Darth Vader takes a bow as the War of the Bounty Hunters concludes this month. Spinning a web involving Sith assassins, crime syndicates, Imperial loyalists, and Hutt cartels to get his hands on Han Solo, Darth Vader has been busy during this event. As usual, it all comes back to catching Luke Skywalker, but in this conclusion, a series of surprising revelations might cause the Dark Lord of the Sith to look at the long game instead. SPOILERS AHEAD….
If you’ve been following along, you’ll know the Hutts aren’t hesitating to engage the Empire to reclaim Han for Jabba. On the planet below, Ochi of Bestoon and Sly Moore work things out, learning a little more about each master they serve. Sly was presented as someone betraying the Emperor and Vader, but Ochi learns this may have all been an act, orchestrated by Palpatine to throw Vader off his true design. As usual, Darth Sidious pulls the strings, and we’re all just along for the ride.
Sly reveals her true purpose was to keep Luke safe from Vader, who the Emperor assumed Vader intended to kill because Luke was a threat to him. The Emperor intends to replace Vader with Luke, as we know, but he’s been planning it for a while. Return of the Jedi always felt like the Emperor came up with this on the fly, or as more of a backup plan in case Vader couldn’t defeat Luke. Turns out this was the plan all along: to keep Luke safe from Vader so the young Jedi-in-training could find his way into Palpatine’s clutches. Not exactly surprising, but interesting how elaborate a scheme Palpatine bothered concocting.
Just as Vader’s about to fire on Luke, he turns around, revealing he’s also figured out what the Emperor intended. This pursuit of Solo to lure Luke was also an exercise for Vader, getting Palpatine to reveal his true intentions through his actions. Though it’s not exactly clear how Vader pieces this together, he does just in time, and Luke escapes to safety. My issues with the maze writer Greg Pak has led Vader through is the twists and turns often don’t make sense. The characters just realize they are heading toward some sort of betrayal and step back from the ledges they’re about to walk off, for inexplicable reasons. Maybe Pak is playing the long game too, and by the time we get to the end of this series, it will all make sense.
Luke might be safe, but Bokku the Hutt has some explaining to do once Vader turns his attention toward the attack on the Executor. It also seems strange to me the Hutts are attacking a Super Star Destroyer, risking the ire of the Empire and the blind eye they count on authorities turning to continue their spice dealing and smuggling in the Outer Rim. Bokku has a secret of his own though: another party laying traps and pulling strings of the unwitting.
Bokku is part of Crimson Dawn! Vader puts a lightsaber through the Hutt when he learns of this, but not before Bokku can hit the self-destruct button near him (how convenient!). As the ship plummets to the planet below, Vader cocoons himself in debris and lands safely on the surface, ever the survivor. He quickly makes his way back to the Executor, where Mas Amedda and Ochi unravel Sly’s motives.
Vader has words with Sly, putting her in the typical choke hold for getting in his way. Just as he’s about to finish Sly, the Emperor joins the conversation:
Their pursuit of Skywalker might be put on hold now that the Emperor realizes they have a new foe: Crimson Dawn! He tasks Vader with smoking out Crimson Dawn’s agents. Vader, knowing Ochi of Bestoon has contacts spread throughout the galaxy in the underworld, dispatches the assassin to find out more.
Whoa! Looks like Ochi’s old friends have been busy, capturing Qi’ra herself. The only thing they didn’t count on… Ochi also has a secret of his own.
Qi’ra wins the day! Ochi is working for her, and it sounds like Sly is, too. Crimson Dawn is going to give the Empire and the Sith quite a fight. This is a great set-up for the forthcoming Crimson Reign. Honestly, this is the kind of war I’m here for.
Happy this is the end of the line for War of the Bounty Hunters. In my opinion, this event distracted from so many characters and series, and I’m happy Greg Pak can focus on the story more in line with what Vader’s demonstrated in the past. I’m excited to see him go up against Crimson Dawn and Qi’ra, while also flushing out spies in the Empire. When Vader’s not obsessing about Padmé or Luke, he’s best when he’s a Sith enforcer, and it sounds like we’ll be getting back to that. A lot of the run-around story lines involving the Hutts and trying to get to Solo just seemed so out of character, and frankly, belittling to such an iconic character. I’m all for Vader being humbled, but a lot of his presence in War of the Bounty Hunters didn’t align with what came before. I’m glad we are getting back to business.