, exactly like he should. The colors are really dark and rainy, representing well the cold Imperial offices and the lower levels of Coruscant.
Very fun read, especially for those who have read Ostrander's previous stories.
Rating: 7 / 10 Recommended