Review Shooter: Star Wars: Agent of the Empire Hard Targets 2

Written by: John Ostrander
Art by: Davidé Fabbri, Christian Dalla Vecchia and Wes Dzioba
Review by: Tim Taylor

Alleged Bond-esque Star Wars character Jahan Cross is back in the second issue of the five-issue limited, Hard Targets. With Fabbri on pencils and sharing inks with Vecchia, Dziba on colors, and heavy-hitter Ostrander on script, I was definitely intrigued to see where issue two took the arc. Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, I’d like to touch specifically on the art, for a moment.

It’s pretty straightforward, really, which is why I won’t spend too much time discussing it directly. Overall, I can fit the art into two words; sharp and busy. The inks are generally heavy with macro line-shading seeing a lot of use. The colors are a bit flat, frequently relying on a small number of shades to add minor depth and gradation to the ink’s heavy shadows. The frames aim at a flat set of rectangles for calmer scenes and some moderate diagonals for scenes that wish to be portrayed as more active or emotional, although I often find myself asking why they were/were not applied to a number of particular scenes. In other words, I don’t  think they were used to great effect.

The actual story is a bit more complex. The most recent Count Dooku has been assassinated (I won’t say by whom, should you have missed the first issue), and his young son requires a regent to … assist him… until he grows older. Jahan is sent to ensure an Empire loyalist is selected. Let’s just say it’s no surprise that the loyalist Jahan must help get elected is about fourteen shades of jerk-face. Jahan’s father is on the council, Dooku’s bodyguard shows back up (who reminds me an incredible amount of Hunter from Gaiman’s Neverwhere), Vader pops up in a flashback, and so forth; in essence, there’s no shortage of interesting characters or potential.

In actual practice, well, I’m not blown away. Honestly, it’s a pretty good issue, but it falls into the pitfall I like to refer to as “Second Issue Coincidental Exposition.” Basically, there are so many relationships in this new set of characters, that it becomes difficult to pass on information in interesting ways. Issue one whets your appetite, but issue two is left with the burden of explaining who all of these people are and what they are like. This leads to a lot of “As you know,” “I’m sure you’re aware,” characters introducing other characters in very through manners, or one character telling another a story. It just so happens that Jahan needs to be told this story, or get background on X person, etc. Understandably, these are necessary at times, but I find that second issues tend to overuse these devices to try to get information across in an integrated manner rather than simple exposition in an introduction or character list.

Because so much time is spent in these endeavors, second issues can seem a bit flat or at least not as dynamic as the first issue. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just not terribly exciting. Regardless, there are definitely some key and intriguing points in the issue and I certainly am far more fond of it than I was the first series with Cross involved, so I’m still hooked for the third issue to see what actually develops out of all the information given in this issue. There is a clear Ostrander sense at work here that is setting up some interesting history and potential choices in the future that play a lot with the concepts of good and evil, as well as cleverly considered turns in the story, so there’s definitely no reason to despair.

If you’re one of the new fans of Cross, I’d definitely suggest picking it up. If you’re rather indifferent about the whole idea, however, or particularly didn’t like the first limited, I may suggest just hanging on to see how the next one or two in the arc turn out before you run out to spend your money on it.

Score: 3/5 skeleton vaginas!

 

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