In 1995, the Kevin J. Anderson curated an anthology known as Tales from Jabba’s Palace, and as a young Star Wars fan, I picked through each short story with the reverence of an amateur historian exploring his people’s antiquity. While unessential in its design, each tale furnished supplementary insight into the untouched corners of the Star Wars franchise. I ended up caring about the likes of petty puppets like Salacious Crumb and the small, if insignificant, role they played in the Skywalker saga.
Reeling from the division left in the wake of the recent trilogy, Marvel seems content to borrow from these previous novels and dig deeper into the lesser-known corners of the Star Wars universe only alluded to in the original trilogy. Thus, we have the Bounty Hunters ongoing series. While being a reader primed to enjoy this second collection of the run, it’s clear that future editions need to find their own innovative footing to chart a path that isn’t built entirely on longing for a bygone era.
This collection of issues (#6-11) continues the journey of Valance, a bounty hunter with a mysterious background that has a connection to Han Solo and other assorted scoundrels in the Star Wars universe. Writer Ethan Sacks provides effective narration throughout the series, giving his character plenty to do the existing mythos, admitting the importance of giving each issue a sense of closure, while also providing beats that contribute to the larger tale. Unfortunately, the book feels more like the greatest hits of the Star Wars universe, with each issue giving ample space to a more recognizable figure. From Han Solo, Dengar, 4-Lom and Zuckass to Tasu Leech, we see Valance come into contact with these recognizable figures, but often to the detrainment of his own character. While fans will likely enjoy seeing this new character interact with identifiable players, it does take away from the journey of Valance, as he feels like a supporting character in a tale of his own.
While the collection of tropes doesn’t connect me deeply to its main character and narrative, Paolo Villanelli’s pencil work does breathe life into this overly nostalgic tale. He gives expressive visuals to each panel, giving the action a cinematic quality every Star Wars comic deserves. He has a keen eye for character movement as well as galactic tech and shuttle design. Being able to capture the essence of these key Star Wars elements is challenge for any artist, and Villanelli does so meritoriously.
There is nothing offensive or challenging about this series of issues. It’s a warm blanket of Star Wars tropes that any reader older than 7 should find pleasure in. However, it simply doesn’t have enough inspired direction to stand out on the already dense comic shelf featuring retro Star Wars characters. It’s a good sign that issue #11 featuring Bossk is the strongest in the run, and you can see glimmers of their ValanceI protagonist finding his own footing moving forward. I hope that talent like Sacks and Villanelli are given the leeway to build something new in this galaxy far, far away as the aptitude confirmed in this trade should provide them a pass to do something distinctive in a future run.
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