Review: "Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1"

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I have found the 34-issue “War of the Bounty Hunters” saga to be tedious to follow. It’s spread over multiple comic lines that I simply have no interest in. However, I will at least follow the main line with the aforementioned title since Boba Fett is front and center.

When I reviewed the Alpha #1 issue of this title, we saw Han Solo stolen from Boba Fett, which I considered a blunder that is out of character for Boba Fett and more in line for someone less experienced, like Din Djarin. But alas, for better or worse, this is how our story kicks off.

We start with some unseen aliens checking out Han Solo in carbonite. They note that from his facial expression he must have been in a lot of pain when he was frozen. They are aboard the Vermillion, a large vessel in Deep Space somewhere within the Mid Rim. A woman with her face hidden by a cloak inquires as to Han Solo’s state: he is still alive and in hibernation, so it looks like the Doctor from the Alpha #1 issue completed his work of restoring stability on the carbonite. The woman’s minions note that they stole Han Solo from Boba Fett, but the woman in charge is not concerned. She believes that, although Boba Fett is highly skilled, he is but one man who is no match for her forces. She challenges Fett to try, and that pans us over to Nar Shaddaa, where we last saw Fett.

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Our favorite bounty hunter is inquiring with a bartender about any information he might know. It seems like Fett has at least some rapport with this fellow. Our POV switches to a couple of small time scrubs in the same bar. They’re obviously bounty hunters, because one of them notices an unusual bounty posted. It’s the biggest open bounty he’s ever seen, and it’s open to any hunter in the galaxy. And guess who the target is? Boba Fett.

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The foolish hunter tries to get the jump on Fett, but Boba notices his reflection in a glass. He quickly turns and kills the hunter with one shot from his famous EE-3 blaster. I love that this is the version of his blaster seen in The Empire Strikes Back; it doesn’t get to shine often enough because the model normally shown is the EE-3 from Return of the Jedi. The bartender asks what that was about and Boba says it could’ve been money, revenge, or reputation. In other words, Boba is yet unaware that he has been targeted specifically…

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Boba walks to his ship, the Slave I, while sending a message to Bib Fortuna. He is to inform Jabba that Boba was delayed, but that Solo will be delivered as promised. As Boba reaches the ramp of Slave I, an explosive attached to it goes off. As Boba is recovering from the blast, he is approached by Zuckuss, one of the bounty hunters from the all-star line up that Vader hired in The Empire Strikes Back. Funny enough, that scene was also the first time we ever see Boba Fett in live-action. Boba launches his jetpack missile, which misses. I thought this was uncharacteristically foolish of Boba, because Zuckuss was quite close to him. So if the missile had landed, the explosion might have hurt him too. Boba draws both his EE-3 and blaster pistol. However, Zuckuss’ partner and also a hunter from the aforementioned scene, 4-LOM, shows up. Boba Fett lowers his weapons; I was expecting him to gun down both hunters. They ask him about Han Solo, saying that he isn’t aboard the Slave I. Boba is displeased that they went inside his ship. He explains that the ship was his father’s. I was very taken aback by all of this talking from Boba Fett. Fett is usually laconic and ruthlessly efficient. He would’ve already wrecked both hunters and would not have bothered to make small talk with them, or share personal details about himself. This portrayal of Boba Fett is too talkative unfortunately, which takes me out of the immersion.

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In a move reminiscent of him using Slave I to fire against Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack of the Clones, he uses his gauntlet to activate the blaster cannons of Slave I. Zuckuss ends up hanging from the edge of the landing platform. Zuckuss begs for mercy, telling Boba that he can see his future. His species, Gands, have clairvoyant abilities. He tells Boba that “Everything is red, a sea of red, and you are drowning in it!” This is eerie because it is true: surely this is referring to the interior of the almighty Sarlacc, which we know our deadly protagonist will fall victim to in the near future. Boba decides to kick Zuckuss off the landing platform. Zuckuss’ fate is uncertain, but I’m hoping he survived. He is a classic bounty hunter character and I want to keep recreating his adventures with my Zuckuss action figure.

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Boba then turns to 4-LOM, who got blown in half by the blast from Slave I. Boba beheads him and takes the head aboard his ship. He plugs 4-LOM’s head into Slave I, where the truth is revealed: “Bounty placed on Boba Fett…open contract…available to any hunter.” Boba Fett is wanted dead or alive, and delivery of Han Solo is a bonus. Boba wonders who could’ve done this, and “off-screen” (as in, we don’t see it on the page) 4-LOM reveals the client to Boba.

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Slave I lands on Tatooine, outside the palace of Jabba the Hutt. As Boba walks along a bridge to the palace, he chucks 4-LOM’s head over the edge. (I hope that 4-LOM also survived this fate.) At the gate of the palace, Boba is halted by two Gamorrean guards, who Boba threatens. This tension is actually a reference to that accursed Gamorrean guard who killed my Boba Fett once when I was playing on Jabba’s Palace in the original Battlefront 2. I walked by him, thinking we were “on the same side,” and then he slugged me.

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Bib Fortuna, Jabba’s majordomo, shows up. He says that there is no need for hostilities, and that Boba is an honored guest of Jabba the Hutt. He is certain that whatever business Boba has, that it can be completed without violence. Boba replies that he’s wrong, and kills both Gamorreans with his blaster and flamethrower, thus avenging me from the aforementioned incident in Battlefront and putting my middle school self at peace.

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Bib threatens that Jabba will feed him to either his Rancor or Sarlacc (another reference to Boba’s fate). We learn from Boba’s dialogue that Jabba the Hutt is the client responsible for putting the bounty out on Boba. How crazy is that?! It’s a far cry from the “professional relationship” we see between Jabba and Boba Fett during Return of the Jedi.

We learn what is the cause of all this. Jabba was given bad information, and he thought that Boba Fett sold Han Solo to another client, rather than having Han stolen from him. Boba demands to be taken to Jabba to clear this matter. He says that he can get Solo back, but not if every bounty hunter in the galaxy is gunning him. This is understandable: no matter how good you are, the sheer strength of numbers is always a threat. Bib Fortuna says that Jabba is not present at the Palace. Boba pauses in frustration, and asks where he is.

We see that Jabba is in hyperspace, aboard his “Shad’ruu war barge.” He is in a group Holoprojector transmission with the other leading Hutts. They are speculating as to the legitimacy of the invitation they’ve been given. “This group has not made any moves for years.” For multiple reasons… I suspect that they are referring to Crimson Dawn. A war between Crimson Dawn and the Hutt Clan was rumored to be a potential continuation for the story line set up in Solo: A Star Wars Story. That never happened, but perhaps this comic line is the spiritual successor to that…

Jabba declares that the former leader of Crimson Dawn would have revealed himself by now. Since he hasn’t, Jabba assumes that he is dead. This is a correct assumption; Jabba is referring to Darth Maul, who is indeed dead at this point. I think I know who the mysterious woman was at the beginning of this comic… it is someone we have seen before. Jabba declares that regardless of who may now run Crimson Dawn, that the Hutts will be ready. We see their fleet in space, which look like starship versions of Jabba’s sail barge and skiffs.

Back at Jabba’s Palace, Boba is taking all of this information in: that Crimson Dawn stole Han Solo and offered to sell him back to Jabba. By now, multiple goons have reached the palace entrance, maybe a couple dozen. Bib tells Boba to leave, but Boba refuses. He says that most of them will die if they fight him, and that they would merely die for Jabba. Jabba’s thugs relent, so Boba demands to see the invitation that was sent to Jabba. It is the cloaked woman we saw earlier. The transmission basically invites the Hutts to collaborate with the return of Crimson Dawn, and to receive Han Solo as a token of goodwill. The celebration of their business relationship is to take place on Jekara.

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Boba Fett declares that he will go to Jekara and take back Han Solo. Bib says that Boba is but one man, but Boba replies with emphasis that he is Boba Fett. At the beginning of all this, he declared that someone was going to die. Boba gestures to the woman with the hood, saying that he now knows who will die for this.

The ship from the beginning, the Vermillion, lands on Jekara. One of the cloaked woman’s goons inquires as to why Han Solo is so important. The woman declares that for her plan to work she needs something that would attract the attention of the entire galaxy. He is connected to the Rebel Alliance, the Empire, and everyone in between. We see an interesting panel showing the Rebel Leaders Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, Lando, Darth Vader, bounty hunters Beilert Valance and Dengar, Star Wars comic book protagonists Dr. Aphra and Sana Starros, and Jabba the Hutt. They are all united by Han Solo because they either love him, hate him, need him, owe him or are owed by him. She muses that Han Solo always wanted to save her… and now he gets his chance. Her hood is pulled back and we see that it is Qi’ra, who was played by Emilia Clarke in the Solo film. With that heavy revelation, the comic ends.

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There is a lot to unpack here, so much so that I might have to succinctly summarize it. Otherwise, I could go on forever.

To make a long story short, this comic reveals the scope and ambition of this multi-arc project. We now know that the heavy hitters of each main faction or niche in Star Wars will be involved. Also, the very fabric of the plot threatens to have multiple factions at war with one another. For starters, many bounty hunters in the galaxy are gunning for Boba Fett, who is essentially alone right now given his temporary falling out with Jabba. Secondly, we could still see that potential war between Crimson Dawn and the Hutts. Third, even the Galactic Civil War, taking place between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire, could be affected. Truly an ambitious scope. (The author, Charles Soule, shared in his email newsletter recently that he was planning this story since 2018 and “created a huge pitch document that outlined a very long run.”)

It will be interesting to see what sort of antagonist Qi’ra will prove to be against Boba Fett. Her reveal is perhaps the heaviest plot twist so far, alongside Jabba placing a bounty on Boba Fett. She obviously isn’t much of a threat in a direct fight with him, but she has multiple people who can be. Boba Fett will have to fight off both Crimson Dawn and the bounty hunters pursuing him. Not to mention, any Rebels he might come across will be hostile as well. It remains to see how the Empire will interact with him, but he already has enough opposition to contend with. Thanks to Return of the Jedi we know that, somehow, the greatest hunter to ever live will prevail. The question is, how, and who will die? Will Qi’ra survive antagonizing Boba like this? And what exactly is her endgame? Why draw the galaxy’s attention to Crimson Dawn like this? Given that Qi’ra was played by a high profile actress like Emilia Clarke, it seems a shame to kill her off in the pages of a comic book.

Another interesting factor here is the soured relationship between Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett. Jabba has essentially betrayed Boba by calling for him to be hunted, rather than trying to contact Boba directly and smoothing things out with him. At this point, as Bib Fortuna mentioned in this very comic, Jabba has already trusted Boba to complete various missions for him. Betraying such a promising and ongoing business relationship with Boba seems like a rash decision. Perhaps this is the reason why Boba Fett so readily takes over Jabba’s Palace at the end of The Mandalorian Season 2. I initially thought this was quite bizarre, but with these newfound revelations, there is some coherent justification. As I mentioned earlier, all of this is quite different from what we saw between Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt. However, maybe we only saw a snapshot where they happened to have been on good times. Maybe Boba Fett was already planning some kind of retribution against Jabba, due to the events of War of the Bounty Hunters.

I have some hopes for this project, otherwise I am fairly open-minded. For starters, I hope Boba Fett is portrayed well and accurately. He is already too talkative and has made mistakes that are beneath him. Hopefully this trend stops. Secondly, I am hoping for an epic duel between Boba Fett and Durge. For those who might not know, Durge was the main bounty hunter of the original Clone Wars series, the one that debuted in 2003. He is a Gen’dai, a species that can regenerate from practically any injury, thus making them quite hard to kill. Durge is physically imposing, and covered in a silver carapace of armor. He has weapons and gear similar to Mandalorians, including a jetpack. In his Expanded Universe background, he hated Mandalorians. I’m not sure how much of that they’ll keep in canon. He is confirmed to appear in War of the Bounty Hunters, debuting in an issue of Dr. Aphra which is part of this storyline. So hopefully Boba Fett will defeat him in an unforgettable confrontation.

My last hope is simply that this crossover tells a high quality story. While the author has a tweet reply saying “its its own thing,” the project is essentially a canon replacement for Shadows of the Empire. That project rocked, so I hope this one does as well. War of the Bounty Hunters also borrows some elements from a similarly named trilogy called the Bounty Hunter Wars books (now considered Legends and non-canon). In those books, Boba Fett was in a conflict with Prince Xizor, the leader of crime syndicate Black Sun who, incidentally, also appeared in Shadows of the Empire as a rival to Darth Vader. It seems that in this case, Qi’ra takes over Xizor’s role as a crime lord in conflict with Boba Fett.

Despite my reservations and criticism, the overall story is pretty interesting and has great potential. I’ll be following with cautious optimism.

Rating

Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1 Marvel
4 / 5 1

 

 

Crossover Timeline (as of June 8):

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