“A longer time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

That’s right, this week brings us another tale that predates the original Star Wars trilogy by at least a couple thousand years. Strap yourself in, kid, we’re about to make the jump to hyperspace!

The Old Republic: The Lost Suns is a story in five parts based on the upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic and published by Dark Horse Comics as part of their Star Wars lineup. For those of you who have read my review of the previous issue, you can skip to the next paragraph as I recap some relevant information. Those who haven’t might be interested to know that Dark Horse has published two previous MMO tie-in stories similar to this arc. Where those others only give backstory on the upcoming game, however, this one takes place concurrently with the storylines in the game itself. What does that mean? The Lost Suns is essentially your sneak peek at a storyline that takes place at the same time that you’re logging into the game for your own adventure. Pretty cool, huh?

While the art for The Lost Suns is provided by the penciling duo of Dave Ross and George Freeman (with David Daza filling in on issue #3) along with inks by Mark McKenna and colors by Michael Atiyeh, the real draw for me here has been Alexander Freed’s scripting. Freed is a senior writer on Star Wars: The Old Republic and had penned the previous The Old Republic arc, Blood of the Empire, so he’s more than qualified to bring us into the game’s continuity here. It’Imperial Agent Classs also fitting that Freed, who has worked largely on the Imperial Agent storyline for the MMO, brings us a story from the flip side of that coin, namely the Galactic Republic’s spy network. Those of you looking to play the Agent in the game should pay close attention to the little details here, as the main character here may be dropping clues to his playable opposite number in the game. It’s also likely that the interaction between the protagonist and his entourage is a glimpse at how companion characters will work in the game, but there’s no way to confirm that at the moment.

To bring you up to speed on the plot, our story follows Agent Theron of the Republic Strategic Information Service, the latest attempt at establishing an espionage agency to protect the Republic from the machinations of the Sith Empire. In the midst of apprehending the Twi’lek criminal Teff’ith to gather information from her on gangsters selling slaves to the Empire, Theron is assigned another mission: to find a Jedi Master by the name of Ngani Zho, a man who has trained half of the Jedi Council, including Grand Master Satele Shan, and been a surrogate father to Theron. Master Zho disappeared behind enemy lines in the Vesla system, but he was recently sighted outside the Imperial border. Theron’s job is to retrieve Zho and find out what he knows about the Sith’s operations in that system before the Sith find and silence him. What follows is a story that fiThe Old Republic logonds our very unlikely trio investigating the Empire’s secrets in the Vesla system, a search that will have far-reaching consequences for the Republic and its tenuous peace treaty with the Sith Empire.

In this final installation, everything comes together, and I mean everything. The major plot threads are tied up nicely, we get some awesome sequences of our trio making their last ditch attempt to get the info they’ve collected back to the Republic, and we get to see what our heroes are really made of when all else has failed. Without spoiling any of the big scenes, there are some excellent moments in this book, including one where we see what an ordinary man can do when faced with a Force-using foe, and another where we get a major treat featuring an important signature character in the game. The Sith fanboys may take issue with the climactic moment of the story, but as this is a story about the Republic and its heroes, it’s only fitting that they get the spotlight.

Cover to Lost Suns #5As I said in the previous review, I’m pretty pleased with how this series has turned out, and I’m very interested in how the conclusion of The Lost Suns will be reflected within the storylines that unfold in the MMO. I’d also love to know if these are characters created solely for this comic, or if players will be able to interact with the survivors of this story in-game, either as allies or enemies at some point. More than that, each character clearly has their own voice and personality, and it comes through as clear as transparisteel windows. My only real criticism of this story is the art. Not the cover art, because Benjamin Carre did a beautiful job on those (check out the image to the right), I’m talking about the interior art. Aside from the mystery of the disappearing eyes that I mentioned in the last review, I’m not entirely impressed with how the Twi’lek was drawn, notably her head tails. I’ve seen them drawn much better elsewhere, most notably by former DC Comics artist Travis Moore. The art team could learn a thing or two from his Star Wars character designs, or Dark Horse could simply hire him outright for future projects. (Not that I’m dropping hints or anything.) Still, I’m a story guy, and this one definitely captures the essence of Star Wars. I approve, and I highly recommend this series to anyone who wants to get a glimpse of the game’s world before its grand unveiling!

The Old Republic: The Lost Suns #5 is in stores this week, and Star Wars: The Old Republic will be available for online play December 20, 2011!