As part of their celebration of Star Wars' 30th Anniversary, Hasbro has found a new corner of the Star Wars Universe to mine for previously unreleased figures. They've started releasing Comic Packs, pairs of figures based on the many stories published over the years. The packs offer a mixture of new characters and repaints, but the first release was one never seen in stores. Online retailer Entertainment Earth had the debut set, an exclusive pair based on the Crimson Empire series, featuring Kir Kanos and Carnor Jax.
Trained in the deadly, secret art of echani and fanatically devoted to the Emperor, the Royal Guard from which these two men rose was the most feared group of warriors in the Empire. Treacherous usurper of the Imperial throne, Carnor Jax betrayed his brothers in the Guard and defiled the memory of the Emperor, earning him the undying hatred of Kir Kanos. Kanos, devoted to the codes of the New Order and Emperor Palpatine, embarked on a vendetta that rocked the shattered Empire to its foundations. Though Jax had trained himself in the dark side of the Force, his power was not enough to stay the burning vengeance of Kanos, at whose hand he met his death.
Crimson Empire was something of a follow-up to an earlier comic series, Dark Empire (as well as its immediate sequels, Dark Empire II and Empire's End). The story revealed a lot about the training of Emperor Palpatine's royal guards, those red-robed sentries who first showed up in Return of the Jedi and proceeded to do not much of anything before wandering off-screen. Well, at least they looked cool.
Kir Kanos was the first figure revealed from this set, and that makes sense, since he was the star of the show. At first glance, the figure seems to be based on the Episode III Royal Guard body, but that's not entirely true. The legs and upper arms are the same, but that's all - the torso is compltely new, and he's wearing different gloves than his predecesors. Even his cape is new!
There's more than just the armor design to let us know that this is truly Kir Kanos - his helmet is removable. The face beneath looks kinda like Ben Affleck, oddly enough. Not who I would have expected. Kir even has the big ugly scar he got when he was slashed in the face by a lightsaber. That's what happens when you spar with Darth Vader. And Kir wasn't even the best member of his class - that guy fared much worse.
The paint on this figure could be better. Such is the danger of buying an internet exclusive: you can't check what you're getting before you buy, and if you wantto get picky, you have to deal with even more shipping charges. The red and black they chose are very nice, and serve the figure well - the colors just fail to fill out the spaces they're supposed to, in a few spots. Honestly, though, anyone who's going to get that uptight about their toys isn't going to open them in the first place, so they'll never know.
For months after this set was announced, the second figure that would be included with him was a mystery. The ads in the Entertainment Earth catalog showed the blacked-out silhouette of Han Solo, which seemed an unlikely choice. Eventually it was revealed that Kir Kanos would be coming with a glorified repaint, Carnor Jax.
It does make sense, though - Carnor Jax was the other driving force of the comic, having set himself up as the new Emperor. And since he and Kir Kanos had both been Royal Guards, it makes sense that their armor would be the same. No point in picking on something for being a repaint when it's supposed to be a repaint.
The only sculptural difference between the two figures is on the left forearm: Kir Kanos has a thin, technological glove, while Carnor Jax's is thicker and bulkier, matching the one both figures wear on their right arms. Both share the same articulation, as well, with balljointed knees, peg hips, pegs at the gloves and elbows, balljointed shoulders and balljointed heads.
You can remove Jax's helmet just as easily as his former classmate's. His face looks younger, oddly, and it's more than just his haircut. When Jax removed his helmet in the comic, it was revealed that he looked just like Kir Kanos, minus the scar. They weren't twins, though. The intention of writers Mike Richardson and Randy Stradley was that all the Royal Guards were clones, and that Kanos and Jax came from the same source. Here, however? Definite difference.
After declaring himself Emperor,
Carnor Jax retained his old guardsman armor, but gave it a makeover. The armor itself is black, while the suit beneath it is red - the reverse of Kir Kanos and the other Guards. His helmet is mostly black, with a red eyeslit, and he drapes himself in a black cape. It's very imposing, and makes for a nice visual. Especially if you putthem in with all your other Royal Guards. Both figures have the same accessories: a small blaster pistol, the same sort used by Scout Troopers, and a 5" double-bladed vibrostaff. The gun will fit in a holster on the figure's right hip, and both hands are molded to hold it. The staff can be held in both hands, of course.
The comic pack includes a reprint of Crimson Empire #6, which does a superb job of conveying Kir Kanos' personality and motivations,
and is topped off by 17 pages of the enemies dueling at their old training grounds. The art is... well, not stunning. It's often awkward or oddly proportioned, but at least you can always tell what's going on. That's a good thing for a comic with this much action.
Crimson Empire was based on an idea that Randy Stradley had for a Star Wars story back when Marvel still had the license, decades ago. That story would have featured a loyal Royal Guardsman seeking revenge for the death of Palpatine, just like this one, and the cancelled Crimson Empre III would have seen Kir Kanos finally face off with Luke Skywalker, just as had been planned for the Marvel story. Maybe someday we'll see it happen; Kir Kanos is still kicking around the fringes of the Star Wars Universe, so who knows what the future may hold? In any case, it's awesome that we got a figure of Kir and his enemy, Carnor Jax; the only shame is that it was an online exclusive that most fans didn't get to check out.