Thursday, June 20, 2013

Star Wars Omnibus: Boba Fett

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Star Wars Omnibus: Boba Fett (Dark Horse, 2010).

I don't envy anybody who's ever tried to collect Dark Horse's sixty-eleven different Star Wars titles. Even accepting that there's a fair stereotype that Star Wars fans are known for being very detail-oriented, the publisher has released such a bewildering array of different limited series, one-shots, special editions, and anthology / umbrella titles with so many creators that even the most ardent of the property's fans must find it daunting. I have only the mildest curiosity for Star Wars, but I really do like the work of four creators who have material in this Omnibus edition. The Dark Horse Omnibus line is a really great one. They're assembled with care, on good paper, slightly shrunk from the original comics, but 500 pages for $25 is a very good deal, especially since, unlike similar repackaging from Marvel and DC, these are in the original color.

It appears that since the editors of these zillion-odd comics never wanted to do a simple continuity, but rather commission writers and artists to tell various stories of the many characters of the Star Wars universe at random points in their lives, the only sensible way to collect them was to break them into Omnibus editions centered on specific characters. I saw this Boba Fett book on sale at Great Escape in Nashville, remembered reading that John Wagner and Cam Kennedy had worked on the character for Dark Horse, and flipped through it. What I found was a heck of a lot of Kennedy work, along with art by Ian Gibson and Carlos Ezquerra. Sold.

Even though these creators, combined, contributed only about half the pages in the book, it was still a steal because these are some tremendously good stories. The others were less important to me, but I enjoyed all of those but one. "The Yavin Vassilika" has a pretty fun "treasure hunt" story written by Mike Kennedy, but the artwork by Carlos Meglia was eyeball-punching. It's set before the first movie, and I'm not sure whether the "Young Kewl Anime Doodz" designs for Han, Lando and the bounty hunters just stank overall, or whether I was distracted by Young Han Solo's hairy chest drawn to look like it has spiky black bugs all over it, or whether the depiction of Young Greedo did me in. Greedo looks like a five year old kid in a Halloween costume.

So yes, a full fifth of the book is unpleasant to look at, but the rest is a joy, and I say that as someone with very little interest in this property. Cam Kennedy just draws the absolute hell out of his stories, with perfectly balanced fight choreography and brilliant design work for all the weird technology. I love his Fett, dominating every scene with his unspeakable badassery even in long shot. Ian Gibson, whom I've been said to admire even more than Kennedy generally, can't hold a candle to Kennedy in the Star Wars universe. Gibson certainly does get things off to a good start with "Enemy of the Empire" before abandoning it before the climax (not the last time he'd pull that stunt), but he's not a patch on Cam here.

Throughout, all the creators, including Ezquerra, who draws a great little Wagner-scripted tale about a salvage job that goes bad, and Andy Mangels, who writes a terrific piece illustrated by John Nadeau, contribute top-of-the-class stories, inventive and original. However, they are all left in the dust by Wagner and Kennedy's "Death, Lies & Treachery." This thing is a masterclass in how to structure an over-the-top spectacle of melodrama and chaos.

There is a whole lot that goes on in "Death, Lies & Treachery," which is the longest story in the book at an expansive 140 pages, and it doesn't sum up very well. In it, Boba Fett allows himself to get caught in the middle of two feuding Hutts, one of whom is blinded by love for the other's hideous daughter, because the money for this mess is consistently good. Fett is the only character in the sprawling insanity who keeps his composure. All around him, it's utter lunacy involving betrayal, bounty hunters, space pirates eating people, loudmouths, pipsqueaks, and an uproarious loss of dignity for entire planets' worth of weirdoes. Like the very best of Maverick, or Wagner's own remarkable Robo-Hunter, it's a situation that starts bad and just keeps getting worse. I laughed like a hyena all through the great and wonderful thing. If the rest of Star Wars was half this good, everybody, everywhere would love it unreservedly.

Honestly, I don't know much about Star Wars. I speak from familiarity, but not love of the property. I doubt that buying this book will prompt many people to attempt to navigate the chaotic mess of Star Wars Omnibi that Dark Horse have released, and will probably allow to quietly go out of print now that the license is returning to Marvel Comics in the next few years. What I can tell you is that the Boba Fett book is four-fifths a completely satisfying gem of a book and darn well worth the money. But it makes sense to buy it now before the license slips away and it goes out of print. Recommended despite the other fifth of the anthology.


Matt Celis said...

So do they somehow manage to make Boba Fett an interesting character? In the movies he had no personality and got his ticket punched like a chump. Never got why he has a fan base.

Grant, the Hipster Dad said...

Oh, he's appropriately awe-inspiring in the comics. Just about everybody and everything is afraid of him, and with good reason.