Review by C.J. Bunce
Delayed a bit due to the pandemic, a Star Wars tie-in comic book series proved this summer to be the best so far since Marvel Comics pulled the comics license back from Dark Horse. Star Wars: Bounty Hunters completed its first story arc and will be coming next month to comic shops in a collected edition, available via pre-order now here at Amazon. Compiling the first five issues of a new series in the vein of The Mandalorian, it establishes itself with a new anti-hero from the past and familiar faces fans of the original trilogy love. It all begins by asking why all those bounty hunters appeared together on Darth Vader’s ship Executor in that brief scene in The Empire Strikes Back.
Writer Ethan Sacks and artist Paolo Villanelli dive in and deconstruct all sorts of George Lucas and Roger Christian elements from the Star Wars universe to continue that quest for what makes Star Wars truly Star Wars. Their biggest stretch is a Wookiee bounty hunter-general with a Darth Vader-style breathing mask, but even that fits the franchise. When Star Wars writers and artists pull from the original trilogy and do it right, it can be quite fun for fans of the franchise. And they’ll find that happening here.
In the not too distant past we meet Valance working with Boba Fett the Mandalorian and the lizard-like Trandoshan called Bossk, two of the fellows we first met on Vader’s ship, working a job with a few other hunters. Only the job goes sideways due to the actions of one of the hunters, a female Nautolan (the alien race of Kit Fisto in the prequels) named Nakano Lash, who we learn was mentor to Valance years ago. So the story begins when Lash becomes the bounty, setting the other hunters after her. What secret does she hold? Whose side will Valance take when he learns her secret?
Set after the events of The Empire Strikes Back, that means Han Solo remains in carbonite in Fett’s cargo hold. It means Lady Proxima is still around, the character who held a younger Han’s life in her hands in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Other aliens first seen in glimpses in the Tatooine cantina in Star Wars and the Star Wars Holiday Special have cameos. And is that Don-Won Kihotay? But those are just some of the Easter eggs. The guts and fun is finally reading how Ethan Sacks fleshes out Valance after three decades of speculation into a legacy, important, science fiction character, now positioned to arrive on the small screen in The Mandalorian. And Paolo Villanelli’s style and Arif Prianto’s colors borrow from a mix of the style of Lee Bermejo (tapped for variant cover work for this series) and Mike Mayhew’s interpretations of Star Wars in his groundbreaking The Star Wars book.
That original Star Wars series became everyone’s first encounter with the word BORG. It’s the first ever use of those four letters to describe a cybernetic organism, and it was spoken by none other than Luke Skywalker in reference to Valance, also known as The Hunter way back in 1978. We would learn Valance was a borg who killed borgs, and he became an inaugural inductee here at borg in our borg Hall of Fame, and part of my opening dialogue with borg readers eight years ago here. Readers might remember that more than a year ago Marvel Comics introduced for its 80th anniversary celebration a single, new, numbered issue continuing a series canceled as far back as 33 years before: Star Wars, Issue #108–a fantastic effort reviewed here.
In truth the series doesn’t need Boba Fett or any Mandalorians to be good–it’s a crutch it has proved it can dispense with. Look for several covers to be included in the compilation edition, including works by Lee Bermejo, Kaare Andrews, Michael Golden, Phil Noto, and Dave Johnson.
Readers can track dialogue and story references included by Sacks from every corner of the franchise–the novels, the movies, the original comics, the new comics, and the TV series, including some more weighty references from The Mandalorian. The story is the first chance for expansion of the new details of bounty hunting we learned in The Mandalorian, and what more could fans ask for than that?
A good start to the next Star Wars series, order Star Wars: Bounty Hunters from Elite Comics or pre-order it now here at Amazon, arriving next month. The ongoing monthly series continues with Issue #6. Here is a preview of what’s ahead for the series:
Add Marvel Comics’ Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Issue #6 to your comic shop pull list today.