The unexpectedly long gestation period between “Crimson Empire II” and “III” featured two short stories, both of which chronicle Kir Kanos in his bounty hunter guise as Kenix Kil. In collecting bounties, he racks up the funds needed to continue his bigger hunt in the “Crimson Empire” saga for those whom he considers responsible for the death of Emperor Palpatine, his late master.
The four-page “Hard Currency” (2000), by Randy Stradley, was originally published in “Dark Horse Extra” Issues 21-24. The eight-page “The Third Time Pays For All” (2011) was originally published in “Dark Horse Presents” Issue 1; it was written by Stradley and Mike Richardson, the duo behind the wider “Crimson Empire” saga. Both stories were collected in the “Crimson Empire Saga” omnibus, and the latter also appears in the “Crimson Empire III” trade paperback.
In “Hard Currency,” Kanos kills Massimo, who had previously betrayed fellow New Republic officer Mirith Sinn, Kanos’ sometimes love interest, sometimes enemy. During the events of “Crimson Empire II,” Massimo was scarred by hot coals that forced him to adopt mechanical prosthetics. Massimo is a George Lucas “Star Wars” archetype in the spirit of Darth Vader, General Grievous and the original Marvel comics’ Valance: Someone whose evil becomes more permanent with each prosthetic addition. Even though there’s no bounty on Massimo, Kanos kills him anyway out of a sense of honor.
In “The Third Time Pays for All,” Kanos hauls in a man for a bounty. When he goes to collect the bounty, he learns that this man killed younglings, so Kanos kills the man even though it means he’ll only get 6,000 credits instead of 10,000. As with “Hard Currency,” the writers remind us of Kanos’ sense of honor.
Then in an epilogue, we learn that Sinn is now a personal bodyguard for Princess Leia, who is the chief of state during this time period. Even though 10 years have passed since “Crimson Empire II,” Sinn still thinks of Kanos and vows that she won’t fail if she gets a third chance to kill him, which is somewhat odd since they kissed on the last page of “CE II.” Apparently, she still blames him for the death of her second-in-command, Sadeet, back in the first “CE.”
Both stories work just fine in setting the stage for “Crimson Empire III,” but it’s interesting to note that “Hard Currency” was intended to lead into a different version of the trilogy capper that was originally planned for 2001 or 2002. This story probably would’ve had synergy with Dark Horse’s planned invasion storyline, which eventually morphed into Del Rey’s “New Jedi Order.”
When Lucasfilm gave Del Rey the invasion storyline, Dark Horse was soured on the time period for a while. But it finally explored the Yuuzhan Vong war in “Invasion” (2009-11) and finally published “CE III” in 2011-12, minus the invasion element.