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on September 17, 2012
"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

It is the time of a falling empire, a time of betrayal and vengeance. This is the story of the last of the mysterious Imperial Guards of the Emperor Palpatine. It is the story of his quest to seek justice for the galactic ruler he served, and for his fellow comrades in arms, who gave their lives in that service.

"Star Wars: The Crimson Empire Saga," tells the tale of Kir Kanos, the sole survivor of the scarlet clothed guardians of the Emperor, first shown in "Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi." Over more than a decade of Dark Horse Comics publishing history, starting in 1997 to its long awaited conclusion in 2012, "Crimson Empire" reveals the history of these elite soldiers, "the best of the best," trained for one purpose: to serve the Emperor of "the first Galactic Empire." This 504 paged hardcover book collects the following stories:

Star Wars: Crimson Empire #1-6 (1997)
Star Wars: The Bounty Hunters (Kenix Kil) (1999)
Star Wars: Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood #1-6 (1999)
Star Wars: "Hard Currency" (Dark Horse Extra #21-24) (2000)
Star Wars: Crimson Empire III: "The Third Time Pays for All" (Dark Horse Presents #1) (2011)
(Note: The above is also the opening passage to Crimson Empire III #1)
Star Wars: Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost #1-6 (2011)
Star Wars Handbook Volume 2: Crimson Empire (1999)

"The Crimson Empire Saga" begins with an ending; the final defeat of the Emperor Palpatine by his long-time foes, the Rebel Alliance, led by the legendary siblings, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa Solo. But unbeknownst to those fighting to free the galaxy from Palpatine's tyranny, treachery also played a role in the Emperor's downfall. In a stunning turn of events it is revealed that one of those thought to be most loyal to Palpatine, a member of the Imperial Guard itself, betrayed his master in an attempt to seize power for himself. To insure the success of his treason, Carnor Jax also ordered the assassination of all the surviving Imperial Guard. But in his arrogance, the traitor underestimated the skill of the warriors he had trained with. Though faced with the overwhelming force of an army of stormtroopers sent to eliminate them on their training world Yinchorr, one Imperial Guard survived the massacre. Kir Kanos, the last of Emperor Palpatine's Imperial Guard lived on, to seek vengeance on Carnor Jax, and all those who had betrayed his Emperor.

The core "Crimson Empire" trilogy is the creation of writers Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley, and artist Paul Gulacy, and they have produced an exciting adventure of Star Wars action, intrigue and emotion. The first "Crimson Empire" 6 issue comic mini-series was published in 1997, in the early years of what came to be called the "Star Wars Expanded Universe." The "EU" is an ongoing showcase for the continuing "adventures of Luke Skywalker" in novels, comics, computer games and more, as well as for other characters and worlds from the movie and now television saga envisioned by George Lucas. But the Expanded Universe also highlights original ideas based on characters and situations created by Mr. Lucas. "Crimson Empire" represents a prime example of talented imaginations thinking, 'what if we told a story about the red cloaked guards seen in "Return of the Jedi?"'

In Kir Kanos, Richardson, Stradley, and Gulacy have created a classic Star Wars anti-hero/hero. Along with such Expanded Universe creations as Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Quinlan Vos, and Asajj Ventress, he is one of the most intriguing characters in the Star Wars Universe. Kanos is a highly trained warrior with a steadfast moral code, whose quest for vengeance anchors "The Crimson Empire Saga." It is this focus on the lead character's ultimate goal that is one of the achievements of the series. This dramatic strength, when adhered to, allows the comic creators to truly delve into their original characters and concepts without having to include or depend on the more famous Star Wars heroes and villains, although some appear in supporting roles. It is a testament to the makers' storytelling abilities that as the reader follows this tale of Kir Kanos' road to revenge, one becomes sympathetic to the character's cause to avenge the death of one of the most evil men who ever lived in any galaxy!

A special highlight of "Crimson Empire" is the artistry of Paul Gulacy. Mr. Gulacy has a distinctive style in the sequential art medium; a clean precise vision that combines traditional comic book panel progression with simulated photographic technique. For example, Mr. Gulacy rarely uses motion lines in his comic art, except to depict the movement of a lightsaber, or in the case of Kir Kanos' preferred weapon, the force pike, a doubled-bladed long staff. This style gives Mr. Gulacy's work a heightened sense of realism. In the first "Crimson Empire" mini-series, Mr. Gulacy is inked by P. Craig Russell. In "Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood," he is embellished by Randy Emberlin. "Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost" saves the best for last as Mr. Gulacy produced full pencil and ink artwork for the third mini-series. He was always his best inker.

This "Crimson Empire" collection also offers the reader the opportunity to see the evolution and advancement of comic coloring from 1997 through to 2012, the year of this special compendium's release. Dave Stewart created the color art for Mr. Gulacy's pencil work on the first two installments of the prime comic trilogy and the results display a marked improvement over the flat colors long produced in comics of the past. But with "Crimson Empire III," the most recent part of the saga, the color rendering of Michael Bartolo shows an even more nuanced use of tone and hue over Mr. Gulacy's art. Thanks in no small part to the computer age, comic coloring has come a long way from the days of newsprint.

Another highlight of "The Crimson Empire Saga" is the inclusion of two addition stories within the thick hardcover. "How the Mighty have Fallen" is a tale written by Randy Stradley, and illustrated by Javier Saltares and Christopher Ivy. Published in 1999 as part of the Star Wars: The Bounty Hunters comic series, it relates how Kir Kanos created the secret bounty hunter identity Kenix Kil,to better hide from members of the fallen Galactic Empire that were hunting for him across the stars.

The second adventure, the short story, "Hard Currency," was published in Dark Horse Extra, a newspaper-like fanzine released from 1998-2002, and features Kenix Kil teaching an enemy the cost of betrayal. It was scripted by Mr. Stradley, and drawn by Isaac Buckminster Owens.

There is a great deal to enjoy in this "Crimson Empire" collection but it is not without flaws. While the premiere "Crimson Empire" mini-series succeeds in being an enthralling adventure on every level, "Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood" sometimes suffers from a story that concentrates too much on subterfuge and political power-plays; so much so that the series' starring character, Kir Kanos, seems rather to be a supporting player in his own story. The long-awaited third part in the "Crimson Empire" trilogy, "Empire Lost," improves on the faults of its predecessor but still has a sometimes convoluted plotline.

Another flaw in the multi-part saga is the character arc of Mirith Sinn, the brave and beautiful Rebel Alliance commander who plays a major part in most of Kir Kanos' exploits. The series writers, Mr. Richardson and Mr. Stradley, showcase the evolution of the relationship between these two driven individuals, a relationship that has an undeniable chemistry. Mirith and Kir Kanos share a bond, a bond that is complicated by violent loss. But the complexities of their relationship are sometimes handled in conflicting ways from story to story, resulting in confusion for the reader in understanding the otherwise strong character of Mirith Sinn.

Still another flaw in this collection is the editorial decision not to include all the striking covers painted by artist Dave Dorman for the 18 individual comics in the "Crimson Empire" trilogy of mini-series. While it is gratifying to see 6 of Mr. Dorman's contributions to the saga, notably his special wrap-around cover painting to the first "Crimson Empire" trade paperback reprint volume, as well as the "Crimson Empire Handbook" cover, this reviewer regrets the omission of the artist's 13 other paintings. Nor was the sole "variant" cover to "Crimson Empire III" number 1, drawn by Mr. Gulacy included, and it was the only cover he created for the entire series. It is doubly disappointing when the collection showcases Mr. Dorman's cover to that same comic issue twice in the book!

This reviewer would have also been appreciative of a written introduction or history of the creation of the "Crimson Empire" series; and a feature that explained the long wait of 13 years before the concluding chapter in the trilogy was finally released for fans of the saga to enjoy. These editorial choices could have then given this hardcover collection the more appropriate title, "The Complete Crimson Empire Saga."

Despite the above shortcomings, this is a very special Star Wars comic collection. From one Star Wars fan to any who read this review, I highly recommend you put on some of John Williams' immortal Star Wars music, sit back, open this hardcover and let yourself be taken away to that "galaxy far, far away" we love so much!
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on August 21, 2013
At a grand 504 pages, this big book covers the Crimson Empire series in its entirety. Containing the first, second, and third mini-series as well as Bounty Hunters: Kenix Kil, Dark Horse Extra #21-24 "Hard Currency", and Dark Horse Presents #1 "Third Time Pays for All". While some of these stories truly pale in comparison to the original series, they all still form a big story that is collected in this book. Slightly smaller than a regular TPB, this hardcover edition looks nice with a dustjacket (although mine was very off-center) but utilizes a glued binding on this thick book so you lose a bit to gutter loss.

The first story in the book is the classic Crimson Empire series. The six-issue series is collected here in full with a truly timeless story by Randy Stradley and Mike Richardson. Paul Gulacy did the awesome art within the issues. The writing and art work well together with the vibration of the blades to the movie-like, choreographed 12-page fight scene between Kanos and Jax at the end. A truly epic tale with lots of action and mystery that made you feel like you were watching another Star Wars movie but condensed into six issues of a comic book! This alone is worth the purchase price but you get even more stories after this!

Bounty Hunters: Kenix Kil follows the Crimson Empire in a tale following Kir Kanos after the end of the Crimson Empire series and was the third issue in the Bounty Hunters series. Kir becomes the bounty hunter Kenix Kil to move through a bounty hunter-filled planet and get what he needs and get out alive! Javier Saltares did the penciling while Randy Stradley reprised his role for the story. The story's short but tells a bit more about Kir and his journey. The drawings, while not as good as the first series, look good enough to get the story across.

Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood is next directly following the first series as Kir Kanos, as Kenix Kil, continues his quest to destroy what's left of the traitorous Imperial leaders. However, the return of an old friend side-tracks his quest and brings him to an even bigger journey! The old writing team of Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley return in this story as well as the original artist Paul Gulacy. The art's great and the story, though a bit dense, works well. There isn't quite as much action this time around but the story's just as good. The Zanzibar creatures are one of the creepiest things you'll ever see in a Star Wars comic, too!

Next up is the very short four-part comic entitled Hard Currency that appeared in Dark Horse Extra #21-24. The comic is written by Randy Stradley so you know the writing's done well but the art is by Isaas Buckminister Owens and is one God-awful mess. The characters are horribly out of proportion and it looks extremely cartoony. It's very, very short with only a few pages but even if you get past the art, the comic reads like a calendar with the book turned on its side. So, the whole process of reading this out of a 500+ page book is just annoying. I know they probably couldn't print it any other way but it's still inconvenient. However, what you get is a neat story wrapping up the fate of a character that has ran through the first two series and a bit more about Kir's alter ego Kenix Kil. Unlisted, the book appears to start with the third main series but actually contains an 8-page prequel comic that originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #1 entitled The Third Time Pays for All. The writing has Randy Stradley again and, thankfully, Paul Gulacy on art duty (although his other works here were better). Once again, a short glimpse into the life of (a newly outfitted) Kenix Kil on a bounty-hunting mission while he reminisces about his past run-ins with Mirith Sinn.

Mike, Randy and Paul continue their work with the Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost where Kir Kanos rejoins Mirith Sinn one last time to thwart an Imperial thug from destroying the New Republic and the New Empire in one fell swoop! Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie appear in this tale as well as Boba Fett to round out a classic cast. The art's great, once again, and the writing, while probably my least favorite of the series, is still pretty good with an epic fight between Kir and Devian. At the end of the book, we get the Crimson Empire Handbook entries on some of the characters as well as a few more covers to gawk at. While this hardcover book looks really nice, Dark Horse still fails to make a truly great edition for this series through the book itself. The contents are great but the small size and lack of comic covers are disappointing. Sadly, that's just how Dark Horse releases their hardcovers and TPBs. But, if you're looking to read the Crimson Empire books, this is the one to get!
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on August 10, 2015
Crimson Empire was the first Star Wars comic that I read. Stories like these are what kept Star Wars alive and fresh during the nearly 20 years between films.

I love the stories about those minor characters that you see in the films. When you saw the Crimson Guard with the Emperor for the first time, you knew there was something fascinating about these guardians of the most powerful being in the universe. This story delves into some of those characters.

The art is fantastic, sort of that stylized 90's colorful art. Awesome battle scenes. It really captures the imagination.

Great story, give it a try. I highly recommend getting a paper copy of this trade.
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on April 7, 2015
Kir Kanos is the main character in the series. He used to be one of the Emperor's Royal Guard. He is betrayed by fellow guardsmen and takes an oath to get revenge. The three crimson empire stories are fast paced and very exciting. It is a view from the Imperial side of things and what they are trying to do to replace the Emperor. Kanos is against this because he swore to protect Palpatine.
The other stories Kenix Kil and hard Currency Are also about Kanos disguised as a Bounty Hunter. These are very good stories as well.
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on October 20, 2016
I love this series! It is beautifully painted, has good dialogue, and has a very compelling narrative. I cannot help but like the protagonist, Kir Kanos. He is brave, unselfish, noble, determined, and deadly. Even if his primary goal is to exact vengeance for the killing of the truly evil Palpatine, I cannot help but cheer for him. This is truly a compelling read that refuses to be put down.
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on May 10, 2017
Good read and decent to good graphics.
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From the 90s to the 2010s the Crimson Empire saga has told the story of Kir Kanos, the last of the Emperor's Crimson Guard and his quest for vengeance against those responsible for the Emperor's death. This thick hardcover collects the three miniseries plus some additional short stories and background material for a fairly low price. Through I already own the first two series in TPB I'm glad I picked this one up.

It begins with very strong miniseries Crimson Empire where Kanos hunts down a Crimson Guardsman who betrayed the others and now seeks to replace Palpatine as Emperor. It's easily the strongest entry in the series, one where Kanos is highly skilled and determined warrior who cuts a bloody path to his foe.

The second miniseries - Council of Blood - pits Kanos against a traitorous Imperial council who plotted against the Emperor. This storyline incorporated several subplots, Imperial intrigues, crime lords, cannibal aliens, the New Republic and a host of other new threads. Perhaps too many new threads, at times Kanos feels like a spectator in his own book.

The final series however is weak. Published more than a decade after the first two it promised a showdown between Kanos and the one most responsible for the Emperor's death, a Jedi Master by the name of Luke Skywalker...

But we don't get that.

We get a decent story involving yet more renegade Imperials but in the process Kanos gives up his defining mission and instead becomes little more than another Republic hero and loses many of his interesting characteristics.

The art by Paul Gulacy is strong throughout, the only weakness I saw was that once established characters like Luke and Leia take the stage they look a bit too realistic, almost like photoshopped images than drawings. It was jarring enough to take me out of the book a few times.

But still the first two books are a good read and even the third has its moments. Crimson Empire remains one of my favorite expanded universe books and this is a great way to get the whole story at once.
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on April 28, 2014
As a child the Red Guard in the Return of the Jedi evoked just as much curiosity as the fabled Boba Fett. I wondered, who the hell is so bad ass that they are qualified to personally protect the most powerful tyrant in history. This book answered my burning questions and exceeded my expectations about the elite Red Guard. Read, admire, and be blown away by this incredible piece of Star Wars lore.
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on September 23, 2013
A lot of the time when your reading SW books your imagination doesn't quite fill in the gaps that the author leaves. A lot of SW books have little to no detail because they are movie or game based. This is where the top notch illiustrations took this story line to a whole new level! Richardson does a great job on developping the main character. I was very impressed with the quality of the story and blown away with the illustrations. Great read for all!
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on March 17, 2016
In the power vacuum created by Palpatine's death struggles continue to unfold and this struggle follows one of the Emperors Imperial Guards and his journey through the Galaxy.
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