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On a background of flames, Boba Fett draws a bead with his blaster while his flamethrower spews from his wrist on the cover of Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1 (2021). Image: Mike Mayhew/Marvel Comics

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Marvel’s big Boba Fett comic makes Solo: A Star Wars Story matter

War of the Bounty Hunters dredges up the past

Who is Boba Fett? Lucasfilm and its various creative partners have struggled for eons to answer the question in a meaningful, entertaining way. The Mandalorian-armored gun-for-hire looks incredible in a static shot, a trading card, or a paperback novel cover, but can he ever be enough to prop up an entire story?

The team behind War of the Bounty Hunters thinks so. Announced in February, the new miniseries will be the first comic to focus entirely on Boba Fett (who appeared in a few one-shot Dark Horse and Marvel comics, but has yet to get his due) and pave over Shadows of the Empire fill in the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In the initial reveal, Marvel promised an expansive comic crossover event that connects various parts of the Star Wars universe — and issue #1 delivers.

In fact, while it may make good on the promise of a big Boba Fett adventure, War of the Bounty Hunters #1 (the first of five issues) made me more excited about the return of a completely different character, and a moment in Star Wars that I figured no creator would ever want to return to. That has its own thrills.

Who is making War of the Bounty Hunters?

Charles Soule, who now has a deep footprint in both the Marvel and Star Wars universes. Soule cut his teeth in superhero comics in books like She-Hulk and Thunderbolts before becoming a key voice in the expansion of the Skywalker Saga. He’s penned Darth Vader, The Rise of Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron, and recently, Marvel’s flagship Star Wars comic, Star Wars. With a voracious curiosity for Star Wars’ uncharted space, Soule was also a logical recruit for Lucasfilm’s High Republic storytelling initiative. He wrote the kickoff novel, The Light of the Jedi, and through his other work, has drawn lines between the distant past and the “present” of more familiar Star Wars stories. The man thinks a shit ton about Star Wars.

Joining Soule on the ride is artist Luke Ross, who’s drawn everyone from Venom to Darth Maul and Conan the Barbarian. War of the Bounty Hunters is a crossover event, which means Soule’s work will also intertwine with the other continuous Star Wars books. Greg Pak (Darth Vader), Alyssa Wong (Doctor Aphra), and Ethan Sacks (Bounty Hunters) are all in the mix, and based on the announcement, will likely inform Soule’s direction with their own storytelling, so are worth mentioning here.

What is War of the Bounty Hunters about?

“Somebody’s going to die,” says Boba Fett as he lays his gun on a bar counter in Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1, (2021).

“The main story that we’re dealing with is a Boba Fett-focused crime epic, that involves Boba Fett going up against some of the heaviest hitters in the galaxy,” Soule said in February. “It’s Jabba the Hutt. It’s Black Sun. It’s Darth Vader. And a bunch of others — factions and so on — that I think will be really interesting for the fans. It’s basically Boba Fett, by himself, against all of these people.”

This all lines up with War of the Bounty Hunters #1, which introduces a cloaked crime lord who has pilfered Han Solo’s carbonite-frozen body from Boba with plans to put it up for auction. Our antihero wastes no time searching for clues as to who may be behind the operation, but unfortunately, he’s also become what John Wick would call “excommunicado.” There’s now a bounty on the bounty hunter’s head, and to hunt down his bounty, he’ll have to outrun the bounty-seeking bounty hunters.

Much like John Wick — or even his High Republic novel Light of the Jedi — Soule gives the thriller with ticking-clock tension. Boba needs answers, and he’s more than willing to break a few droid arms to get them. Not a Jedi, he is.

Why is War of the Bounty Hunters happening now?

Boba Fett was never important. First introduced in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special before appearing in the bounty hunter lineup in The Empire Strikes Back, the sentient set dressing was designed by illustrator-turned-director for maximum cool. In fact, Fett wasn’t even Fett, in the beginning.

“Darth Vader started as a kind of intergalactic bounty hunter in a space suit and evolved into a more grotesque knight as I got more into knights and the codes of everything,” Lucas recounted in The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. “He became more of a Dark Lord than a mercenary bounty hunter. The Boba Fett character is really an early version of Darth Vader. He is also very much like the man-with-no name from the Sergio Leone Westerns.”

Boba Fett unloads on guards at Jabba’s palace in Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1, (2021).

Boba Fett’s mysterious presence wormed its way into the minds of young Star Wars viewers, becoming a staple of the cosplay community and a point of obsession for creatives who eventually cozied up with Lucasfilm. When Disney bought George Lucas’ company and it was clear there would be many, many more Star Wars stories coming to screens, a Boba Fett movie was a no-brainer. Fantastic Four director John Trank nearly made one, until Fantastic Four happened. Logan director James Mangold took on the job a few years later, before Lucasfilm switched gears to develop The Mandalorian. That show could have replaced Boba fever entirely ... but in season 2, creator Jon Favreau reintroduced the character as a tee-up to a spinoff series. Everyone wants more Boba Fett in Star Wars, despite his popularity hinging on brooding silence and shadowy operations.

Which brings us to Marvel’s War of the Bounty Hunters, which not only aims to establish Boba Fett in a more meaningful way in the rebooted post-Disney universe, but also snowball all the disparate parts of the canon to make the universe feel more cohesive. And Soule, more than almost anyone, knows just how many characters, alien races, technology, and other Star Wars ephemera have been introduced over the years that longtime fans would be delighted to see pop back up. The writer’s War of the Bounty Hunters: Prelude featured a Sy Snootles-like Pa’lowick running a fight club. Anything is possible when the pilot knows his way around.

Is there any required reading?

War of the Bounty Hunters is accessible to anyone who’s watched the Star Wars trilogies and The Mandalorian. But direct appearances by Doctor Aphra and Valance from Bounty Hunters signal that Soule’s series is intended to lead readers to the elaborate Star Wars continuity unfolding in all of Marvel’s other comics. Luckily, if you’re a Marvel Unlimited subscriber, issues of Doctor Aphra, Bounty Hunters, and Star Wars are all available to check out. (And if you want to get in on some of Soule’s deeper cut references tying into the High Republic mythology, dive into those books and comics, too.)

Is War of the Bounty Hunters good?

A hooded figure, standing in front of Han Solo’s frozen-in-carbonite form, addresses Jabba the Hutt by hologram in Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1, (2021).

War of the Bounty Hunters feels like The Mandalorian comic we may never get. Soule pierces Boba Fett’s mask to give the bounty hunter a classic gunslinger personality with what I swear is the cadence of actor Temuera Morrison, who played the unmasked character in Mando season 2. There isn’t a ton of bricklaying in issue #1 — Carbonite Han is gone, and Boba needs to kick enough ass to find him — he encounters other intergalactic ruffians, and swiftly takes them down in order to complete his bigger mission. Soule knows we know The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi like the back of our hands, so when Boba winds up on Tatooine to talk to Jabba, and the Hutt isn’t in his Palace, expectations are immediately thrown for a loop. Soule knows how to play us.

Star Wars comic book art is often hit or miss for me, as artists attempt to render worlds and characters we’ve seen in live-action, often without much stylization. It can feel dutiful rather than beautiful. Ross’ bold-line work on War of the Bounty Hunter falls into a similar camp when it’s depicting human characters and docking bays. But when it’s weird-ass aliens clashing with Boba Fett, it all starts to pop. A sequence in which Boba pokes around for clues on the smuggler moon of Nar Shadda takes on a Mobius-like glow.

War of the Bounty Hunter also indulges in referential moments that come straight from superhero comics (or perhaps Avengers movies) that will hit like dopamine for Star Wars fans susceptible to #lore.

[Ed. note: Here comes a spoiler.]

Connecting all the dots in a universe can constrict storytelling (see: Rise of Skywalker). But War of the Bounty Hunter proclaimed itself a crossover event, so crossover it will. Soule cleverly weaves in some High Republic history into a conversation between scheming Hutts, but the real “Oh, really?” moment comes at the tail end of the book, when our unnamed villain explains why capturing Han Solo is more than just a power-grab move. It’s an attempt to revive the Crimson Dawn, the crime syndicate previously run by Darth Maul and — as we learn in the maligned Solo: A Star Wars Story — Qi’ra, Han Solo’s ex.

The cloaked crime lord explains that Han is connected to every part of the Star Wars universe — from the Rebel Alliance to the Empire to the Hutts to Dengar and Valance of Bounty Hunters to Doctor Aphra, who we see getting chills at the idea of a Crimson Dawn revival. Capturing the smuggler and snuffing out Boba Fett becomes vital to the organization’s future. And who is the hidden baddie? Qi’ra herself!

Solo: A Star Wars Story — fun, light, and under-appreciated because it’s kind of a big TV pilot we all watched at a movie theater — matters again. The movie will settle for a Lando Disney Plus show instead of a proper sequel, despite great casting and a few interesting twists to the mythology. Soule knows what’s up. Qi’ra was a sinister addition to the canon, and now she’s back, and ready to go to battle with Boba Fett in a timeline that will have no impact on Han’s life or the Star Wars universe as we know it. There’s a lot of potential where it could all go from here.

One panel that popped

Boba Fett walks through a bustling alien marketplace glowing with neon signs to his ship in Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1, (2021).

Alien marketplaces, skuzzy neon lights, grumpy messages about delivering “the package” ... now that’s podracing a bounty hunter story!