My enthusiasm going into “War of the Bounty Hunters #2” was lukewarm at best. (See the previous “main” issue review.) By the end of the comic, my enthusiasm was more dead than Bib Fortuna at the end of “The Mandalorian” Season 2.
We start out on the Vermillion, the flagship of Crimson Dawn. Several notable factions from the criminal underworld are present. First we see various Falleen from Black Sun. I cannot stress enough what a shame it is that Prince Xizor has not been brought into Disney’s canon. He is a far more interesting and powerful character than the ones who now run Black Sun. For those who don’t know: Prince Xizor was the original leader of Black Sun in Shadows of the Empire, and a worthy adversary to even Darth Vader himself. In fact, him and Vader were my first two ever Star Wars figures. But it isn’t nostalgia that makes me bring him up: the Black Sun leaders in this comic are simply far less notable than he was.
Next are the Pykes, a notable group who have previously appeared in “The Clone Wars” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” They have cobra shaped heads and are a pretty interesting faction in my opinion. We are also treated to a shout-out of the Fromm gang. This group originally appeared in the show Star Wars Droids, where they had hired Boba Fett to complete a bounty on a racing circuit. This is an excellent and deep Easter egg.
The Empire themselves are also present, although the personnel that were sent are not pleased to be surrounded by criminal scum.
The last notable faction are the Hutts, with Jabba himself present. Jabba still does not know if Han Solo was taken from Boba Fett, or if Boba sold Solo. I guess a simple transmission to find out was too difficult, right? What a laughable lack of communication. In any case, Jabba is eager to see the carnage that will unfold if Solo was indeed stolen (which he was). He knows Boba too well.
Outside the Vermillion, Boba Fett is scanning the perimeter. He sees some robed guests making their way to the flagship. It is their leader flanked by two minions. Boba quickly assassinates the goons. But before he proceeds further, a whipcord wraps around him as he utters a comical “Oh, c’mon.” I thought this line was laughable — way too slapstick. It isn’t the kind of thing a laconic, hardened bounty hunter would utter.
The person who ensnared Boba turns out to be Bossk. “Cold out here. Let’s warm it up.” Boba drops another cheesy line as he ignites his flamethrower. They are out in the snow, so this creates steam that Boba can hide in. Boba then yanks Bossk while launching his jetpack missile. The blast blows Bossk’s legs off. Bossk mentions that he’s known Boba since he was “just a little clutchling trying to avenge your pop.” Indeed, Bossk and Boba Fett have had an illustrious history, both in Canon and the Expanded Universe. Boba spares him, but ties him up and leaves him in the cold. Bossk tells Boba that he can’t leave him out there, because Bossk is cold-blooded and won’t survive. “Funny thing about that, Bossk… so am I.” I guess we have reached the point where that has to be flat-out stated, rather than inherently shown to us.
Our point of view switches to Dr. Aphra and Sana Starros, who are inside the flagship and in the thick of the party. They believe they are well-hidden and being subtle, but this proves to be incorrect as someone grabs Aphra’s arm and utters her name. After a tense stand-off, Aphra notes that she recognizes the voice of the hooded stranger from “those Battle of Coruscant holovids” and that thus he is “one of the old clone soldiers.” Obviously, this means that the hooded stranger is Boba Fett. Boba threatens to reveal Aphra’s presence to Crimson Dawn unless she helps him. She reluctantly agrees. He needs a diversion, so when he triggers the button on the comm that he hands her, she is to distract the guards. I thought this was such a feeble and poorly thought out plan. What would Boba have done if Aphra had not been here? Or if she had resisted in any way?
The time comes for Qi’ra to address the crowd. She declares the return of Crimson Dawn, and then presents Captain Han Solo, frozen in Carbonite. She drags his name through the mud, and declares that they were able to do what no one else could, and capture him. She then begins the auction on him, starting at 100,000 credits. Black Sun jumps on this bid first. The Pyke leader raises it to 120,000, saying he will defrost Solo and roast him on a stick. Apparently, Solo has slighted every group in this large, luxurious room. We see hooded Boba retreat to the shadows. He has a large box on his back. Meanwhile, one of the other crime lords bids 130,000.
We see a panel which shows Boba Fett’s helmet. He had hidden his armor in the box on his back. Jabba raises the bid to 200,000 credits. As Boba hears this, he muses that this is more than what Jabba was going to pay him for Solo. (So know we know that, whatever that amount was, it was more than 130,000 but less than 200,000.) One of the other Hutts bids 250,000, to which Jabba replies 300,000. Another Hutt bids 400,000 which prompts Jabba to raise it to 1,000,000 credits. That amount also happens to be the bounty that Separatists were offering for slain Jedi during The Clone Wars; Cad Bane utters this verbatim in Season 3 of The Clone Wars show.
At this point, Aphra’s comm goes off. Qi’ra closes the bid at 1 million, so Boba decides to intervene. But right when he’s about so, we see what I found to be a bewildering panel. Boba Fett bumps into… Leia Organa, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian. I thought this was absurdly convenient and coincidental. They happen to arrive at the same time that Boba is going to spring his plan? And bump into him rather than anyone else, out of dozens that are there?
As Jabba requests that Solo be wrapped up, a dark voice intervenes: “No. Captain Solo belongs to me.” And lo and behold, it turns out to be Darth Vader himself. We see Boba retort in the shadows: “We’ll see.” Thus, the last panel sets up a potential confrontation between Darth Vader and Boba Fett.
I had mixed feelings about the issue, but unfortunately the bad outweighs the good by a longshot. For starters, I think Boba Fett’s portrayal is far too cheesy, to the point of being out of character. Boba Fett is a ruthless — albeit somewhat honorable — bounty hunter who mostly cares about self-interest and his father’s legacy. He has also always been quite laconic in most settings. So for him to be uttering cheesy one liners on a constant basis… the cringe is slowly adding up.
I also thought that his infiltration plan was pretty weak. Boba Fett shines as a lone wolf, and wouldn’t need a petty distraction from Aphra or anyone else. Furthermore, that distraction never even happened in this issue. Fett is resourceful enough to slip into the flagship and execute whatever intervention he wants without having to blackmail people on the spot. Cunning has always been a quality of Boba Fett’s as well, and this trait was shown in a far better capacity in the Expanded Universe. “The Bounty Hunter Wars” trilogy of books (Book 1, 2, and 3) — an ironic name given the name of this comic series — is a great example of how ruthlessly competent Boba Fett was once. And speaking of ruthlessness: the comic “Twin Engines of Destruction,” where Boba Fett faces an impostor of himself, is able to illustrate his ruthlessness without having to flat-out say it. Even though these are non-canon, I highly recommend them if high quality Boba Fett material is your thing.
Another major issue with this comic is how exaggerated this encounter has become. We now have a big chunk of the “Return of the Jedi” main cast reunited here. Boba Fett, Jabba, Leia, Lando, Chewy, and Vader are all present, with Han there in carbonite and Luke supposedly on the way. If you watch “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” back to back, you would never gather that such a reunion happened. Rather, those movies convey the vibe that the Light side heroes finally caught up to Boba Fett at Jabba’s Palace on Tatooine after a long period of struggle. After all, the time period between those movies is one year. It’s as if these main characters were shoehorned in for shock value. Also, these Rebel leaders are high value targets. Did they show up without a Rebel strike team? Imagine if something went wrong here. Either the Empire and Vader, or Boba Fett and the Hutts would profit greatly from capturing the likes of Leia and Chewbacca. The struggle to recuperate Han Solo was far better portrayed in Shadows of the Empire. The Rebels infiltrated the criminal underworld and played a game of cat and mouse with both criminal factions and the Empire. What we’re getting here instead is the opposite: a one and done where everyone is just thrown in with little build-up. Realistically, Vader would slaughter everyone here and take Solo by force. If anything contrary happens, then it’s biased and convenient. That’s what happens when you shoehorn in a heavy hitter like Vader.
The last point I have mixed feelings about is a suggestion of an upcoming confrontation or fight between Darth Vader and Boba Fett. This is perhaps the only thing that I am somewhat enthusiastic about. Both Vader and Fett are legendary characters as well as deadly, heavy hitting combatants. However, they will be fighting in a luxurious hall. In the Expanded Universe comic called “Enemy of the Empire,” Fett and Vader already had a duel. It was on rocky terrain surrounded by lava, almost a Hell type environment. I thought this was a fitting setting for two classic villains to fight on. The golden, shiny hall of the Vermillion just doesn’t give the same vibe.
This issue itself was mostly the auction, which lacked tension and entertainment value. I thought the brief fight with Bossk was somewhat interesting, but more forgettable. But no event in this issue was truly worth the wait.
When this project began, I pictured the different characters and factions making intelligent moves that would undermine and eliminate one another. I pictured a cat and mouse game settled with cunning, strategic competence as well as physical clashes. Instead, everything gets bottle-necked into a comical auction. (Even Durge gets thrown under the bus in Doctor Aphra #11.) “The Clone Wars” greatly expanded on the prequel era; I wish a similar show was made for the Original Trilogy. People like Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau handle the Star Wars characters and mythos far better than most others. Not to mention, the authors of the Expanded Universe Fett material that I listed above, as well as the creators behind Shadows of the Empire, also got it right for the most part. Instead, we get this. I would be surprised if this review didn’t get any retaliation. But that isn’t going to stop me from voicing my genuine opinion of this content, far from. Boba Fett is a high quality character who deserves high quality storytelling in his canon biography. I’m sure we’ll get that in The Book of Boba Fett. In addition to Favreau and Filoni, we’ll get Robert Rodriguez directing, who has an excellent understanding of Boba Fett. It is a pity that that such an understanding is not found within this series. In the meantime, I hope the rest of War of the Bounty Hunters miraculously steps it up, but we’ll see.
See the entire 34-part “War of the Bounty Hunters” arc in timeline order.