Greetings, Rebelscum fans! This week we’re covering one of the most criminally underrated storylines in Star Wars comics: Crimson Empire. Hopefully you’ve heard of this exciting saga of the Royal Guards in the years following Return of the Jedi, but if you’ve missed out make sure to read up on the series’s full history in our “Expand Your Mind” intro article. There’s a whole lot more Crimson Empire coming to the site this week, and make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel in order to see Bobby’s videos on the subject.
Crimson Empire showed the previously unseen training process of the Red Guards through flashbacks to Kir Kanos and Carnor Jax’s initiation under Darth Vader. Although their combat skills had been the subject of fans’ imaginations since their introduction, Crimson Empire was the first major storyline to show the fearsome warriors in the thick of action.
Like many of our favorite Dark Horse Comics storylines, Crimson Empire is deemed to be non-canon. That doesn’t mean it's not an essential read, as the gripping eighteen issues fit nicely into the Expanded Universe timeline. Set in 11 A.B.Y., Crimson Empire immediately follows Heir to the Empire and Dark Empire in the chronology.
If you enjoy Crimson Empire and want to learn more about the Imperial Guards, we’ve picked out a few other interesting Legends projects that focus on the Crimson Empire characters, as well as some of Emperor Palpatine’s other elite protectors.
- Hard Currency (One-shot comic issue, 2000): In this immediate follow up to Crimson Empire II, Kir Kanos operates under the name Kenix Kil and roams the galaxy as a mercenary. The issue features the return of one of the top Crimson Empire villains, the New Republic office Massimo, who swore revenge on Kanos after a duel left him physically scarred.
- The Bounty Hunters: Kenix Kil (1999): This installment in Dark Horse Comics’ popular The Bounty Hunters series brought Kanos back to explore how he took up the lifestyle of scum and villainy. Despite the Empire’s frequent employment of mercenaries, bounty hunters were quick to target Kanos and other Imperial figures during the rise of the New Republic.
- The Third Time Pays For All (One-shot comic issue, 2011): Prior to the highly anticipated release of Crimson Empire III, this short prequel follows Kanos and his love interest Mirith Sinn. Now operating on Coruscant under the New Republic, Sinn has a brief encounter with Princess Leia where she swears vengeance on Kanos.
- The Young Jedi Knights (YA novel series, 1995-1998): These fourteen young adult novels follow Han and Leia’s twin children Jacen and Jaina Solo as they train at Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy on Yavin IV. The Solo twins face many fearsome opponents, including a remaining legion of Royal Guards who’ve preserved Palpatine’s likeness as a Wizard of Oz-esque illusion.
- Star Wars Tales: Tag and Bink Special Edition (2006): Inspired by Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a comedic take on side characters from William Shakespereare’s Hamlet, the ongoing Tag and Bink adventures followed two wacky goofballs who find themselves intertwined in the key events of the Star Wars universe. In the 2006 extended special, Tag and Bink disguise themselves as Imperial Guards and are tasked with preparing Emperor Palpatine’s bathtub.
- Coruscant Nights (Novel trilogy, 2008-2009): This exciting trilogy of novels follows former Jedi padawan Jax Pavan as he survives as a private investigator in the years following Order 66. Pavan crosses paths with the Royal Guards in the second novel Streets of Shadows.
- Labyrinth of Evil (Novel, 2005): Even before the rise of the Empire, Palpatine used his Royal Guards during the Clone Wars era to help mask his identity. In the direct predecessor to Revenge of the Sith, the Red Guards aid the dark lord operate secretly, as a team of Jedi seek to unmask his identity.