Monday 1 November 2021

Marvel's summer of Star Wars

With only a few weeks to go until The Book of Boba Fett debuts on Disney+, Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, catches up with the notorious bounty hunter in Marvel Comics.

Guest post by Nick Smith

"I will not give up my favourite decoration. I like Captain Solo where he is." – Jabba the Hutt

Recently my office has been decorated with copies of the Marvel Star Wars crossover, War of the Bounty Hunters. Nobody converges summer titles like Marvel – see Secret Wars, House of M and Civil War for evidence – and this year it’s Luke Skywalker’s turn to face his stablemates in books like Doctor Aphra, Darth Vader and IG-88.

Doctor Aphra is the weakest link, with a throwaway plot and underdeveloped characters. The saving grace is Federico Sabbatini’s art in issue 14 (‘Repeat Offenders’), echoing Cynthia Martin’s playful pencils on the original Star Wars comic.

Bounty Hunters and Darth Vader are both well-written, with stronger character development and a sense that there’s plenty of plot to unfold. Valance the hunter thinks there’s still a chance to save Han Solo, even though the smuggler is encased in carbonite and held by the Crimson Dawn syndicate.

Meanwhile, Vader apparently wants to prove himself to the Emperor before he’s usurped by Luke as Palpatine’s number one youngling killer. Ochi of Bestoon comes across as Star Wars’ answer to Deadpool, a wisecracking sidekick to the Lord of the Sith. The cast of Darth Vader all have their own agendas and shift alliances like the sand around a sarlacc.

Some of the major combatants in this war get their own one-shots, although Zuckuss and 4-LOM share an issue called ‘Zuckuss Must Die!’. We learn a lot about Zuckuss and his relationship with his droid buddy – which is not necessarily a good thing.

Like Boba Fett, part of the bounty hunters’ appeal is their mystery. They are alien, not like us with our concerns about friendship (Zuckuss), love (Dengar) or loyalty (Valance). Playing with their Kenner action figures, kids could insert these blank-slate characters into any scenario they wished. To humanize the hunters is to do them a disservice. But how else are the writers supposed to tell stories about these space-cold killers?

The flagship Star Wars comic continues to capture the feel of the original movie trilogy. Issue 15, ‘Friends and Enemies,’ revolves around a Starlight Squadron dogfight for that good old Beggar’s-Canyon-back-home feeling.

As crossovers go, there are scant new ideas and War of the Bounty Hunters feels exceptionally slow and dragged-out. The main plot doesn’t go anywhere for months at a time. The decision to centre the action around an auction in a non-linear fashion hobbles the writers, although they obviously have fun inserting their characters into a galactic bidding war for Han Solo.

Plus we know how events will turn out since editors Mark Paniccia and Tom Groneman announced that the very first issue in this series would shed, ‘new light on Boba’s journey from Cloud City to Tatooine.’

Whilst this particular war doesn’t merit dozens of issues, it does provide some great set pieces worthy of George Lucas’ classic saga. It offers a chance to see 4-LOM become a giant metal spider, reveals Boushh’s background and shows how Chewbacca feels about Lando after Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

The overall quality of the storytelling and art bodes well for the comics once they’re free from being mashed between two immutable movies.

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