So it begins, the biggest comic book crossover in Star Wars history: War of the Bounty Hunters. Thirty-four issues, six months, five series, four one-shots, and one big storyline. We begin May’s ‘prelude’ month with War of the Bounty Hunters Alpha.
Set shortly after The Empire Strikes Back, writer Charles Soule takes the lead on the crossover’s flagship title, setting up the conflict that causes the upcoming war. The story is simple in structure but between Soule’s flare for characterization, Steve McNiven’s illustrations and Laura Martin’s color art, the issue flies by and will leave you wanting more.
Lets jump into the story. Spoilers Ahead…
The issue begins with Boba Fett on his way to Tatooine to deliver Han Solo, encased in carbonite, to Jabba the Hutt. While communicating with Jabba’s assistant, Bib Fortuna, Solo’s carbonite casing starts sounding alarms and acting strange. Abruptly ending the call, Fett investigates and realizes something is very wrong.
Heading to Nar Shaddaa, a notoriously sketchy and criminal planet, Fett takes Solo to an old contact of his, Doc Ragon, who can stop the casing malfunction and prevent Solo from dissolving into goo. Of course, it comes at a price, and since every bounty hunter/smuggler in the galaxy seems to live job-to-job, Boba is a little light on cash. Lucky for him, Ragon has a job Fett could do to pay his debt.
Wyrman Lictor is the Kanji’s prized fighter, so she’s under heavy guard and Boba can’t just walk up and take her out, he’s gonna have to enter the fighting tournament and kill her in the arena. With no other options and Solo disintegrating by the minute, Boba agrees.
Boba Fett’s name and armour carry a lot of notoriety, the kind he doesn’t want the Kanji Hutts using to hunt him for killing their prized fighter. A paint job is in order then….
….and a name change…
It’s very fitting for Boba to use his Jango’s name, given how close they were and how he’s has followed in his father’s footsteps. Soule could easily have gone full fan service and had Boba paint the armour to match Jango’s as well, but I’m glad he didn’t, as a black utilitarian paint job is a very Fett thing to do, especially given his time constraints and reluctancy for this job. Just using his first name is the right balance.
Boba enters the arena for the first fight of the tournament, but not before remembering the last time ‘Jango’ was in an arena.
Boba wastes no time getting to the final fight as we see a montage of him decapitating and impaling various opponents, ending in an announcer making what has to be one of the darkest meta Star Wars jokes out there.
Soule has a way of weaving Fett’s brutality with his loss, which isn’t an easy line. Fett finally makes it to the grand champion, Wyrmen Lictor, killing her will pay his debt and he can resume his mission to deliver Solo to Jabba, but it’s not going to be an easy fight.
The fight begins with Fett gaining the upper hand, using his wrist rockets to disarm Lictor and shooting her with his flamethrower.
It doesn’t take long though for the tide to turn as Fett gets hit by Lictor’s web and slammed across the arena.
Fett gets separated from his jetpack and it’s stuck against the wall, wrapped in his opponents web. He gets one good slice in before his shoulder is impaled by one of the warriors sharp legs, pinning him to the ground.
After seeing The Mandalorian we all know that a Mando jetpack is nothing if not full of surprises. Boba uses his opponents monologuing to his advantage as he detonates the jetpack causing the whole platform to explode in fire.
Lictor is crushed and Fett crawls out from beneath the rubble; the victor of the tournament and his mission complete.
Burnt, battered, and covered in his fallen opponents bright pink blood, Fett goes to claim his prize. However, Kanji aren’t happy about the money they lost betting on their champion and demand Boba fight for them again to claim his winnings. His mission to Doc Ragon fulfilled, our bounty hunter decides to walk away without the money, hoping to get back on his way to delivering Solo.
Things never go quite to plan though and Doc Ragon is shot by an unknown party as Solo’s carbonited body is loaded onto a ship. Fett returns to a dead body and his prize gone. He tells Bib Fortuna that he’s on his way but to tell Jabba…
The art in this issue is gorgeous, McNiven’s detailed illustrations and Martin’s color make all the panels pop, elevating the whole story from good to great. It’s not a game-changer, story-wise, but it’s function is to set the scene for the upcoming series and it does that perfectly. Soule also takes what could easily have been a bland story and captures Fett’s tough veneer (with glimpses of the lost boy he was) while surrounding him with a mix of fun characters.
Hopefully this crossover series can deliver, and if this prelude is an indicator, it will. Below is a guide found at the back of the issue, giving an easy way to see what’s coming up in War of the Bounty Hunters.