Since last year’s announcement of the sequel trilogy, many fans have debated whether the Expanded Universe would be discarded to allow new continuity. The relationship between G-Level and T-Level canon has always been blurry, but EU characters crossing over isn’t unprecedented.
The most recent example of EU canon being carried over was the inclusion of The Black Sun during the Darth Maul arc in The Clone Wars final season. Lucasfilm officials have tried to not step on the toes of expanded stories and characters, but prior to Disney’s acquisition, there was no major conflicts of interest that would jeopardize both venues working in harmony.
Most likely, Disney will not want to be restricted in creating original stories. The question arises, will the Expanded Universe be discarded, will it become a separate universe or some type of compromise? With Star Wars Rebels debuting next year, we’ll soon get that answer – and to examine this issue, we can hone in on one particular Expanded Universe story that involves Boba Fett.
Dark Horse’s popular comic book, Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets, takes place about 3 years before the Battle of Yavin in Episode IV. This is the era Rebels will take place in, although the exact date has not yet been announced, and could happen years earlier than this, but still within the same decade.
Hard Targets also dealt with similar issues as the Rebels premise puts forth – powerful families, cunning underdogs and other individuals looking to shape a rising empire. Obviously, they won’t reproduce the exact storylines from Hard Targets, but unless EU in entirety is tossed, this comic could hint at some elements we might see in Rebels.
The biggest prospective are Imperial Agents, like Johan Cross – side note, with the popularity of this book, could they officially canonize Cross as a new character in the series? Either way, with rumblings of a rebellion, we could see spies as a major role, like Clone Troopers were in the prequel era and Stormtroopers were in the Original Trilogy.
Hard Targets also illustrated the affects of power hungry families of means, families with names like Dooku. The front line is no longer on the ground, but behind closed doors. To ensure the right families gain power, the Empire uses bounty hunters as tools – in terms of assassinations or kidnappings. This is how characters like Cad Bane, Aurra Sing and others could be utilized in Rebels.
This also brings us to Boba Fett – a favorite used by the Empire. But this also brings us to the point where conflicts arise within continuity. Hard Targets establishes that Boba Fett, by 3 BBY, has been used regularly by the Empire. It’s alluded that he’s worked missions with Cross in the past, and we also see him recruited by Darth Vader in The Force Unleashed II, a video game/comic book also taking place in the time range of Rebels.
In Hard Targets, Boba Fett fits what we see not too far after in the original films. To not disrupt canon established in the Expanded Universe, then Star Wars Rebels must hit certain markers to match up with what we see later, especially if the show takes place closer to A New Hope than Episode III.
Boba Fett needs to have settled affairs with Hondo Ohnaka and retrieve Slave I. He’s got to be wearing his classic Mandalorian armor. Have produced a working relationship with the Empire and hooked up with Jabba the Hutt, as we see him as an escort in the Special Edition.
Lucasfilm should want to connect each era with few loose ends, at least in major character development aspects. Especially if the EU is erased, I should think they’d not want to leave popular characters like Boba Fett, a major moneymaker for the franchise, in the wind. It’s just bad storytelling to have a character like Boba Fett last seen in The Clone Wars with “starter set” armor, his flagship hidden in a pirate’s lair and no reputation of his own – to just show up years later with all those things with no explanation as to why.
They need to either provide that string of character development in Rebels or embrace the Expanded Universe to explain the happenings. Of course, they could simply reboot the Expanded Universe, but that would just tie their hands with future films just as equally as keeping the current comics and novels in the canon.
The second volume of “Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets” will be released in trade paperback on July 31.
The second story arc, documenting Johan Cross’ adventures as an Imperial agent heavily involved Boba Fett and hinted at a past between the two men – a plotting staple in most of John Ostrander’s writing.
If you’ve read my reviews of the comic, you’d be familiar with my love for this story. I felt the story was smart, introduced fresh aspects to the Star Wars Universe and delivered major payoff at the end. I recommend picking up the trade paperback, because I imagine the payoff is experienced twofold if read in one sitting – rather than spread over five or six months.
In the latest episode of Star Wars Beyond The Film, podcast #67, the team at The Star Wars Report Network give their insights into Hard Targets.
Co-hosts Mark Hurliman and Nathan Butler both praised and critiqued the story arc – giving valid points on both ends – even though I didn’t necessarily agree with all their conclusions.
If you haven’t caught this episode yet, it’s defiantly worth a listen. Both the hosts are well-read and avid fans of the Expanded Universe. If you’re on the fence about whether or not you’d like to invest in this title when it’s released, their insights will help with that decision.
Beware though; if you’d like to avoid spoilers concerning the plot and character development, listen to this podcast after you’ve read Hard Targets.
You can download it for free on iTunes. Agent of the Empire has been one of Dark Horse’s strongest titles the last couple years – let’s hope it comes back with a third volume this year – and maybe we’ll see another appearance of Boba Fett, too.
Note: This blog entry contains SPOILERS to “Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets” #5
We were brought full circle in “Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets” #5, finally learning what prompted the fight between Johan Cross and Boba Fett in the first issue.
In the previous issue, Cross and Candra Tymon rescued Bron Dooku, but their escape was interrupted by the arrival of Boba Fett – who was hired to bring in the young heir. The standoff is quickly joined by Lord Borgin’s forces, which receive immediate fire by Boba Fett.
Cross contributes firepower to Fett’s attack on Borgin’s men, giving Tymon and Bron opportunity to escape. Chief Jorrick and his men are gunned down, leaving the bounty hunter and imperial agent standing. It’s realized the first few panels from “Hard Targets” #1 are pulled from this faceoff.
What I found even more interesting was Boba Fett’s aside that he and Cross had battled before, and Fett had won. Is this a hint from writer John Ostrander that the two characters share a past, which we may get to see in future stories? Perhaps they’ve even worked side-by-side – Fett often being hired by the Empire, and Cross being an agent of the Empire?
The fight cumulates with Boba Fett’s firing an ion missile, which hits the Tymon and Bron’s escape vehicle – resulting in an explosion, destroying the ship. Boba Fett is baffled; the ion missile should have only shut down the engine, not creating a high explosion.
Cross presses Boba Fett for an explanation as to why he would kill the target he was paid to capture alive. Boba Fett pushes back just as hard, reasoning that he could not have been responsible for the explosion. They come to the epiphany that Boba Fett was set up to take the fall – his employer would benefit from the boy’s death.
As far as Fett’s concerned, this is the second time in weeks he’s been set up for a murder that benefited Lord Borgin – the man who hired him – or was it? Last issue, Boba Fett said once he discovered the individual who set him up, he’d deal with them. Now is time for reckoning.
When we next see Cross, he is waiting for Borgin in the politician’s study. What we find out, could poissibly be the most complicated and surprising endgame I’ve ever read in a Star Wars comic.
Boba Fett was not hired by Borgin, but by Cross, through a third party. Fett was led to believe he was being hired by Borgin, to bring him Bron to give him political leverage. Cross discloses to Borgin that he planned to be confronted by Fett once rescuing Bron, and Tymon willingly sacrificed herself in the explosion that she set off herself.
Bron was taken into safekeeping until he comes to age. Borgin is ecstatic that Cross is on his side, but then becomes wary when the agent reveals that the entire operation was not to benefit Borgin, but to make Boba Fett believe the lord had set him up – marking him for death.
The Empire made Orom Malvern, the brother-in-law of Borgin, the new count, because he is not as politically hungry and easily malleable to do the Empire’s will.
Echoing panels from the first issue, Borgin is shot dead from sniper fire through the window. Cross’ plan worked perfectly, although he knows if Boba Fett were to ever figure out the ruse, he will also be killed. However, in his line of work, by the time the bounty hunter learns the truth, when Bron surfaces as an adult, he most likely will already be dead.
This story arc ended with great payoff and left me stunned. Some of the best writing coming out of Dark Horse is in the pages of “Agent of the Empire.”
Note: This blog entry contains SPOILERS to “Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets” #4
Once again, Dark Horse Comics has delivered an issue with amazing artwork and a rich story. John Ostrander and his team of writers cease to amaze readers how much plot content his can fit in the panels. The art by penciller Davide Fabbri also produces some of the best illustrations being produced in Star Wars titles, today.
Four issues ago we discovered the assassination of Count Dooku was politically motivated, a power play by Rodas Borgin to regain his families interest in the Galactic Empire. Agent Jahan Cross pulled the trigger, disguising himself as the infamous bounty hunter, Boba Fett.
Over the course of the last several issues, Cross has wrestled with his task. While never questioning his allegiance to the Empire, it ruffled the agent’s feathers that Imperial resources were being used to position the House of Borgin toward their liking.
Not only had Borgin pressured the Empire to take out Adan Dooku, but Cross learned he also orchestrated the kidnapping of Adan’s heir, Bron Dooku, who Borgin is now the caregiver of. Even though Cross has been told to leave things along, he can’t allow harm to come to a young boy, so he plans to recruit Candra Tymon to help him in a rescue mission.
This is where we find ourselves in the beginning of “Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets” #4, at a cantina near the Serenno Spaceport. Candra is in the bar, drowning her sorrows at the bottom of a glass. Little does she know the man across from her, Cross, was the assassin in Mandalorian armor she failed to catch, and her former employer, Borgin, was the man responsible for Bron’s abduction – incidents which led to her unemployment as a body guard.
Cross is honest with Tymon, unveiling his part in the recent fallout – however, omitting his part in the assassination, even blatantly lying about it – and manages to sign her on to the rescue plan.
Meanwhile, floating idly in space is Boba Fett, aboard the Slave I, when a hologram transmission is received. A woman who represents the Count of Serenno offers Fett a job. We learn the bounty hunter was questioned following the assassination of Count Dooku, but an alibi freed him from being a primary suspect. Therefore, he is in the clear for accepting a job on Serenno.
Side note: Boba Fett warns he will soon learn who the imposter was and settle the score. Obviously, he does not know it was Cross – leaving questions floating over their confrontation at the start of the story arc. Since that encounter was noted to happen a few weeks after the assassination, we can only conclude that confrontation occurs sometime after this issue and upcoming events.
Cross learns Bron’s whereabouts via his father, Ambassador Davim Cross, and concocts a plan. Cross and Tymon sneak into Otoh Dooku, the families undersea retreat in the Belsallian Sea, where Bron is being held captive until the Imperial Navy arrives.
They succeed in rescuing Bron, escaping the hot pursuit of Borgin’s men. They rendezvous at the docks and ready the next stage in their plan – until they are interrupted by an unannounced visitor, Boba Fett.
The stage is set for disaster, as Cross has placed himself, whether by design or accident, against the man backed by his superiors. The Empire may question where Cross’ loyalties lay, or even consider him a traitor for acting on his own assignment.
“Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets” #5 will be released Feb. 27.
Note: This blog entry contains SPOILERS to “Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets #1.”
“Agent of the Empire” is a fresh approach to the Star Wars Expanded Universe that combines the traditional space opera with elements of espionage and secret agents. The adventures of Imperial Intelligence officer Jahan Cross take place before the events of Episode IV.
Last month Dark Horse Comics released the first issue of “Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets,” which is the second story arch in the series. The first issue opens with a literal bang as Cross tussles with Boba Fett – for reasons unknown to the reader.
Boba stops short of killing Cross, but warns the agent to not get in his way again. The scene ends with Cross stealing a speeder and taking off in pursuit of Boba Fett. Cross discloses his mission is, in fact, to get in the bounty hunters way.
Ten days earlier on Alderann, the home world of Cross, there was a celebration hosted by Bail Organa to honor the current Count Dooku – but things quickly turned sour after the count is assassinated by “Boba Fett” – or so it seemed at first.
After a short foot chase the assassin escapes via jet pack, removes his helmet and reveals himself as none other than Jahan Cross – who was under the impression he was assigned to kill the count because he was an enemy of the empire. He is later told by Agent Armand Isard the count was actually neutral, but was killed as a favor to a influential person close to the Empire.
Cross doesn’t know what to think of this new information and struggles with the fact he may have killed an innocent man.
“Do you know the difference between you and a hired gun like Boba Fett, Agent Cross? You’re cheaper.” – Agent Isard.
The story is engaging and the colors pop from the panels with brilliant tones of red, orange and blue. John Ostrander’s story promises an interesting premise and I’m excited for the remaining four issues in the story arch. The illustrations by Davide Fabbri are rich in detail and the colors by Wes Dzioba explode from the page.
"Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets #2" will be released Nov. 21.