I don’t covet the job prequel writers have when it comes to creating a narrative with emotional tension. The gig seems even less appealing for a franchise as renowned as Star Wars. Even minor fans of the franchise are well versed in the eventual aftermath of The Empire Strikes Back‘s dramatic conclusion; the daring release of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt’s smarmy hands is seared into our pop culture’s collective memory. Thus, it’s stimulating to see how efficacious Charles Soule’s Star Wars title has been in giving emotional resonance to the adventures between Empire and Return, specifically in this run of issues (#12-18) connected to the larger War of the Bounty Hunters crossover. While the book plays it safe with its storytelling, it successfully gives the readers reason to invest in a story with a foretold conclusion.
War of the Bounty Hunters places the auction of the carbonite encrusted Han Solo as its central plot device, pulling both villains and heroes into the mix as they attempt to acquire the valuable cargo. It’s a simple conflict that gave each of the Star Wars titles enough room to tell their own stories and pursue their own narrative arcs, and this book is no different. Even though Soule puts the repossession of Han at the center of this tale, our main cast is given ample things to do as they work to achieve their objective. Interactions between Leia and Commander Zahra emotionally explore the character’s loss; Luke and the Starlight Squadron aid Wedge in helping a group of rebels pinned down by the Imperial fleet. Skywalker reflects on his loss to Vader on Bespin while planning his eventual confrontation with his father.
We know the finale to all these character arcs, but the writing invests you in these character quests. While I wish Disney would commit to taking Star Wars in some new directions, Soule demonstrates that the well-worn path can still produce quality results. His title is deeply referential to the existing lore yet provides strong characterization and justifies its restrained existence.
While I don’t always appreciate when the Star Wars titles incessantly reference past events in their storytelling, I did appreciate the slight nods to the de-canonized Shadows of the Empire from the 1990s. That prequel also addressed the time between Empire and Return, as Leia and Chewbacca pursued Boba Fett and explored Luke’s training to become a Jedi. You can see remnants of the crime organization Black Sun in the current Crimson Dawn, or the conflict between bounty hunters trying to get Solo for their own purposes. They are different stories, but as a longtime fan, it was nice to see the entire Expanded Universe I grew up with still interlacing with the contemporary lore.
Ramon Rosanas crafts some beautiful, consistent art throughout the entire book. He has a cinematic style that perfectly captures to recognizable characters. His linework is clean and detailed, allowing this title to stylistically sit comfortably between the two films in its tone and form. He clearly loves tech from this universe, and the pages providing huge assortments of ships and gadgets are a feast for the eyes. While the combat action lacks some of the fluidity of other Star Wars books in the larger crossover, the high caliber of drawing exudes the bravado of a flagship title.
As for the physical book itself, it’s well bound and colorful with a design style consistent with other current Star Wars titles. The paper quality is thin, but like other contemporary Marvel titles. There is a slew of full-page variant covers at the end of the book, a choice that should be standard in all collections of this type.
The Star Wars self-titled book plays it safe when it comes to its storytelling, but it still finds a way to tell new and interesting stories with well-known characters. It’s impressive that the entire Star Wars line got a good old-fashioned comic crossover and found a way for each title to engage in the event without derailing the previous work each creative team has invested in their individual stories. Soule and Rosanas should be lauded for the strong work they delivered in these issues, especially from Star Wars fans looking for classic adventures with these established characters.
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