Naturally, there are major spoilers here.

The conventional wisdom is that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but it seems like there are no straight lines in Star Wars. Though many of the laws of physics and mortals don’t apply in Star Wars, Murphy’s Law does, and that’s really at the heart of the new Marvel Comics event, War of the Bounty Hunters. The kickoff, Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters #1 “Most Wanted,” written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Luke Ross, and colored by Neeraj Menon, gives us a view of exactly how badly things can go wrong. The premise of the story is simple: plenty of us assumed that Boba Fett had an easy time taking Han Solo, frozen in carbonite, back to Jabba the Hutt from Cloud City. What this story presupposes is, “Maybe he didn’t?”

In the preludes to the series, we learn that the carbonite that contained Han Solo wasn’t stable. Had Boba Fett merely dropped him off on Tatooine, Han would be dead and Boba Fett’s bounty on Solo would be worthless. So like any good bounty hunter, Boba Fett goes to protect his investment. He stops on Nar Shaddaa, the Smuggler’s Moon, to have a street doc stabilize the carbonite. Naturally, there are complications and Boba Fett has to run an errand as a trade for the work. Long story short, someone steals Han Solo’s carbonite brick and Boba Fett is furious.

This secret someone puts the galaxy on blast, announcing that they’ll be auctioning Solo off to the highest bidder. Furious that his prize has been lost en route, Jabba the Hutt puts an open bounty on Boba Fett’s head.

Boba Fett has only one thing left to do: fight and kill his way back to possessing the greatest bounty he’d ever taken possession of.

The story has more twists and turns before finally revealing who stole Han’s body, but we’ll get to that later.

The Legends

The time period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi has always been nebulous. It’s been a squishy six-months to a year on the timeline, and I think it looks more and more like it’s a year, based on the events of the comics that are filling in that space.

Previously, the story was filled in by the 1996 transmedia experience Shadows of the Empire, that encompassed a novel, comics, video game, soundtrack, toys, and more. It introduced a number of concepts and characters that were sometimes beloved and sometimes reviled. Looking back on Shadows of the Empire after 25 years, it was clear that those stories couldn’t really fit in the canon as it has currently been reconstructed. Not only is the novel rife with problematic issues of consent and sexism and diet-strength characters like Dash Rendar, it just doesn’t fit with the direction Star Wars has gone since the release of The Clone Wars.

Taking a new crack at the time between Empire and Jedi was the right move, and Charles Soule seems to be exactly the right guy to serve as the architect.

Into The Details and Cameos

This first installment of the core War of the Bounty Hunters story has quite a few cameos and notable details, and we’ll break down the big ones here.

First, you’ll see that 4-LOM and Zuckuss, who were first seen in The Empire Strikes Back, attack Boba Fett before the credits sequence, blowing a charge on his ship and trying to kill him. They were two of the bounty hunters Darth Vader called in to hunt the Millennium Falcon, and these insectoid bounty hunters have been ever-popular side characters for more than 40 years. Zuckuss breaths ammonia, which is why he requires a respirator, and was a legendary findsman on his home planet. 4-LOM, who became Zuckuss’s partner, was a protocol droid who rewrote his own programming and became a thief and a bounty hunter in his own right.

This issue seems to have shown both these characters their end. Boba Fett drops Zuckuss off a landing platform and cuts 4-LOM’s head off and ties it into his computer for information, proving the pair likely won’t be a threat to him again.

After discovering the fact that Jabba the Hutt has placed a bounty on his head so large he won’t be able to go near a civilized system without a fight, Boba Fett goes straight to Tatooine. There, he confronts Bib Fortuna and discovers Jabba missing.

Jabba has taken flight, heading toward the rendezvous in hopes of taking Han Solo from those who stole him from Boba Fett. In hyperspace, Jabba the Hutt talks to the heads of the other Hutt clans, wondering what can be done about this new player in the galactic underworld. One cameo of note here is Marlo the Hutt. Marlo first appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and was an homage to Marlon Brando and his portrayal of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Marlo is now nearly a thousand years old and doesn’t quite know where he is, but and mentions that Chancellor Soh is someone they can do business with. Chancellor Soh was the chancellor of the Republic in the High Republic era who featured prominently in Charles Soule’s book Light of the Jedi. The cats Marlo referred to are Soh’s bodyguard targons, Matari and Voru. With Hutts saying they could do business with Chancellor Soh, it makes one skeptical about how trustworthy Soh might be as the High Republic continues.

Crimson Dawn

Boba Fett is able to threaten Bib Fortuna enough to get a copy of the invitation Jabba the Hutt received. And that’s when it’s revealed that Crimson Dawn is back, claiming to have stolen Han Solo. Any potential buyers would need to head to the icy world of Jekara, a new planet to the canon located somewhere in the mid-rim.

Crimson Dawn rose out of the Shadow Collective established by Maul during The Clone Wars and was operated by the former Sith Lord for many years as its quiet head. Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany in Solo: A Star Wars Story, was the visible front to the organization from the time of The Clone Wars until his death at the hands of Qi’ra on Savareen. With no sequel to Solo and no stories picking up Maul or Qi’ra’s stories between Solo and Star Wars Rebels, Crimson Dawn has fallen off the map. Where did they go? How did Maul end up stuck on Malachor? What ever happened to Qi’ra?

Well, War of the Bounty Hunters might be giving us our first glimpses. The mysterious figure who is kickstarting Crimson Dawn and has stolen Han Solo’s carcass in carbonite?

Qi’ra. Han’s old scrumrat of a girlfriend, played by Emilia Clarke in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

This revelation is surprising in a number of ways, but really makes perfect sense. She’s always been willing to do what it takes to get ahead, even if it cost her Han. And there’s something sweet and poetic about her having Han in her possession when he’s not conscious enough to know about it. She hints, though, that she hopes he’s having a wonderful dream in carbonite. One wonders if she hopes that dream is still of her.

Qi’ra says her plan is to get the attention of the galaxy, and having Han Solo accomplishes that. He’s connected to all the major players in the galaxy and wanted by all of them for a variety of reasons. But he’s a means to an end, just as he was for her during her bid to take over Crimson Dawn in the first place.

But there’s something more going on with Qi’ra. “Han always wanted to save me,” she says in the final panels of the comic. “Now he’ll get his chance.”

Save her from what?

Future Fireworks

This issue is terrifically rendered. The art from Luke Ross depicts the characters wonderfully and expressively. The coloring is vibrant, leaving distinct color stories for each individual location. And the writing from Charles Soule is top-notch, as it always has been across his career in Star Wars, starting with the original Lando miniseries of comics. The events of this issue are scheduled to reverberate through every Star Wars comic coming out at this point in the timeline, and it’s going to mean things for the characters and the galaxy.

Sure, we know how things end up for Han and the major players. But what about Qi’ra? Suddenly we’re invested.

My one hope is that this comic doesn’t fill in too many of the details of Qi’ra’s past. I would hate to have the comic trample over the potential for a sequel to Solo: A Star Wars Story, whether that’s as a movie or a Disney+ series. The cast of that film was far too good to let them all be a one-off. I’d rather Qi’ra stay a mystery in this and see her explored in more depth elsewhere moving forward. On the other hand, if Qi’ra is the one telling the story, we know her to be an unreliable narrator, so anything she says could be rewritten by new live-action material anyway and it wouldn’t conflict.

War of the Bounty Hunters continues next week in Star Wars: Bounty Hunters #13.

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