[an error occurred while processing this directive] Celebrating Five Years of Pushing Comix Forward [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] Boba Fett: Death, Lies & Treachery
By John Wagner and Cam Kennedy
Published by Dark Horse Comics; $12.95 USD

Once every five years or so, the neurotic pop collector in me finds my more rational self taking a look around my study, noting the piles of uncategorized books and compact discs teetering in front of the more properly aligned and shelved volumes, the pieces of carpet space that’ve been imperialistically stolen by encroaching volumes, the overstuffed spinner rack – and deciding that it’s once more time to prune the collection. All those CDs that I’ll never willingly play again (what was I thinking with that acappella Bjork disc?); all those books I have no intention of rereading, even in my dotage (do yourself a favor -– get rid of ‘em while you still can recall how bad they are!): there’s no sense in keeping this crap around, the sporadically functioning reasoning part of my brain says, and so I embark on the ritual cleansing of the collection.

And with the new Star Wars “finale” currently in theatres, what better way to start than with a look at the one LucasFilms franchise trade paperback that I own? (If I wanna get rid of it, now’s the time, right?) So let’s take a quick look at Dark Horse’s Boba Fett: Death, Lies & Treachery. Originally released in the late nineties, the book reprints three comics written by John Wagner and illustrated by Cam Kennedy. Don’t quite recall how it is I wound up buying a book centered around one of the more minor characters in the Lucasverse -– I enjoy the movies, but I’m far removed from the kind of fanatic versed in all the details and marginalia – since my memory of the original trilogy tells me that, for all his reputation as a bad-ass bounty hunter, the movie Boba was pretty lame. (His death in Return of the Jedi is especially perfunctory and disappointing.) I suspect my fondness for Wagner’s Judge Dredd work is what initially brought me to the party.

At their best, Wagner’s Dredd and Robo-Hunter scripts in the early '80s blended hard-nosed pulpishness with a sense of goofiness that’s sublimely suited to comics. The trio of interlocking adventures that comprise Death, Lies & Treachery are very much in this mold and provide a prime example of the storytelling strategies that the British writer brought to his Dredd-work. Series anti-hero Fett is only sketchily characterized through his pitiless approach to his work: like the future lawgiver, he’s primarily concerned about getting the work done, and we only see him in the service of his job. Wagner saves the good character work for the miscreants and clients Boba has to manage.

The most prominent (in more ways than one) is Gorga the Hutt, a member of the same caste from whence came the far more memorable Star Wars villain Jabba, who hires the bounty hunter on three separate assignments. Befitting his unpleasant name, Gorga is a nasty specimen – as nefariously unscrupulous and double-dealing as Jabba – but he has one mildly redeeming feature: his love for the beauteously gluttonous Anarcho, the H’unn. Though she comes from a lower caste and her father, Orko the Foul Trader, hates his voluminous guts, Gorga attempts to win the lady by hiring Boba to bring in a space pirate who’s been raiding Orko’s ships.

The interplay between Gorga and Orko is full of good backstabbing fun: the former hires Hirsoot, the H’unn’s bald manservant, to assassinate the trader (a series of inept attempts follows), while Orko himself isn’t above arranging dark deeds against the Hutt who’ll become his son-in-law. When Anarcho is kidnapped during her honeymoon, Orko is immediately convinced that Gorga is responsible. He isn’t, of course, but not entirely out of altruistic motives; he mainly doesn’t want anything to happen to his wife before her wealthy father is dispatched. A real pair of charmers, these two, while femme Anarcho acts like she could’ve been played by Bette Midler in Ruthless People: she whines about both the quality and quantity of food that her kidnappers provide and bitches at Boba during her rough-and-tumble Indiana Jones-y rescue. At times, you can see elements of the League of Fatties – a comic group of mega-sized villains from Judge Dredd – in both her and Gorga.

A lot of the secondary characters, for that matter, read like they could’ve come off the pages of the 80’s British Brit anthology 2000 A.D., and that’s a big part of their charm: to see these vestiges of a dystopian satire of “Thatcher’s Britain” (say it with a Rik Mayall sneer) romping around the Lucasverse. Fett’s first quarry, a large-mouthed alien named Barkooda, is like one of those larger-than-life proletarian thugs roaming Dreed’s world, while his rampaging bro Ry-Kooda (okay, the name made me laugh!) is even more amusingly mindless. Even a small-fry figure like Magwit the Magician, an elven type who’s been forced into servitude to Barkooda, looks like the one of the clownish citizens of Mega City, while Ry-Kooda’s pugnacious lizard-like lackey (who humorously gets the last word in the book, ineffably threatening to come after the bounty hunter) could’ve been any one of a number of nattering nitwits who populate Wagner’s earlier scripts.

Fett’s path in the book, which originally appeared in three comic booklets (“Bounty on Bar-Kooda,” “When the Fat Lady Swings,” and “Murder Most Foul”), is a fairly straightforward one. Where other characters double-deal and betray each other consistently, the bounty hunter basically stays focused on getting his money – and occasionally wheeling to up his fee. Anything else is extraneous detail: he thinks nothing of leaving Magwit to fend for himself on a ship that’s about to blow, even though the little guy has aided Fett in capturing Bar-Kooda. When one of his bounties surrenders to Fett, thinking that he’ll be brought back to the authorities safely, the mercenary points out that “the price is on your head alone.” If we’d gotten that much tough-guy nastiness from the character in the movies, he’d have been more than a meaningless mint-in-box action figure.

Cam Kennedy’s art is well suited to this ultimately lightweight material: with an eye toward both the established s-f trappings and a winking affection for his alien grotesques, he brings a sense of visual enthusiasm to the material that you don’t always see in licensed comic book footnotes to established licensed properties. I especially enjoy his depiction of the slathering Ry-Kooda and his berserker rages, while his treatment of the Hutts (he even manages to make Anarcho look girlishly cute) reminds us the Jabba the Hutt sequence in Return of the Jedi remains one of the most memorable parts of all six movies. Without ‘em, I suspect that Boba Fett’s adventures wouldn’t be half as entertaining as they are.

So...the Big Question: keep or sell the book? On the debit side, you have Wagner & Kennedy pulling out shtick that they’ve used time and again in their Brit comics work – and I have plenty of those books to go back to if I’m so inclined. On the plus side, it’s a great shtick, and, like I say, its use within the Star Wars franchise does much toward alleviating the ponderous faux mythologizing seriousness of the more recent movies. So, yeah, this ‘un goes back on the shelves. And in the meantime, I think I’ll pull a couple of Robo-Hunter trades off the shelf and take another look at ‘em -– just to read, not to assess for salability. This always happens when I go through one of my cutting binges, too: I rediscover plenty of fun stuff that I’d forgotten I had. It may make the actual process of collection downsizing go slower, but it also shows my collecting impulses can be on the mark just as often as they aren’t. Which is, paradoxically, both reassuring and maddening...

-- Bill Sherman


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