Marvel’s big 2021 Star Wars crossover begins here. A spectacular blockbuster event is promised (though as comic fans know, it always is, right?), with chapters released at least once a week throughout May to October. All of Marvel’s current Star Wars series will play host to chapters of the ongoing story, with a separate War of the Bounty Hunters mini-series running alongside the various parts playing out in the pages of Star Wars, Bounty Hunters, Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra. Additionally, there will be One Shot issues focusing on specific, well known fan favourites from the seedier underbelly of the Star Wars universe – with Jabba, 4-Lom & Zuckuss (sharing the spotlight in their issue), Boushh and IG-88 all getting their chance to shine.

Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters Alpha (2021) #1

It’s a pretty huge undertaking and to be perfectly honest, the premise as is doesn’t suggest the need for such a sprawling, all-encompassing epic. Boba Fett, en route to Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine with the most valuable of bounties – a frozen-in-carbonite Han Solo – from Bespin, discovers that the process keeping his cargo alive in trophy form is breaking down, so he makes an unscheduled stop to deal with the problem. Nothing’s ever that simple for a man of Fett’s standing, however – so he’s drawn into another conflict to pay for the repairs to Solo’s current form; by the time he’s done settling the score, things have become a lot more complicated…

It’s a great start at least, with writer Charles Soule infusing plenty of authentic Star Wars atmosphere into the material, from the excellent opening text ‘crawl’ to an ever-weary Fett’s characterisation (his flashbacks to a particularly traumatic event that film audiences are very familiar with, as well as dialogue with Jabba via right hand man, Bib Fortuna, are highlights here). Steve McNiven’s art is an absolute joy throughout, packed with detail and excellent ambience – from the number of familiar alien races we see to the rendering of individual characters – along with the clarity of storytelling in the action-packed, thrilling fight scenes (the focus on heads being targets is amusing and understandable here).

The Director’s Cut of this issue is great value too, with a slightly higher cover price but the inclusion of McNiven’s black and white artwork, shorn of dialogue, which really does go a long way to show just how amazing his work is in this opening chapter. Also included with the Director’s Cut are excellent variant covers, with the Black Armour action figure cover being a particular highlight for me (no surprises there: Marvel’s faux-action figure packaging covers are always stunning for us old school fans who grew up playing with – and coveting – the wide range of Star Wars toys in the 70s and 80s.

Star Wars: War Of The Bounty Hunters Alpha (2021) #1

Though the premise as it stands doesn’t seem to support such a massive saga, it’ll be interesting to see how the story is fleshed out to give us a proper epic that takes place between the gaps in the narrative of movies V and VI. With the next chapters almost upon us, hopefully the event is able to sustain itself over such an extended run. My concern isn’t just with the apparent slenderness of the premise, but also the fact that – being set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – the fates of the major players are already widely known and there’s little overall that could significantly alter what we’ve already seen, in my opinion. I’m happy to be proven wrong, however and – as The Mandalorian demonstrated in its second season – we’ve actually seen so little of Fett being the badass we’ve always been told he was, at least canonically, so the opportunity to see him in action and against plenty of people from the darker side of Star Wars is going to be entertaining at the very least. War of the Bounty Hunters: Alpha certainly gets us off to a cracking start.

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