The War of the Bounty Hunters is underway!
This epic crossover event in Star Wars comics introduces a new series while also tying together the main Star Wars comic line, the current Darth Vader series, the current Doctor Aphra series, the Bounty Hunters series, and new one-shots along the way. It tells the story of Boba Fett delivering Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt, exploring the period in-between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and it was established in one of the prelude issues that Solo has been stolen from Fett.
With that revelation quickly becoming known, it seems that everyone in the galaxy is getting involved in the hunt for Solo – including a major Star Wars character who makes a stunning return in the first issue of War of the Bounty Hunters, written by Charles Soule. Here’s my review of the issue, but of course, full spoilers are ahead!
Aboard a ship called the Vermillion, a mysterious group is in possession of the carbonite-frozen body of Han Solo, having stolen him from the doctor on Nar Shadda, robbing Boba Fett of his prize. Fett, still on Nar Shadda, is furious, insisting that someone is going to die for what has happened. But as he stands talking with a bartender, two bounty hunters conspire to kill him, realizing that there is the biggest open bounty they’ve ever seen on Fett. Boba quickly kills them before they can make their move, and he then heads off for his ship… where Zuckuss and 4-LOM confront him.
Fett fights back, and he winds up kicking Zuckuss off the platform (which we are led to believe is to his death) – but not before Zuckuss, pleading for his life, insists he can tell Boba his future: “Everything is red, a sea of red, and you are drowning in it!” Having dispatched Zuckuss, Fett approaches a badly damaged 4-LOM, removes its head, and plugs it into Slave I‘s computers. Upon doing so, Fett is surprised to realize that the bounty has been placed on him and not on Han Solo, and that the bounty came from Jabba the Hutt. So Fett arrives on Tattoine at Jabba’s Palace, tossing 4-LOM’s head off of a platform and approaching Bib Fortuna and some Gamorrean Guards. Fett quickly kills the guards and threatens Fortuna, demanding to know what’s going on. Fortuna explains that Jabba believes Fett betrayed him, as reports suggest Fett sold Solo to another client.
Jabba, however, is not on Tatooine. He’s on his war barge, discussing an invitation with the other Hutts, trying to figure out whether it’s a trap or not. This group has invited the Hutts to a party, claiming to have Han Solo, and Jabba believes them. But this group hasn’t been heard from in years, so the Hutts wonder if something more is at play. Back on Tatooine, Fett defies Fortuna and wins over the others at the Palace to let him live, so Fett forces Fortuna to show him the invite to the party: where he learns that it is Crimson Dawn in possession of Han Solo. It appears that Crimson Dawn stole Han Solo in order to impress Jabba the Hutt, and upon learning this information, Boba Fett says that he now knows who it is that’s going to die.
Meanwhile, on the Vermillion, one of the women, Margo, asks the mysterious hooded leader what the big deal is about Han Solo. The hooded figure explains that Solo, despite being just a smuggler, has managed to be connected to almost every influential faction in the galaxy – and we then see a montage of the Rebellion, the Empire, Doctor Aphra and Sana Starros, Valance and Dengar, and Jabba the Hutt – all of whom are after Solo (as seen in the prelude issues). But what does this hooded leader of Crimson Dawn want with Solo? She says, “Han always wanted to save me. Now he’ll get his chance.” She lowers her hood and we discover that it’s Qi’ra, and she orders that final preparations be made for their guests to come.
After a month of prelude stories, this is in many ways the official kickoff to the War of the Bounty Hunters story – and it blew away every expectation that I had going into it! It tells a great story that sets up plenty of intriguing storylines moving forward, and it manages to raise the level of excitement and intrigue exponentially!
By far the biggest reveal and the biggest talking point was Qi’ra – such that I actually wrote a whole separate article about it. This was totally unexpected, and it was set up really well by Charles Soule in this issue. We start by seeing the group that stole Han Solo from Boba Fett, but we don’t know who this leader is. Then when the Hutts are talking, we learn that it’s actually Crimson Dawn! When that was revealed, I began wondering if this was Qi’ra – but I wasn’t sure if the comic would actually go for it. But thankfully, Soule and Lucasfilm did just that, bringing Qi’ra back into Star Wars storytelling and blowing this arc wide open as not just a story about Boba Fett but a sequel to Solo. We now have confirmation that Qi’ra survived this long and thus out-lasted Maul as the leader of Crimson Dawn, but we also learn that the organization hasn’t been heard from in years. So it seems that Qi’ra views this as an opportunity to reclaim a place of power and prominence, regardless of any other, more personal motivation.
The introduction of Qi’ra and Crimson Dawn is a massive reveal and one that has me incredibly excited to see where the story goes from here. We know the end result – Boba Fett delivers Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt – but we have no idea what happens with Qi’ra and Crimson Dawn. It’s interesting that during the comic, Zuckuss foretells Boba’s future (it’s nice to see them further affirming that Zuckuss can do that) as him drowning in a sea of red. I think by far the most likely meaning of this is that it’s the sarlaac pit, but since the issue deals with Crimson Dawn, it’s also possible that’s the interpretation too.
While on the subject of Zuckuss, it was great to see him and 4-LOM show up having tracked Boba Fett to Nar Shadda – and then getting summarily defeated. But though it appears as if they die, we know that there’s a one-shot coming about them in the War of the Bounty Hunters story that sounds like it’s set after this point, so it might be premature to think they’re dead. And, well, since it’s Star Wars, people falling and us never seeing them land is about as sure of a way to suggest that they’re still alive as any. But even though they’re probably not dead, it goes to show just how angry and out for blood Boba Fett is.
And make no mistake: Fett is the main character of this issue. He’s being hunted by bounty hunters, and the job is open to anyone – with a massive bounty such as typically belongs only to contracted jobs. I thought that was a great touch to see that Jabba the Hutt thinks that Boba betrayed him, so Boba is actually the one being hunted rather than Han Solo. Fett is surprised to learn this, and he tracks down Bib Fortuna to demand answers. I think Soule writes Fett tremendously well in this issue (you can practically hear Temuera Morrison saying these lines), and it’s clear that he’s not someone you want to mess with – which could be troubling news for Crimson Dawn.
One other thing that I really enjoyed about this issue came as the Hutts discuss the invitation extended to them by Crimson Dawn – which in itself was cool to see. But there’s a point where Marlo the Hutt (who appeared in The Clone Wars) had a moment of showing his age. The old Hutt is apparently a bit senile and is snapped back to reality, where he says that they can do business with Chancellor Soh. This is, of course, a reference to the High Republic (on which Soule is a writer) and to Chancellor Lina Soh. It’s a fun reference and a funny moment in the comic, but I suppose it also does raise at least one question: is there a precedent for Soh working with the Hutts? We haven’t seen that yet in the High Republic, but we have seen the Hutts show up and work with the Jedi to survive… so it might still be coming. And that would open some interesting discussions. But here, it’s just a humorous moment of a senile old Hutt forgetting where he is and what time period it is.
Overall, this comic was a home run. It kicked off the War of the Bounty Hunters series with plenty of excitement and intrigue, and it did a great job with Boba Fett. But, of course, the big reveal was that Qi’ra is still alive, leading Crimson Dawn, and in possession of Han Solo. And with all of that now known, it’s clear that we’re just getting started on what should be an epic story taking us throughout the summer and into the fall. I can’t wait!