This year, many of the current Star Wars comic lines are converging, as well as a few new issues, to tell a massive story called “War of the Bounty Hunters.”
Set in-between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the story focuses on many factions in the galaxy all vying for Han Solo, currently frozen in carbonite. Obviously Boba Fett is involved, along with other bounty hunters, but so too is Darth Vader and the Empire, Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion, and many others. The main Star Wars comic line, the Doctor Aphra comic, and the current Bounty Hunters comic are all converging with this story, and there will be other issues and one-shots included as well.
It all kicked off recently with “War of the Bounty Hunters Alpha,” which serves as the Prelude to the story. Written by Charles Soule, this issue gets the hunt for Solo well underway!
En route from Bespin to Tatooine, Boba Fett is transporting the carbonite-frozen body of Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt. Fett contacts Bib Fortuna to inform him of this, but during the transmission an alarm indicates a problem with the carbonite. It appears that Han Solo is slowly thawing out. So Fett makes a stop on Nar Shadda, visiting Doc Ragon, who says that he can fix it so that it won’t happen again – but he needs to get paid up front. Fett says once he gets paid he can pay Ragon double, leveraging their history together – but Ragon insists that their history is why he’s insisting on getting paid up front.
Ragon does offer another form of payment, however: he has a grudge against a warrior named Wyrmen Lictor, a fighter sponsored and protected by the Kanji Hutts. He says that if Fett kills Lictor, he’ll return the favor by helping with his current problem. Fett reluctantly agrees, using Ragon’s nano-spray paint to disguise his armor in all-black, going by the name of Jango as he enters the tournament. He enters the gladiatorial arena and begins eliminating one fighter after another, soon earning the right to face the number one fighter in the arena: Wyrmen Lictor.
A lengthy fight ensures, during which Fett loses his jetpack and is nearly killed, but he manages to kill Lictor instead. He walks away as the new victor in the arena. But before he can return to Ragon’s shop, some thugs arrive, killing Ragon and taking Solo. Fett discovers Ragon’s dead body and Solo missing, and Bib Fortuna then contacts him, saying that Jabba is growing impatient for his prize. Fett says “it’s gonna be a minute,” and that’s how the issue ends, saying, “And thus begins the… War of the Bounty Hunters!”
The biggest thing about this issue is setting the stage for the numerous issues to come, and even at the end of this one there’s a schedule of all the issues that are included in this story, from May through October. This is a massive collaborative initiative, and this is what kicks it off – because, as we see at the end, Boba Fett is no longer in possession of Han Solo.
In Legends, it took Fett quite a while before he was able to deliver Solo to Jabba the Hutt, as he experienced tons of resistance from others looking to cash in on the coveted payday, and it seems that’s exactly the story they’re beginning to tell in canon material as well. There are a couple of things that need to happen in order for this story to be kicked off.
First, and most importantly, we needed a reason why Boba Fett was interrupted in his journey from Bespin to Tatooine. This was, in my view, always going to be the biggest challenge for this War of the Bounty Hunters story, as unless they waited until Fett arrived on Tatooine to start things, they needed a very good and compelling reason why he’d pause his journey – after all, if Han Solo is a big enough prize for basically the whole galaxy to be after, he’s a big enough prize to keep Fett from making a bunch of pit stops along the way.
The way that this issue answered that challenge was by explaining that something was wrong with the carbon-freeze and that, quite simply, Solo wouldn’t survive the long journey. The Empire Strikes Back already established the importance of having Solo alive (“he’s no good to me dead,” Fett said), and the opening pages of this issue reinforce that, in case we forgot, by establishing that Jabba wants Solo alive. So, with this problem, Fett is literally faced with the problem of losing the entire bounty for Solo. And even though there’s nothing in Empire or Return of the Jedi that suggests a problem like this, it actually does fit in pretty well. Remember, Vader said in Empire that the facility was crude, but it “should be adequate” to freeze Luke Skywalker for transport to the Emperor. And then, just to make sure, Vader orders it to be tested. It’s not exactly a huge ringing endorsement throughout. So, even though Solo survived the freezing process, it does make sense that there would be at least some problems.
So Fett makes a stop on Nar Shadda to try to get the issue fixed, and it’s there that Solo’s body is stolen… because Fett is gone. It felt a little too convenient that Fett would leave Solo unattended, and it seems that Fett should be more savvy and smarter than that. I think Soule was going for the feel that Fett was out of options, and that’s basically what happened, but I have a hard time seeing how Fett wouldn’t have any credits AND would resort to leaving Solo behind to go fight in this arena. I’m just not convinced that was Fett’s only option like this issue portrays it as, but I simply chalk it up to an in-universe mistake by Fett. That’s allowed to happen, after all! The writers shouldn’t feel a need to make every character make the best decision every time, because as all of us can personally attest to, that doesn’t happen. All the writers need to do is make it feel like the move would be believable, even if it’s not a good one. So, in that regard, I guess that this works. I don’t love it, but I get it, and something had to kick-start this whole story.
And so whatever minor issues I might have with that aside, I gladly will overlook them because I think this whole story is going to be pretty great, and I’m really excited for it. And like I said earlier, I think that the explanation of Fett’s pit stop on Nar Shadda makes sense too, and now he’s lost Han Solo. Let the war of the bounty hunters begin!