The War of the Bounty Hunters continues!
This month, the third issue of Charles Soule’s War of the Bounty Hunters series was released, continuing the main story that several other stories are all tying into, and this one sees Qi’ra get more of the spotlight as she faces off against Darth Vader!
Let’s dive in to the review!
Having crashed the Crimson Dawn auction, Darth Vader demands that Han Solo be loaded onto his ship and that anyone who interferes – even Jabba the Hutt – be killed. Jabba speaks up, honoring Vader but saying that Solo is his property, since he had the winning bid at the auction for one million credits. Vader is surprised that Jabba won the auction instead of the Empire and views it as a failure by Sly Moore, but that Solo still belongs to the Emperor (just like everything else in the room).
Meanwhile, Boba Fett talks with Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbacca, with neither side wanting to make a scene but both adamantly insisting that Han Solo is theirs. Chewie and Boba wind up fighting, with neither using their blasters in order to keep quiet, instead fighting hand-to-hand. Knowing this, Lando gives the Wookiee the advantage and tells Chewie to kick Boba’s ass. But Boba winds up using his flamethrower, catching Chewie on fire. Boba then says he doesn’t need any more enemies and that he won’t get in their way so long as they don’t get in his. Lando tries to make a deal with Boba, saying that if he helps them they can pay him the credits he’s due, but the bounty hunter declines.
Vader continues to talk with Jabba, saying that even though he’s got a privileged standing with the Empire there are other syndicates who can easily take that place. Jabba relents and allows Vader to take Han Solo with his compliments to the Emperor. Qi’ra steps in and says that while she won’t stop Vader from taking Han, he must pay the one million credits still. Qi’ra isn’t intimidated by Vader, and the two begin dueling – Vader with his lightsaber and Qi’ra with twin electrostaff-like weapons. Vader recognizes her fighting style and that she is well-trained, and tries to get the upper hand by using the Force. Qi’ra, though, has some tricks and releases some explosives that send both fighters backward. Boba meanwhile tries to get a shot at Vader but, remembering what happened on Cloud City, thinks better of it. Vader finally uses the Force to send everyone around him flying back, injuring Qi’ra. The Sith Lord begins cutting down a number of people at the auction and killing them, but right before striking Qi’ra he senses Luke Skywalker’s arrival.
Qi’ra escapes, telling her aide Margo that she knows what to do now. She escapes because Vader is otherwise occupied, as Admiral Piett patches Vader through to Skywalker’s X-Wing. Vader tells Luke that they have unfinished business and that he has Han Solo – currently unharmed, but that if Luke doesn’t come now, he’ll cut Han in half.
This was another very enjoyable issue, but I can’t help but feel like this whole story has stalled a bit. It feels like each issue we’re inching a few steps forward, and all the tie-in issues are mostly just serving as set-up for those few steps that are taken. But it’s still a fun story, and I’m sure that when we have the benefit of hindsight we’ll be able to look back and see how these stories do flow nicely. I think it’s probably just the nature of the several-months-long process that makes it feel excessively dragged out.
Specifically speaking to this issue, however, I did enjoy it. The biggest highlight was, of course, Qi’ra facing off with Darth Vader. She’s the rare character who isn’t afraid of Vader, and it’s totally understandable why not: she worked for Maul previously. In fact, Vader recognizes her training, and though Maul isn’t mentioned, it’s clear that this is all a reference to the former Sith. It also hints at there being much more to Qi’ra than we knew, as it seems that Maul trained her. When last we saw her in Solo, she was going to meet Maul on Dathomir, as he told her they would be working much more closely from then on. It seems like part of that, at least, was Maul training Qi’ra in these fight techniques. What we don’t know is how Qi’ra took Maul’s place as the head of Crimson Dawn, but we do know that Maul was trapped on Malachor for a while prior to the events of Rebels. Did Qi’ra have a part in that happening? Or was it more by chance that it happened, which she seized? We don’t know, but it’s clear Qi’ra isn’t afraid of a Sith – because she’s dealt with one before.
Of course, she assumes that every Sith (or former Sith) is alike and equal, and she is defeated by Vader – but not until she puts up an impressive fight against him, one that many would never even attempt and even fewer could even succeed at. Vader winds up getting angry – even more so than usual – and goes on a killing spree. Just before killing Qi’ra, though, Vader is interrupted – by Skywalker. Vader senses his arrival, and he communicates with him. Vader’s entire involvement in this storyline has been motivated by Luke. Some have wondered why Vader would get involved in the hunt for Han Solo when he was the one who let Han Solo go in the first place. But the series has explained that, as Vader has supposedly learned his lesson that the Emperor cannot be stopped, and now realizes that Luke has to be defeated – and that the way to get to Luke is to go after his friends. So Vader learns about Han Solo’s “availability” and sees it as a way of getting to Luke. Sure enough, as this issue ends, Luke Skywalker approaches the planet, and Vader makes it clear that if Luke doesn’t land and face him, he will kill Han Solo.
The other factions at play here take a bit of a back seat in this issue, but three of them do appear. There’s Jabba the Hutt, who actually won the auction and debates Darth Vader over who gets to keep him. In the process, Vader humiliates Sly Moore and Jabba humiliates Bokku the Hutt, while Jabba permits Vader to take Han in an effort to preserve his favor with the Empire. We know that Jabba will wind up with Han when all of this is over, but I would guess that it’s because Boba Fett delivers him, not because Jabba purchased him at an auction. Speaking of Boba Fett, he’s here too. He fights Chewbacca in hand-to-hand combat, and while he’s no match for a Wookie as such, he uses his flamethrower to light Chewie on fire. Boba doesn’t particularly want to pick a fight with them, but neither does he take Lando up on the offer to help them. Boba wants his prize, and though he’s got a clear shot at Vader, he doesn’t take it – remembering how Vader easily deflected Han Solo’s shots on Cloud City. I thought that was a nice touch. While Qi’ra faces off with Vader, Boba Fett knows better than to do so.
The third faction highlighted in this issue is, of course, the rebels, but they’re here mainly in their interaction with Boba Fett. But we do get to see Leia give an impassioned statement to Boba about how Han isn’t to be bought or sold; she’s going to bring him home. The rebels, unlike these other factions, care about Han Solo as a person and not merely as a means to an end.
In all of this, the fight over Han Solo continues. Vader’s in the best position now, but that probably won’t be the case for long. There are two issues left in this main series, as well as tons of crossover stories, so hopefully things pick up a bit as we near the climax.