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Major Themes in Star Wars: Crimson Empire

Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.

One of Palpatine's Royal Guard wielding a force pike.

One of Palpatine's Royal Guard wielding a force pike.

Aside from the central protagonists of Kir Kanos and Mirith Sinn, the major unifying feature of the Crimson Empire graphic novels are the twin themes of survivors guilt and the self destructive nature of revenge.

The Last Guard

The last of the Imperial Guards, Kir Kanos dedicates his life to taking revenge on those people—in both the New Republic and the remains of the Galactic Empire—whom he believes responsible for the death of Emperor Palpatine and his clones along with the disintegration of the Empire. He starts with the other remaining Imperial Guard, Carnor Jax, who has declared himself emperor before dismantling the treacherous elements of the Interim Council, and final fixing his sights on Luke Skywalker and Leia, prominent figures of the New Republic who had a hand in the downfall of the Empire.

The motivation for the actions of Kir Kanos is loyalty. He is the last of the elite guard, having sworn an oath to take revenge for the destruction of the single institution they were dedicated to uphold. Because his previous reason for living has been lost, Kir Kanos becomes single-minded in his revenge; the matter is both personal and professional. He is shamed twice: in the failure of his duty and in having survived beyond his primary purpose.

A Woman Scorned

Mirith Sinn is first seen leading a guerrilla group of New Republic fighters working to undermine places still in control of the Empire. She reveals that she joined the Rebellion after her husband was killed by Darth Vader. Robbed of the life she wanted, she turned all her efforts to destroying the Empire. Even with limited resources, she fights the remains of the Empire with every step, even if that means an alliance with Kir Kanos when they have mutual enemies. She even goes so far as to allegedly quit her post to chase after the last Imperial Guard and bring him to justice as well. When she is eventually tapped to be head of security for Leia, Mirith is ambivalent because as much as she wants to serve the Republic, she still carries a lot of anger toward the remains of the Empire and even Kir Kanos for his loyalty to an institution she hates. It is only after she saves Leia’s children that she can put her life in perspective. Though it leads to her quitting her position, she overcomes the anger—toward the Empire and Kir Kanos—that has been the central focus of her life for so long.

Star Wars Galaxies Trading Card Game – Agents of Deception (Card: Order 66)

Star Wars Galaxies Trading Card Game – Agents of Deception (Card: Order 66)

Unwillingness to Survive

In the instances of both characters, they have trouble adapting their lives when tragedy takes away the future they had planned. Their survivor’s guilt drives them to suicidal measures. Despite his combat prowess, Kir Kanos undertakes a quest that will most likely end in his death. He is alone and fighting against the remains of an Empire with resources and weapons he cannot defeat. Even if he manages that, he must also target Luke Skywalker whose Jedi abilities set him in a class apart even from Imperial Guard skills. In his own training, Kir Kanos was bested by Darth Vader. Similarly, Mirith Sinn’s desire for revenge against the Empire is equally delusional. One woman with no training and few resources is no match even for a broken Galactic Empire. Once she’s participated in a major victory for the New Republic, she swears a similarly suicidal oath of revenge against Kir Kanos, a man whom she has witnessed singlehandedly defeat squads of Storm Troopers. For each of these protagonists, the confusion and shame and lack of direction in their lives motivates them to impossible tasks because they cannot understand why they are still alive. Consequently, they are propelled toward self-annihilation unless they can reorient their lives. They are essentially stuck at the moment of their worst tragedy, trapped by their dedication to an oath made in that moment. It is not until they willingly quit their vendetta—because even if success is a viable option it will leave them no future—and let go of their anger at others and themselves that they can attempt to have a new life.

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Though the plot of each part of the Crimson Empire is different, at the center of each one are two characters motivated by their death drive. Because they cannot understand why they have survived tragic situations, Kir Kanos and Mirith Sinn set themselves on courses for revenge that have no real hopes for success. It is only when they commit to the living rather than the dead that they can attempt to reclaim their own lives and move beyond the trauma of their past.

© 2014 Seth Tomko

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