At the end of Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett was on cloud nine—or rather, Cloud City, thinking he’d just secured himself the bounty of the century in Han Solo’s carbonite-encased form. It turns out though that Fett couldn’t get himself straight to Jabba’s palace without some complications... and now we know those complications have huge ramifications for Star Wars’ criminal underworld—thanks to a new Marvel Comic and one hell of a revelation.
War of the Bounty Hunters #1—the first in a five-part limited comic book series by Charles Soule, Luke Ross, Neeraj Menon, and Travis Lanham—opens this week with the very basic premise we already knew going in: someone stole Han Solo from Boba Fett, and Boba Fett is very mad. But as ever with the underworld of the galaxy far, far away, things are always more complicated, messier, and more intimate than just someone taking something from someone else. Drowning his sorrows on Nar Shaddaa, Fett quickly discovers that the Bounty Hunters Guild has placed an open contract on him, making his bad day even worse. Now every hunter from randos in the bar to faves like 4-LOM and Zuckuss are after the significant pile of credits on Fett’s head. Though he’s good at what he does—as he frequently reminds associates and opponents alike in this issue—not even he can perform as his best, most assholish self when every hunter worth their marks is on his tail. After a quick explosive fight that renders 4-LOM’s head distinctly separated from its body, Fett uses the droid to reverse-engineer just who put out the hit: Jabba the Hutt, who’s very angry that Fett’s running late with his Han Solo popsicle.
This would already be enough of an interesting twist: the realization that the entire underworld of Star Wars is, frankly, an incredible mess of very dramatic freelancers, their patrons, and tired, tired vets who just want to do their job as stress-free as possible, even if the job is shooting at each other all the time. Even as we contrast it with the issue’s clear-cut characterization of Fett as the image we knew and loved beyond his appearance in the movies—that he really just is That Kind of Badass, for better or worse—it’s made much more interesting and frankly much funnier here that this whole messy scenario is made out of his own failure to keep Han from being scooped from under him in the first place. Fett made his bed, half-assed it, and now he has to lie it in and that infuriates him.
As delightful as it is to see Fett’s persona of perfection punctured a little, War of the Bounty Hunters goes far beyond putting him on the back foot. After he storms Jabba’s palace to find out why he was compromised, we are introduced to a situation far less clear-cut than imagined. Jabba has learned that Fett lost Han along the way, and not only that, he’s learned it from the people who have recovered the package in a desperate bid to piss off practically every major player in the Star Wars comic universe, from the Rebel Alliance (who want Han back, because he’s Han), the Empire (who want him captured or dead, because he’s a Rebel commander), the Hutts (who, through Jabba, are still pissed at Han for the whole smuggling deal-gone-south), and even players like Sana Starros and Doctor Aphra (who, to varying degrees of investment, would rather not see their complicated friend get done in by criminal dealings). And the people responsible are very familiar...
They’re the Crimson Dawn: Darth Maul’s criminal syndicate from the final days of the Clone Wars. And apparently, still very much alive and kicking even if their true master traded a seedy Empire for his own tragic revenge quest years ago. Once again, if this was where War of the Bounty Hunters #1 left off, we’d be in for a fascinating thought experiment. Returning the Crimson Dawn to prominence in the underworld throws in a new faction among the mess between everything from your common thugs to major brawlers, like both the Hutt clans and “respectable” organizations like the Bounty Hunters Guild. It adds texture to an area of the galaxy that it’s increasingly clear Lucasfilm is fascinated with exploring further. Creations like Star Wars: The Bad Batch and The Book of Boba Fett to movies like Solo and comics like this one are diving deep into this side of Star Wars, far away from lightsabers, X-Wings, and TIE Fighters.
In the ways that factions like the Empire or the Rebellion cannot entirely be, the underworld can be fractured and tumultuous, with layers of double-crossing and uneasy alliances being just part of this shadowed side of the universe. But true to form, the issue has one last twist that makes everything much, much messier. Darth Maul is long gone from the Crimson Dawn and the person who’s recovered Han Solo to revitalize Dawn’s reputation and sell him off to the highest bidder? It’s none other than Qi’ra.
This is the first time we’ve seen Emilia Clarke’s troubled Corellian criminal since Solo: A Star Wars Story, which took place nearly a decade and a half before the events of this comic. Fans of the character have been waiting and waiting to see just what Lucasfilm could do with her and now we’re going to start seeing some indications that, perhaps it’s been a long, hard time for Qi’ra. Her final-page reveal in War of the Bounty Hunters #1 paints her as both still having complicated feelings towards Han, but also hardened even further by her life in the Dawn, her former friend and lover now as much a tool for her to wield that criminal power as he is someone she once cared about deeply.
Time will tell just what will become of Qi’ra as War of the Bounty Hunters comes to its conclusion, but her re-appearance in this specific moment opens up a ton of fascinating material for the character to explore. One such idea? It turns out bounty hunting really is a complicated profession—especially if the target’s one of the most infamous smugglers in the galaxy.
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