Welcome, Rebelscum fans! We’re jumping into our weekly coverage with a look at another exciting storyline from the Star Wars Legends timeline. This week we’re covering Crimson Empire, the acclaimed post-Return of the Jedi comic arc that explored the adventures of the last surviving Imperial Royal Guards. We’ll be discussing the entire run, which had a fascinating release over two decades.
Today on “Expand Your Mind” we’re hoping to peak your interest in this beloved series, but stay tuned for more updates this week. The “Timeline Breakdown” segment will explore Crimson Empire’s connections to other Star Wars projects, “”Character Profile” will look at some of its key figures, and with “Force Casting” we’ll imagine a Crimson Empire adaptation within the new canon material.
The intimidating Royal Guards flanked key Imperial Figures during the glory days of the Empire, but after the destruction of Death Star II, the warriors questioned their sworn loyalties. The 1997 six-issue comic run Crimson Empire picks up with one such Red Guard, Kir Kanos. Kanos now operates as a mercenary in the years following the rise and fall of proposed new Imperial leaders Grand Admiral Thrawn and Emperor Palpatine’s Clone.
Kanos is spurred back into action when another former guard, Carnor Jax, betrays the Empire and orders the massacre of the remaining Guards. While Kanos is left traumatized by his experiences during his brutal training with Darth Vader, he’s loyal to his former guardsman and finds himself a target of Jax’s brutal regime.
Crimson Empire unfolds in a nonlinear narrative that includes flashbacks to the Royal Guard training process. Jax’s rage stems from a brutal duel in which Darth Vader personally challenged him to a duel and left him for dead, and the events cause Kanos to realize that not even complete loyalty will keep him alive.
Compared to other Star Wars Dark Horse comics of the 90s, Crimson Empire wasn’t focused on the established characters, with figures like Luke Skywalker and Boba Fett only making brief cameos. Kanos is one of the definitive Legends Star Wars anti-heroes, and the stunning artwork introduced a new form of Star Wars combat with the Imperial staffs. The final duel between Kanos and Jax is among the most gripping moments in the history of the Expanded Universe.
With the promise that “Loyalty Never Dies,” Crimson Empire was a Star Wars story for adults and hailed for its originality. A sequel, Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood followed a year later and picked up with the formation of a new Imperial Council. Lying low after his conflict with Jax, Kanos is blamed for a series of assassinations and must solve a murder mystery at the heart of the new Galactic regime.
Fans were eager for a conclusion in which Kanos would track down Skywalker himself as revenge for Palpatine’s death. While a third installment was planned for release in 2001 and would’ve picked up during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion story arc, the plans were put on hold. It wasn’t until 2011 in which co-writers Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley were able to finally debut Crimson Empire III- Empire Lost.
Kir Kanos was memorialized in Hasbro’s 30th Anniversary Collection line as a comic two pack with Carnor Jax as well as a (mislabeled) six-inch Black Series figure. However, the prize gem of Crimson Empire merch is without a doubt the Entertainment Earth 6-pack, which includes Palpatine, Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and the Royal Guards Lemmet Tauk (Purple), Kir Kanos (Yellow), Alum Frost (Red), and Carnor Jax (Blue). Check out Bobby’s merchandising video later this week to learn more.
While not as well-known as storylines like The Thrawn Trilogy or Dark Empire, the Crimson Empire saga has a strong cult appreciation and represents a valuable prospect for collectors. Crimson Empire is among the more underrated storylines within Legends canon. While it's yet to be officially adopted into the new timeline, it's one of the rare storylines to focus on former Imperials clinging to their obligations.
What say you? Did you read Crimson Empire when it first came out? Are you a fan of the depiction of the Royal Guards? Do you have a favorite fight scene or moment? Let us know below, and as always, may the Force be with you!