Thu
Jun 6 2013 10:00am

We Actually Do Need Their Scum—Star Wars: Tales of the Bounty Hunters

Tales of the Bounty Hunters coverThough Tales from Jabba’s Palace was published next in this lineup of short story anthologies, going chronologically according to the films is more fun. (There’s also a lot of overlap in timeline here for reasons Han Solo can attest to, since everything is about him at the end of the day. No, really. Everything.) Fact is, there aren’t that many background characters in The Empire Strikes Back to latch onto. There are some rebel pilots (half of whom die) and random denizens of Cloud City? They live on a city in the clouds—who honestly needs to know about what they do all day?

But those bounty hunters… they might be worth a second look.

(Note: when talking about droids I will use gendered pronouns because according to various Star Wars reference books, droids have binary gendered programming. Yes, this is very silly.)

There are six bounty hunters assembled on the Executor to get the beat on Solo following the Battle of Hoth. That’s five stories since two of the hunters are working as a team. This odd group demands a second thought if only because Vader’s choice to draw them in seems a bit outrageous in the first place—we know stormtroopers are a waste of space, but are you really telling us that the Galactic Empire has no spies? Retrieval Units? Shady operatives who do things that rank as cruel and unusual even on the Imperial scale?

So that’s six bounty hunters. Two are droids, one is a Gorn knockoff, one looks like The Fly in a fly-shaped suit, one is inexplicably wrapped up in toilet paper, and the other turned out to be the cloned son of another bounty hunter from a few decades prior. And these, ladies and gents and otherwise, are apparently the best the galaxy has to offer.

Yeah, that’s a lie. It’s really just Boba Fett. You knew that when you watched the movie because Vader has to personally reprimand him for disintegrating someone in the past. No one else got a warning. Fett is the teacher’s pet.

So we begin with IG-88’s tale, “Therefore I Am.” IG is an assassin droid, and the title of his story harkens back to a very well known quote from René Descartes (who probably lived on Alderaan or something), so we can see that he’s a reflective sort. IG-88 grows beyond his Imperial programming and decides that he wants to take over the galaxy, so he makes a bunch of copies of himself, and they work together to make that happen. Except each version of IG-88 wanders off on occasion to do other things that don’t really further this “galaxy grab” agenda. Such as deciding to go after Han Solo’s bounty. Well, he was designed to be an Imperial assassin; maybe that’s why Vader calls him in despite the ‘dismantle on sight’ order on the droid?

It’s a very odd story. One that ends with the copies all destroyed and IG-88A hooking himself into the Death Star II mainframe with visions of galactic domination right before he gets exploded by Rebels. Okay, that part’s hilarious.

Next up is Dengar! In “everyone in the universe has a beef with Han Solo” fashion, we find out that the reason why Dengar is perpetually wrapped in toilet paper has to do with a swoop race accident Han caused a long while back. Dengar holds a grudge. It gives him a pretty good reason to start hanging out on a Star Destroyer bridge with a Dark Lord of the Sith even though he’s wanted by the Empire. Right, that’s the other thing, Dengar was working for a Rebellion for a bit on a friend’s recommendation. Then he switched sides to find Solo again, which makes more sense since he had been programmed as, you guessed it, an assassin by the Empire when he was a young man. At the end of the day, Dengar’s story is wrapped up in his desire to kill Han (a somewhat parallel journey he doesn’t realize he’s sharing with Mara Jade, who’s looking for Luke), and the unlikely discovery of love and friendship in place of vengeance.

By which I mean, he ends up with an Aruzan woman named Manaroo, and after being betrayed and screwed over by Boba Fett multiple times, invites the guy to be best man at his wedding. This all gets more fleshed out in the Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy, where we get more details on how Dengar and Manaroo helped Fett convalesce after escaping the Sarlaac Pit. I have no idea why this is weirdly awesome; it just is.

Which brings us to Bossk, who happily gets what is coming to him. See, his people kill Wookiees for sport, which is nasty enough as is, but worse during this time period when the Empire had been using them as slave laborers. So Bossk teams up with two hunters—a young woman and her Wookiee companion—to hunt down Han, thinking that it’ll be easy to double-cross them. Instead he ends up imprisoned on his own ship, which is then used to free an entire Wookiee prison. Then they turn Bossk in for a bounty on illegal Wookiee pelting. The symmetry of the story is lovely.

Bossk is one of those characters in the Star Wars universe—it’s spectacular watching him get shown up at every turn because he deserves it. He’s fun to never root for. Every time another character proves that his superiority is the most unearned aspect of his personality, you’re cheering. And in this story it’s even more impressive because he gets the wool pulled over his eyes by two people he was always going to dismiss outright due to their gender and species respectively.

Next up is Zuckuss and 4-LOM, an odd duo who, like Dengar, ended up on both sides of the fight between the Empire and the Rebellion. Zuckuss’ precognitive abilities (later deemed a slight Force sensitivity) lead to some choices in their tale that no other bounty hunters would likely make. They accept help from the fleeing Rebels because Zuckuss has a medical condition that will kill him without new lungs. It’s a rare window into how the Alliance treats true outsiders, even suspicious ones. Our heroes conduct themselves admirably, much to the surprise of the bounty hunters.

Zuckuss and 4-LOM end up joining the Rebellion, but anyone who has read beyond this story knows it’s not meant to last. Which is understandable—not everyone can be Han Solo, after all.

And then we come to “The Last Man Standing,” which is unsurprisingly the title of Boba Fett’s story. This tale had a rough road, as the author (Daniel Keys Moran) was upset with the changes made to his Fett story in the Jabba’s Palace anthology. This one made its way into the anthology intact, and is by far the strongest of the bunch. Sure, I might be a bit bias in that regard because I adore Boba Fett and this was one of the first places where you got a deeper insight into his character. And yes, it was apocryphal for a while due to the prequels, but retcon served it well and it still rests comfortably in the canon.

But what story do you tell for Fett? We already know how his hunt for Solo goes—he’s the man who walks away with the prize, having made the other five look like kindergarteners playing Cops and Robbers in the process. So what we get are a series of flashbacks, one in particular that tells us how Fett first set eyes on Solo as a young man in a ring full of murderers twice his size. What we get is a tale set long after Han has settled down with his princess and had a few kids and is no longer capable of calling himself a rogue. What we get is a final showdown (they do meet again, even older and under much different circumstances, but as comrades of necessity), at high noon and off the grid, a final shootout to determine once and for all who gets out alive. Solo isn’t just an occasional bounty to Boba Fett; their moral codes don’t align. Despite Han’s big heart and Fett’s job hunting people down for money, you begin to realize how their dynamic breaks down to bounty hunter: He’s the law. Solo is just a punk criminal.

And that’s an angle that I’m pretty sure no one expected from the twenty-or-so grouchy words he gives up during his screentime. “The Last Man Standing” is story about recapturing youth. It’s about the things we can’t let go. It’s about trying for endings, and how they never stay put.

With all that in mind, Tales of the Bounty Hunters is perfect behind the scenes fun. A friend once told me that dessert couldn’t fill you up more after you had eaten dinner because it just filled in the cracks in your stomach. That’s sort of what these anthologies were. Think of them as the dessert filling in the cracks of your Star Wars-laden tummy.


Emily Asher-Perrin maybe just really likes strong, silent types who walk around in Mandalorian combat armor. She was recently on the Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast talking about Star Trek Into Darkness, and an essay of hers can be found in the newly released Queers Dig Time Lords. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

13 comments
Michael Poteet
1. MikePoteet
"At the end of the day, Dengar’s story is wrapped up..." Pun intended? Nice one!

I never gave this anthology a try, having been a little disappointed in the Cantina "Tales" volume, but I certainly enjoyed your review of it!
a1ay
2. a1ay
Vader’s choice to draw them in seems a bit outrageous in the first
place—we know stormtroopers are a waste of space, but are you really telling us that the Galactic Empire has no spies? Retrieval Units? Shady operatives who do things that rank as cruel and unusual even on the Imperial scale?

Outsourcing, innit. Bringing the cost-discipline of the private sector to the bloated and inefficient Imperial bureaucracy. And, you have to admit, he has a point. His sad devotion to that ancient religion didn't give him enough insight to locate the hidden Rebel base, but
(urk!)
(RELEASE HIM LORD VADER)
(thanks)
it's not like the gleamingly efficient Imperial fleet did any better. They were pottering around the galaxy for years dropping probe droids at god knows what cost. But you get in a private contractor like Boba Fett and tell him "Find Solo and Skywalker" and a few weeks later he's done it, for, I'm guessing, less than a day's worth of the catering budget of a single star destroyer.
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
Vader had his own agenda as well, knew that the Emporer liked to play his subordinates off one another. So who's to say any Imperial spy sent to find them, wouldn't be ultimately reporting to Palpatine instead, who could swoop in to take Luke away from him. If he hadn't learned it at the end of Ep III, he sure as hell knows now that the Palpatine likes to cause pain, that's the Sith way, to mentally abuse and mindfuck your apprentice.

So I can understand why he would want to outsource this to people who be report solely to him, instead of Palpatine. Now, Shadow of the Empire shows that this may not have been the safest move, because if so moved, Palpatine could likely have gotten Xixor to influence those bounty hunters, but we'll overlook that(cuz if we didn't overlook all the ways these books contradict each other, we'd NEVER GET ANYWHERE)
a1ay
4. pabkins
bianary gendered programming haha - yes your toaster has feelings.
Alan Brown
5. AlanBrown
This anthology could also be titled, "Why Outsourcing Often Fails."
Liz Bourke
6. hawkwing-lb
Outsourcing, innit. Bringing the cost-discipline of the private sector
to the bloated and inefficient Imperial bureaucracy. And, you have to
admit, he has a point. His sad devotion to that ancient religion didn't
give him enough insight to locate the hidden Rebel base, but

(urk!)

(RELEASE HIM LORD VADER)

(thanks)

it's not like the gleamingly efficient Imperial fleet did any better.

I have to comment just to express my admiration for this comment.

(PS: I always rather liked the Zuckuss story best. But that's because I'm a sucker.)
a1ay
7. a1ay
Vader had his own agenda as well, knew that the Emporer liked to play his subordinates off one another

We've all worked out by now that the Rebellion was started by the Emperor himself, right? The second series of three films mirrors the plot of the first three - Palpatine secretly foments a rebellion against the government of which he himself is a part, as a way of crushing his rivals. First time around, it was the Trade Federation, which gave him the excuse to raise an army, destroy his political rivals, achieve the Chancellorship and ultimately abolish the Senate. Second time around, it was the Rebel Alliance, which first destroyed the dangerously independent minded Tarkin and brought the armed forces to heel, and next was on the point of killing off his own right-hand man, Vader, who had presumably shown signs of becoming a rival. "Everything that has occurred has done so according to my design", remember.
Alan Brown
8. AlanBrown
a1ay, Good point, like a true pulp fiction villian, the Emperor fell victim to his own too-clever machinations--hoisted on his own petard, if you will.
a1ay
9. a1ay
Exactly. He'd done a Miles-style strategy tree thing; either Luke lets the anger flow through him, kills Vader (in the process turning Dark) and takes his father's place at the Emp's side, which is good for Palpatine because now he's got, by definition, a more competent sidekick; or Vader kills Luke, which is good because a) that's one less Jedi in the world, and b) the act of killing his own son on command is probably going to make Vader even more reliably loyal and Dark. It's a win either way. He just forgot that there was a third possibility; either Luke or Vader or both kill him.
Christopher Morgan
10. cmorgan
Yeah, Zuckuss quickly replaced Fett in terms of my favorite Star Wars character because of this antholog. I remember being little me and thinking that something that could use the force AND breath ammonia was pretty awesome.

Re: Bounty Hunters. Yeah, Vader has the Nagri and Palps has Mara Jade, but as of Hoth, does anyone even realize Solo's importance to the cause or if Leia is on the ship? I mean Vader lets Solo go no problem, promising to reimburse Fett if Solo dies in the freezing process. It seems that the real prize would be Leia, and you don't really send a Death Commado after someone you want alive...
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
11. Lisamarie
I am loving these rereads, as some of these books I haven't read since high school or college, but are still pretty firmly in my head.

Of the three main anthology books (not counting Tales of the Republic and Tales of the Empire), this one might have been my least favorite, which is not to say I didn't enjoy it.

Anyway, all I'll say on this is that Robot Chicken have given me a whole new way of thinking about Dengar, Bossk, Zuckuss and 4-LOM. "Yeah, we are bounty hunters!"
Chris Nelly
12. Aeryl
@10, He wanted them because they were Luke's friends. It wasn't their importance to the Rebellion, it was the to lure Luke into a trap, which worked.
Kylie Thomson
13. salimbol
@11 Lisamarie
Same here! I can never watch TESB anymore without thinking of Bossk's "Am I the only one polite enough to remove his shoes?" :-)

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