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 #17 – Review

The showdown between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker continues in another beautiful balancing act of an issue by Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas…

Star Wars #17

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Ramon Rosanas
Released: 29/09/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The showdown between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker continues in another beautiful balancing act of an issue by Charles Soule and Ramon Rosanas.

‘The Chase’ of the title that graces the stunningly put together cover of #17 makes up the first, frenetic half, which sees Luke and Vader’s…well…chase finally coming to a head in truly cinematic fashion. Ramon Rosanas’ work continues to be absolutely top notch, with each beat of the action rendered in expansive, eye-catching panels, that flit between widescreen and a page-stealing, taller style – Rosanas may as well be drawing in IMAX at this point, and it works so well for the flagship title in Marvel’s cinematic fleet.

Luke’s lack of confidence in his own abilities continues to pervade his every move, and Soule writes it convincingly. In his element, swooping above Jekara in his X-Wing, Luke confronts Vader’s taunts head on. However, when faced with the prospect of finally ending the life of the man who he’s recently found it is his father, he is less sure of himself. Soule makes the switch between each state of mind natural and completely understandable. Luke’s inner turmoil has been a key focus of the run so far, as he progresses as a Jedi and a pilot while constant flashbacks to the traumatic events of Empire continue to haunt him.

The second half of the issue is an altogether less action-packed affair, which only serves to further show the dexterity and versatility of this team. Soule and Rosanas move from semi-mute action scenes with near full-page panels, to dialogue-heavy character moments in the cramped confines of the Millennium Falcon, reflected brilliantly in the tightening of the visual focus.

The particulars of the situation that Lando, Leia, Chewie and Lobot find themselves in allow Soule to do something for a second time that was impressive enough the first time around. In a quiet, intimate moment between Lando and his beloved former ship, Soule gives new life and relevance to an element of the somewhat patchy Solo: A Star Wars Story. While certainly not as big as the return of Q’ira (and her upcoming continued adventures in next month’s Crimson Reign mini-series), it’s a nice moment that comes as a real surprise and will certainly raise a smile for those who enjoyed elements of what was otherwise a movie about the origin of Han Solo’s bits and bobs!

This moment leads wonderfully into a real change in Lando and the other characters’ perception of him, which is the first sign of the pieces being put in place for where everyone is as a character by the time Return of the Jedi rolls around. Here’s hoping this isn’t a sign that this consistently brilliant run is nearing its end!


VERDICT

Soule and Rosanas’ winning streak continues unabated in this latest issue which manages to be both thrillingly epic and beautifully small. Soule never neglects character, even in the most action-packed of moments and that skill is used to full effect here, allowing Rosanas to flex all his artistic muscles throughout.


Review by Nathan Harrison

Star Wars: Boushh #1 – Review

Boushh is certainly tough and knows what he is doing, but it’s his personal background and how the cruel laws of his home planet of Uba have shaped him into who he is that make him a truly engaging character

STAR WARS: BOUSHH #1

Written by: Alyssa Wong
Art: David Baldeon
Colours: Israel Silva

Released: 15/09/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics


The massive, line-wide War of the Bounty Hunters narrative has rumbled on for several months now, with characters, major plot points and events spreading and intersecting across all the ongoing Star Wars titles. The slight outliers, however, have been the one-shots that have been thrown into the mix. While the stories of Jabba the Hutt and 4-LOM & Zuckuss have certainly depended on the happenings of the main series, they haven’t had the biggest impact on the overarching tale. Each has been fun, but not much else besides.

The same sense of playfulness runs through Alyssa Wong and David Baldeon’s Boussh #1, but while it may still be another title that has little impact on the core mini-series, it is an essential read in its own right. Wong and Baldeon deliver an action-packed, emotionally driven, self-contained narrative that brings to the fore everything that makes this event’s focus on the seedier side of the Star Wars galaxy so appealing.

Making one of the many bounty hunters that litter the Star Wars universe (and filled the toy boxes of many a child of the 80s) stand out can’t be an easy job – each of them is appealing in their own way but, no matter how badass a writer might try to make them, they will always be eclipsed by the man himself, Boba Fett. Wong takes a slightly different approach here. Boushh is certainly tough and knows what he is doing, but it’s his personal background and how the cruel laws of his home planet of Uba have shaped him into who he is that make him a truly engaging character. Wong has done a sterling job of making us care not only for Boushh but for his entire crew of exiles who, in just a few short pages, are convincingly positioned as a sort of family who could probably carry their own ongoing series (especially if Wong were at the helm).

What’s even more astounding is that Boushh isn’t even the best part of this book (though he comes a very close second). That honour goes to ruthless crime boss Domina Tagge, featured recently in Wong’s ongoing run on Doctor Aphra. She’s at once sexy and scary, a force to be reckoned with who would evidently do anything to maintain supremacy, as skilled of a talker as she is a fighter. Her dialogue drips with charm and malice and, in the moments where words aren’t required, Baldeon does just as good a job as Wong of imbuing her with a sense of self-righteousness and power – a raised eyebrow here, a half-smile there; every little detail is beautifully considered and skilfully conveyed.

Baldeon’s subtlety, quite rightly, goes out of the window for the more action-oriented panels. They have the vibrancy of work by Pepe Larraz and the eye-popping, cartoonish gorgeousness of the pencils of fellow Star Wars artist, Luke Ross and are wonderfully embellished with colours by Israel Silva. Burnished oranges leap off the page throughout the book, from Boushh’s tragic backstory to the humming plasma blade wielded by Domina Tagge, to the fiery backgrounds that compliment the book’s dramatic and satisfying conclusion.



VERDICT

While it may be part of a bigger story, Boushh #1 is a near-perfect standalone story, and we can only hope that this one-shot morphs into something much bigger in the future. A wish list for the attention of Marvel, Disney and Lucasfilm:

  • More Boushh
  • More Domina Tagge
  • More Alyssa Wong


Review by Nathan Harrison

Darth Vader #15 Review

Every panel is eye-catching and the colours by Jason Keith gel wonderfully with Ienco’s lines, his use of various shades of red creating a cohesive look for the whole issue, whether Pak is progressing the plot or taking the reader into the heat of battle…


DARTH VADER #15
Reviewed by Nathan Harrison.
Written by: Greg Pak
Art: Raffaele Ienco
Released: 25/08/2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics

One of the bigger flaws with Disney’s expansion of the Skywalker Saga on screen with Episodes VII-IX was the feeling of everything being rushed. Many plot points that could have done with some expanding upon were introduced with very little in the way of explanation and simply brushed aside as unimportant (see ‘Somehow, Palpatine returned’). The same could be said for a number of characters who were given very little development and backstory. 

While he didn’t appear in The Rise of Skywalker as a living, breathing part of the action, Ochi of Bestoon falls firmly into this category, his existence simply used as a way of progressing what little plot the film offered. What we do learn about him, a Sith devotee and the killer of Rey’s parents, is enough to make him an intriguing prospect for further investigation, something that Greg Pak has taken on and delivered brilliantly since issue 6 of his run. And now, in issue 15, Ochi gets his time to shine, as ‘The Assassin’s Choice’ sees his faith and loyalty to Vader put to the test.

Such a story requires a slight gear shift, which is a little jarring – the events here take place before those of War of the Bounty Hunters #3, which was released first. Once this slight frustration is put aside, however, what we’re left with is an issue that manages to progress the plot of the WOTBH event, at least from Vader’s perspective, whilst also serving as a fun diversion from the wider arc. Pak balances this beautifully despite the blistering pace of the issue, just as he does the interactions between Ochi and Vader. Ochi’s motormouth, almost nervous energy plays so well against Vader’s laconic terror and yet they both show the same level of skill, the same number of reasons to be feared – it’s a partnership that pays dividends, so here’s hoping that Pak doesn’t separate them any time soon. If Ochi’s fate in Episode IX is anything to go by, he’ll certainly be making waves amongst the Sith for some time to come. 

Raffaele Ienco’s artwork is as solid as ever – his consistency across this run has been something to behold, as is his consistency across single issues when moving from static conversations to all out action. In a title whose two main characters both wear face covering helmets, Ienco shows incredible skill in still managing to convey a sense of each of them, lending the right emphasis to the dialogue in the reader’s mind, as if he were in fact showing the features underneath, whether it’s Vader’s stoic near silence or Ochi’s talkativeness he’s approaching. The action scenes virtually pop out of the page, giving an astonishing sense of movement to Ochi’s fighting style whilst also allowing each panel to be simple to follow and understand. So many artists can create fast, frenetic sequences that are so busy that the reader has to force themselves to slow down to take in the detail, to the detriment of the pace they are trying to convey – this is a trap that Ienco never falls into as the issue zips by with every nuance intact. 

Every panel is eye-catching and the colours by Jason Keith gel wonderfully with Ienco’s lines, his use of various shades of red creating a cohesive look for the whole issue, whether Pak is progressing the plot or taking the reader into the heat of battle. 


VERDICT

Further insight into the relationship between Darth Vader and Ochi of Bestoon is expertly mixed with high stakes action to create an issue that simply has everything, right down to the stunning final splash page that seems designed to finally cement these two characters as an unstoppable duo. 


Reviewed by Nathan Harrison.


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