STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS – CONCLUSION REVIEW ROUNDUP

As the massive War of the Bounty Hunters event comes to an end, we take a look over some of the final parts that close out this sprawling, 34-part behemoth from Marvel Comics.

The second half of this year has seen Star Wars fans treated to some of the most exciting, surprising, and epic storytelling that the comics have had to offer. As the massive War of the Bounty Hunters event comes to an end, we take a look over some of the final parts that close out this sprawling, 34-part behemoth from Marvel Comics.


STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #5

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Luke Ross and David Messina

Colours: Neeraj Menon and Rachelle Rosenberg

Released: 13/10/21

First up is the fifth and final issue of the core mini-series, which truly delivers on the ‘War’ of its title. Panels are chock full of space battles, laser fire and things generally going ‘BOOM!’ Luke Ross’ art and the truly unique colours of Neeraj Menon have been the standout aspect of this series and they give their absolute all once again in depicting the massive scale of this final hurrah, ably assisted by David Messina and Rachelle Rosenberg respectively. Each page leaps out at the reader, the layout of most of them making for fast-paced reading before indulging in the occasional impactful larger panel or an astonishing splash page to really grab the attention. Here’s hoping they both return to the Star Wars universe before too long.

This is one jam-packed comic but that doesn’t stop almost every key player in the event having their moment in the spotlight to wrap up their involvement. The highlight is, as ever, Boba Fett, and his team up with cyborg bounty hunter Valance is beautifully pitched by Charles Soule, who continues to prove to be one of the best writers to ever grace the pages of a Star Wars comic. This issue, he delivers stunning character moments in rapid fire fashion interspersed with frenetic action, but the speed at which they come never reduces the impact or importance of each one, some of which will lead on nicely to be paid off in each character’s respective book.

There is, of course, also a huge teaser for the upcoming Crimson Reign mini-series, the second part of Soule’s Qi’ra trilogy. Soule has given new life to a character who could easily have been forgotten and ignored, given the underwhelming reception of Solo: A Star Wars Story – he has seized a golden opportunity to do exactly what Star Wars books and comics are supposed to do: make something much bigger of the comparatively tiny part of the story that the films make up, and he does it convincingly. Qi’ra’s return has been fully justified in this event, and her final words here promise intriguing things to come for the new leader of Crimson Dawn in the upcoming mini-series, Crimson Reign.


DARTH VADER #17

Written by: Greg Pak

Art: Raffaele Ienco

Colours: Alex Sinclair

Released: 27/10/21

Considering the events of his own book and the core mini-series, Greg Pak is left with a lot to wrap up here, but he handles it with an eye on pace and detail, which have both punctuated his run from the start. A lot of ground is covered – the conclusion of Vader and Luke’s chase, the ongoing scuffle between Ochi and Sly Moore, Vader’s confrontation with Bokku the Hutt and, of course, setting the scene for what comes next, but every aspect of this issue stands well on its own and as part of a cohesive whole which makes for a very satisfying issue with a shocker of an ending that makes Crimson Reign an even more enticing prospect.

Raffaele Ienco’s art is as great here as it always is – cinematic in its scope, but intimate and detailed when it needs to be, even when dealing with the featureless blackness of Vader’s shiny bonce. Ienco never puts a foot wrong, giving us what quite simply looks like a Star Wars movie in pencil and ink. Alex Sinclair takes over colouring duties – he handles the blacks, dark greys and washed-out blues the make up the colour palette of the Empire with skill and then cleverly slips in one panel of bright, alarming neon in one of the final pages, just as the rug is pulled from under the reader’s feet. 


IG-88 #1

Written by: Rooney Barnes

Art: Guiu Vilanova

Colours: Antonio Fabela

Released: 27/10/21

Next, Rooney Barnes and Guiu Vilanova bring us the last of the one-shots that have been peppered throughout War of the Bounty Hunters.

Given his merciless dismantling at the hands of Darth Vader, you’d be forgiven for thinking that IG-88 would be out of the game for good. However, Barnes resurrects him here in quite a sinister fashion, almost reminiscent of Frankenstein, with the ambitious engineer RB-919 getting more than he bargained for at the hands of his creation. The dark tone fits well with the unrelenting killing machine that IG-88 is supposed to be, with the art working effectively in tandem, focusing on the droid’s unnervingly blank face, his skeletal form often in shadow.

The tone changes ever so slightly for a showdown with Boba Fett in the closing pages, as everyone’s favourite bounty hunter just couldn’t be written without the overwhelming sense of badassery that pervades every page he features on. However, this is in no way jarring and works well with the dry humour that IG-88’s matter-of-fact dialogue brings to the table.

This issue slots neatly between the end of the main part of War of the Bounty Hunters #5 and its epilogue, acting as a nice little coda to the fight over who gets to keep the helpless Han Solo, and as a potential set-up for future reappearances from IG-88. ‘Born to Kill’ is the story’s title – let’s hope that, as far as IG-88 goes, it’s also a promise.


STAR WARS #18

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Ramon Rosanas

Colours: Rachelle Rosenberg

Released: 03/11/21

And finally, after 34 issues across 4 ongoing titles, a mini-series and several one-shots, we have the conclusion, presented in Star Wars #18 by the dream team of Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas, whose work together on this run has been consistently brilliant.

That winning streak remains unbroken here, in a much more stripped back, action-free issue than this event has generally brought us. The linchpin of the book is a confrontation between QI’ra and Leia as the true nature of the former’s failed plan is revealed and they both reckon with Han’s fate and the hardships they have both been through in recent issues. Given the fact that one man’s whereabouts have formed the crux of the whole narrative, this was never going to be a chat that would pass the Bechdel test, but it’s fascinating and scintillatingly written nonetheless. Though Qi’ra does much of the talking, Leia only needs a few words to show that Soule understands her top to bottom. The same goes for Rosanas, who captures Carrie Fisher’s expressive cynicism beautifully.

The conversation also yields a flashback sequence to Han and Qi’ra’s childhood, before the events of Solo, living under the command of Lady Proxima. It’s only a handful of pages, but it has real impact on the issue, leading to a somewhat ambiguous conclusion to the conversation which leaves us wondering what Qi’ra might be capable of when it comes to twisting the truth and manipulating events to her own ends, something which Soule will almost surely expand upon in Crimson Reign.

VERDICT

By its very nature, Star Wars is massive in scale, and is only getting bigger and bigger as more movies, Disney+ shows, books and, of course, comics fill the pipeline and promise to further develop and intertwine the beloved characters that are spread throughout the galaxy. With that in mind, an event like War of the Bounty Hunters is a natural fit, and these final parts live up to that promise, whilst offering a real variety of styles, tones, and approaches – from chaotic dog fights in the depths of space to hushed, private character-defining conversations, from dark droid workshops to inhospitable ice planets, the sheer scope of just these 4 issues out of the complete 34 is seriously impressive and pure Star Wars.

Taken as a whole, War of the Bounty Hunters has been just that from the very start – the depth and scale of the storytelling, balancing both action and character, humour and high stakes, dark and light, across multiple writers and artists whilst remaining cohesive (aside from the occasional issue where the release schedule doesn’t seem to match the reading order) is an incredible feat. The inevitable arm-straining omnibus will make for a thrilling read to be devoured in one greedy sitting.


Review by Nathan Harrison


Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters #4 – Review

The focus of the series has understandably been on the heroes of The Skywalker Saga, but the ongoing story of the cyborg bounty hunter, Vallance, and his connection to Han Solo has been a truly compelling one…

STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #4
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison

Written by: Charles Soule

Art: Luke Ross with David Messina

Colours: Neeraj Menon with GURU-eFX


Released: 15/09/21

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Though issues of their own title have formed part of the wider narrative of the War of the Bounty Hunters event, the main characters from the excellent Bounty Hunters series have been (mostly) conspicuous by their absence in the titular mini-series that acts as the linchpin of the 34-part narrative. That is, until now, and it was certainly worth the wait.

The focus of the series has understandably been on the heroes of The Skywalker Saga, but the ongoing story of the cyborg bounty hunter, Vallance, and his connection to Han Solo has been a truly compelling one. Finally seeing this play into a narrative which, despite not actually featuring him, is all about Han pays true dividends here. Seeing Vallance and Dengar tussle with Boba Fett is a punch-the-air moment, especially as it is depicted in the dynamic style of Luke Ross and the bright, characterful colours of Neeraj Menon. This title is where the disparate parts truly come together, not just from a narrative perspective, but visually also, as the approach to every character is brought under the umbrella of one incredibly skilled team.

Like all the best final acts of any Star Wars story, this lead-up to the conclusion jumps between sets of characters at the drop of a hat, whilst keeping the reader engaged with each thread of the events. Soule is the master of the balancing act – between swathes of characters all in different places, in altogether different situations, and between plot and pace. The plot drives forward inexorably and without any awkwardness or ham-fisted exposition, yet action and fun are still placed firmly at the forefront. This issue goes from the aftermath of the Scoundrel’s Ball to the surface of the planet Jekara, to the depths of space filled with swarms of ships in the blink of an eye without missing a beat. Soule’s impressive pacing must be a challenge for any artist, but it’s one that Ross and Menon rise to with aplomb, imbuing every distinct scene with oodles of charm.

All this flitting about leads to a corker of a final page, which sets the stage for an epic final battle as various chickens come home to roost, with major implications for the final throes of the narrative.


VERDICT

As the core mini-series of this massive event nears its conclusion, it’s great to finally see some more major players enter the fray as things hot up for a final showdown that’s bound to pop right off the page. After many, many issues across 5 titles, the majority of the pieces are in place thanks to Soule’s continued uncanny ability to perfectly blend plot and fast-paced action. Roll on issue 5!


Review by Nathan Harrison 25/9/21

Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters #3

Fans of the myriad twists, turns and surprises that Soule has crammed into the previous two issues will not be disappointed, and what transpires across the second half makes for some of the most dynamic and impactful panels of the series so far…


STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #3
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Luke Ross
Colours: Neeraj Menon

Released: 18/08/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

We have a saying here in Britain – ‘you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once’. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but you get the idea. The same can be said, it seems, for unexpected but fun as hell fights in Star Wars comics, as Charles Soule and Luke Ross pack this latest issue with not one but two scraps for the ages.

Last issue saw Leia, Lando and Chewbacca almost quite literally bump into Boba Fett, teasing what promised to be one hell of an interesting collision of worlds. What follows here more than delivers on that cliffhanger, with everyone’s favourite Wookie facing up against the infamous bounty hunter. Across only a handful of panels, Ross delivers what must have been many a fan’s dream brawl for years, with Chewie egged on by a vengeful Lando.

But it’s not just the fight that makes this moment so wonderful to behold. The way Soule can write a conversation between characters who have historically been at each other’s throats that convincingly brings them on to something like the same side whilst still maintaining what makes each of those characters who they are is uniquely impressive. Amidst all the chaos that we’ve seen, not just in the mini-series but across the whole event, it’s great to be reminded in no uncertain terms of what drives Fett and nowhere is this more evident than in this brief encounter with the heroes of the Skywalker Saga.

As for the other fight…well…that’s probably best not spoiled, but fans of the myriad twists, turns and surprises that Soule has crammed into the previous two issues will not be disappointed, and what transpires across the second half makes for some of the most dynamic and impactful panels of the series so far – and that’s saying something when the quality of the art has been so high throughout. Neeraj Menon’s colour work is something really quite special that deserves to grace the pages of many more of Marvel’s titles, and its pastels and neon perfectly compliment Ross’ semi-cartoonish approach.

Like the previous two issues, Soule leaves things on a doozy of a cliffhanger, which still has real impact despite what we know about the fates of the main characters. It serves as a fitting end to a pulse-pounding, gasp-inducing third part to this story, and with the events of this issue driving the plot forward at a fair old lick, even amongst all the action, things only look likely to get more and more intense from here on out.


VERDICT

Soule, Ross and Menon continue to be the perfect team to put this series together. The consistency on show here proves that they were the best choice to create the core of this story. 34 parts overall is a lot and while most of the issues released so far have been excellent, there is room for bloat in such a vast project, as if often the case with such massive, all-encompassing events. This fast-paced, fun and energetic centrepiece could not be further away from such problems and represents some of the finest Star Wars storytelling on the stands right now.


Review by Nathan Harrison

Star Wars: Jabba The Hutt #1 Review

One of Star Wars’ finest writers finally makes her debut at Marvel…

Review by Nathan Harrison 27/7/21

Written by: Justina Ireland

Art: Ibraim Roberson and Luca Pizarri
Released: 21/07/21

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Since its launch earlier this year, The High Republic has proven to be the most exciting new Star Wars expanded universe initiative in a long time – Justina Ireland has also proven to be one its most talented contributors. Her middle-grade novel, A Test of Courage, was emotionally complex, touching, and full of the heroism and derring-do that was promised when the new era was announced. It’s fantastic then to now see her name of the front of a Marvel comic as part of an altogether different era of Star Wars.

Ireland grabs the opportunity to show her range by the horns as we see her take on the darker underbelly of the Star Wars galaxy – her approach to iconic characters like the sinister, snivelling Bib Fortuna, Boba Fett and, of course, the titular mob slug Jabba the Hutt is spot on, while her introduction of new bounty hunter, Deva Lompop, a badass, double-crossing feathered lizard woman, is impactful. She stands out as the real star of this book and is bound to do so again in her upcoming appearances in further one-shots. Any character who can effortlessly belittle a character like Boba Fett with amusing results is not to be ignored!

The approach to the plot is also skilfully handled. What initially appears to be a straightforward tale of bounty hunters on the job soon turns out to be the first hint of the back-stabbing intrigue that we could see in future instalments of the War of the Bounty Hunters event. Deva Lompop is the driving force behind this, but Ireland also shows how easily Jabba can pull the rug from under the feet of those in thrall to him – as much as Deva seems to be the sort of person who does whatever the hell they want, everything ultimately comes back to Jabba and a debt he is owed. This chink in Deva’s armour and her potential vulnerability makes her even more compelling, rather than her simply being a likeable but one-sided scoundrel.

Art is provided by Ibraim Roberson for sequences set in the main timeline of War of the Bounty Hunters, and by Luca Pizarri for flashbacks. Their styles differ enormously so the effect can be jarring when the action shifts from one timeline to another. Roberson’s lines are defined and dynamic, with every known element instantly recognisable and all new elements standing out as beautifully done. Every panel hums with detail. However, Pizarri’s art is not quite as accomplished, and a lot of the main characters are drawn in a rather odd way, Jabba especially – he resembles a giant bullfrog at points rather than the slug-like creature anyone would recognise. The proportions of Boba Fett’s distinctive helmet and armour are also a little off. That said, Pizarri’s art has a cartoonish charm of its own, which works best during the more action-oriented sequences.


VERDICT

One of Star Wars’ finest writers finally makes her debut at Marvel and does a stellar job in both having a lot of fun with characters we know and introducing us to one we don’t who is bound to have a bigger and bigger impact as the event continues. While the art can sometimes lack accuracy and there are no particularly interesting layouts, it’s hard to ignore the quality of the whole page panels dotted throughout that bring a sense of scale and drama to this intriguing and engaging character-driven piece.


Review by Nathan Harrison 27/7/21