Let’s get this out of the way: Boba Fett sucks.
I’m not going to pretend that he doesn’t have a certain charm. He looks cool, and for Star Wars fans of a certain age, we had a good three years between Empire and Return of the Jedi to dream up all sorts of possible back-stories and further adventures as we played with his non-rocket-firing-jetpack-ass action figure. The archetype of the relentless, violent hunter and all-around badass is a very potent one for kids of a certain age, as evidenced by the fandoms for Wolverine and, more recently, Deadpool. There is however a point where you have to grow up a little and admit that Boba Fett is really just a dude who shows up on screen for a total of roughly five minutes before unceremoniously falling into a hole the middle of the desert.
He sucks. And he is for babies.
Real adults prefer literally any other bounty hunter: the bug-eyed C-3PO known as 4-LOM; the also-bug-eyed, mumu-wearing water-bear, Zuckuss; the murderous stovepipe that is IG-88; the jumpsuited Bossk, hailing from a planet of hillbilly reptoids; or, the King Supreme, Dengar, a surly, bandaged bruiser whose name is literally mixed-up “danger,” which is precisely what you get when you mess with him.
That said, there’s a few things I actually like about Boba Fett. I like his character arc in the six-seasons-and-a-movie animated Clone Wars cartoon series. (Not the also-good Genndy Tartakovsky miniseries, just FYI.) His slow descent into a life of murder and treachery adds a lot to the formerly-flat character. I also really appreciate this image, if only because it sparks a real fun image in my head of an Imperial accountant who decides to retire early and be a bounty hunter, buying the armor before being ignominiously dispatched in Return of the Jedi.
Another Boba Fett thing I actually like is the subject of this piece: a trio of Boba Fett comics by John Wagner and Cam Kennedy, the first of which was published by Dark Horse Comics way back in 1995. Here’s a taste:
Wagner and Kennedy had previously worked together on a number of Judge Dredd strips, and, prior to these books, Kennedy collaborated with Tom Veitch on Dark Horse’s first real Star Wars epic: Dark Empire. I’ll try not to get lost in the morass of history here, but the Dark Empire Trilogy of comics was published around the same time as Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy of novels, and between the two, they kicked off what’s commonly referred to as the Expanded Universe, a second-tier canon cobbled together from a bevy of novels, comics, and eventually video games that Lucasfilm started licensing out in earnest in the early 90s, almost a decade after the “last” Star Wars movie hit screens in ‘83.
Dark Empire’s main plot hinges on a resurrected Emperor Palpatine coming back in a clone body and trying to pick up where he left off again. Which sounds… huh. It’s over-narrated and the often-corny dialogue seems to run counter to the highly dramatic, universe-shaking plot, but it looks great and delivers some very big, very cinematic action. (It’s a lot more enjoyable for a wonk like me now that it’s been shunted from “Canon-ish,” to the “Legends” pile, but that’s my hang-up to deal with.) Its success led to Dark Horse tapping the team to produce a trio of prestige-format issues featuring everybody’s favorite bounty hunter who sucks: Boba Fett. The first of these, Boba Fett: Bounty on Bar-Kooda, is what I’m gonna focus on here, but all three are of a piece and have subsequently been repackaged and are still in print by Marvel under the title Boba Fett: Death, Lies and Treachery.
The overarching plot goes like this: Gorga the Hutt, in an attempt to impress the father of his beloved, hires Boba Fett to eliminate Bar-Kooda, a gross-looking whale-thing pirate with a penchant for eating his captives. Fett tracks down the one captive who managed escape this grisly fate, a Keebler Elf-guy named Magwit, who is a literal magician. In an effort to escape Fett, Magwit tries to fake his own death, but Fett literally digs up his corpse because he knows Magwit was faking it. Fett then uses Magwit as bait and, utilizing Magwit’s magic tricks, manages to capture Bar-Kooda and deliver him to Gorga, who turns him into a nice meal for his future father-in-law, Orko the Hutt. It’s legitimately insane.
Wagner is obviously having fun here: an element that was, over time, sort of stripped from the EU for the most part. Subsequent Fett stories by other creative teams are Serious Business, but these chug along with the same sort of wry goofiness that you see in, well, Judge Dredd strips. If you’re at all familiar with the 2000AD aesthetic, it won’t take you long to figure out that Wagner and Kennedy are basically doing a palette-swapped Dredd story with Boba Fett. This is really driven home in the dialogue, where our main character says stuff like, “I trust no-one has given this fugitive succor–” when chasing down a bounty early in the story. It’s a line that would make sense coming out of the mouth of a Mega-City-One lawman’s mouth a lot more than Fett, who we’d heard no more than three lines of dialogue from in the Original trilogy.
There’s a giddy energy carries it over the finish line here. It’s a romp, full of grotesque creatures, grimy henchbeings, and dripping, rusted locations. There’s a Mad Max-ian sheen over the costuming that sets it apart form the more stylized corners of the universe we’d seen in the films and even in Dark Empire. This is the back alley of the Star Wars universe, full of rats and trash. The “lived-in” feel of the Original Trilogy movies is amped up to 11, with slimy Hutts, grotesque pirates, grimy hench-beings and dripping, rusty environments that look like they’d give you tetanus if you looked at them too long.
Speaking of looking at things too long, let’s talk about the real star here: Cam Kennedy’s sublime art. His figures are blocky and inky, with a dynamism that sells the action while also giving the entire thing a seediness inherent in the title character. Kennedy’s painted colors are fantastic, as well, with a muted palette marked by sudden hot splashes of color.
Here’s a page from the first real sequence (after a framing sequence that sets up the Hutt love affair that kicks the whole thing off); all horizontal panels, all speed, all blues and greens intercut with hot pinks and yellows. It’s a thrilling chase and lets us know everything we need to know about Boba Fett, a Hard Man who is relentless and efficient, but also clever.
The whole thing is this good. It’s a real fun time, and the subsequent sequels that spun out of this carry that over with slightly-diminishing returns, although the energy and vitality of Kennedy’s art papers over the more ropey bits. It makes a very compelling case for Boba Fett as a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe. It almost *gulp* makes me like the guy.
Boba Fett: Bounty on Bar-Kooda
Written by John Wagner
Pencilled by Cam Kennedy
Lettered by Bob Pinaha
Dylan Todd is a writer and designer who does all the design for a bunch of your favourite comics. When it comes to writing about comics, you’ll likely have read some of his work over at poor dead ComicsAlliance. You can find more of his current thoughts on life and Star Wars over on his twitter page here, and see his design work and portfolio here!