In “Star Wars: Bounty Hunters no. 12,” Beilert Valance is a man on the run from two bounty hunters, Zuckuss and 4-LOM. After saving the Rebel Alliance ship The Spirit of Jedha at the cost of his own ship, the Broken Wing, Valance has stolen a ship from Hondo Ohnaka’s old gang with fellow bounty hunter Dengar. While avoiding laser fire in an asteroid field, Valance and the bounty hunters all over the galaxy learn of a lucrative job that feeds the fire that is the “War of the Bounty Hunters.”
Up until now, I have not read “Star Wars: Bounty Hunters,” so in the spirit of “The War of the Bounty Hunters” and being a “Star Wars” fan, I decided to give it a read. I realized that I have been missing out. Ethan Sacks has made an original bounty hunter story that is not centered around Boba Fett but a cyborg.
The comic series centers around Beilert Valance, hailing from the mining planet Chorin, who was a TIE Fighter pilot, who served in the Galactic Empire alongside future smuggler Han Solo. This story was chronicled in the comic “Star Wars: Han Solo Imperial Cadet” which takes place a few years before “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
During their days in the Imperial Academy on Carida, Valance and Solo had formed a rivalry with the former claiming that he was a prodigy and a rising star within the Empire. However, pushing aside animosity, Solo saved Valance’s life during a mission when Valance’s TIE Fighter was shot down. The experience left Valance with one leg and he was demoted to a stormtrooper who was eventually discharged due to more injuries. Valance’s injuries were so grave that he was made into a cyborg by the Empire (Think of Arnold Swartzenegger’s Terminator fighting for the Empire).
When reading “Bounty Hunters,” I also learned Valance had left a life behind on his home planet Chorin. He had come from a mining family and had a girlfriend named Yuralla Vega, who would join the Rebel Alliance and marry an officer in the resistance movement. After his experiences with serving under the Empire, Valance realized that he threw away what was most important to him rather than becoming the best pilot in the Empire: a life with Yuralla. As a result of the Empire dropping him like a sack of potatoes despite being ardently loyal, Valance grew bitter and became a bounty hunter.
The character of Valance is no stranger to the Star Wars Universe. The character debuted in the 1978 comic “Star Wars no.16” where he was also a cyborg for the Galactic Empire. He had several run-ins with Jedi apprentice Luke Skywalker and his friends and like his canon counterpart, hated droids. However, the actions of Luke inspired Valance to act more heroically and eventually saved the galaxy from a mad woman hellbent on unleashing a horrible pandemic on the galaxy by using Great Life Jewels. Valance made a heroic sacrifice by taking the jewels that restored his human form and plunging into a star with a smile on his face.
The Valance in the canon comic is very similar to his pre-Disney counterpart. Both were ardent imperials who became disillusioned with the Empire and desired nothing more than to be as human as possible. In a sense, Valance shares many traits with Han Solo and the former Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader. Like Solo, Valance left his life and a lover behind to join the Empire to become one of the best pilots in the galaxy. And like the fallen Jedi, Valance’s cybernetics had made him more machine than man.
But Valance is no smuggler or force user. He is a bounty hunter who is on the run and trying to survive while his past catches up to him. And that past involves the man who saved his life: Han Solo.
In “Bounty Hunters no.12” Dengar lets slip that Valance’s rival Boba Fett is in possession of Han Solo (Spoilers: Fett had just lost Solo, see “Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters Alpha”). This causes Valance’s mission focus to change. The cyborg bounty hunter’s mission changed from saving a young girl birthed from two heirs from rivaling gangs from the planet Corellia, saving a Rebel freighter, and finally finding Solo and settling the score with Boba Fett. However, bounty hunter Zuckuss and his deadly anf faithful protocol droid 4-LOM are hot on their tail and shooting at them through an asteroid field.
While under fire, Dengar inquires why Valance is so fixated on Solo and we are taken to a flashback when Valance is trying to look for work as a bounty hunter. This occurred after the botched bounty hunter job that involved Valance’s mentor Nakana Lash, Bossk, and Boba Fett.
Desperate for credits (currency in the Star Wars Universe), Valance takes up a job to assassinate a smuggler who turns out to be Han Solo. Valance refuses to kill Han and gets into a scuffle with the bounty hunter who hired him. Shocked and angry, Han asks Valance why he would attack him and tells the cyborg that he thought they were friends. Chewie carries an angry Han aboard the Millennium Falcon. As the Falcon takes off, Valance mutters that he is sorry.
Back in the present, Dengar, being the sly bounty hunter that he is, prevents Zuckuss and 4-LOM form firing on their ship by telling them that Jabba the Hutt has put on a bounty on Boba Fett’s head and that he knows exactly where Fett is located. By the end of the comic, every bounty hunter in the galaxy, whether for credits or for their own reasons, wants a piece of Fett.
As I have stated before, I felt that Sack was similar to “Star Wars” characters like Han Solo and Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. A man, like Vaderm who became more machine than man who was robbed of promise and humanity by the Galactic Empire while, like young Han, agreeing to leave all that he loved behind. As I read the comic, Sack’s writing made me wonder how different the Star Wars Universe would be if Han Solo’s and Valance’s roles were reversed since they are very similar.
Would Valance still see that the real reason for fighting was for the ones loved rather than an Empire run by a self-proclaimed Emperor? Could you imagine a cyborg Han grieving at the loss of his humanity and the thought of Qi’ra seeing him as such? This issue is a reminder that Sacks did not just write a comic about badass bounty hunters. It is a sad story of a man trying to come to grips with being made into a mechanical monstrosity. His struggle is almost like the creature from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. He knows he’s different and he’s reminded of it everyday.
Valance feels that he owes Han more than just a thank you for saving his life back during their days as cadets. He feels that the only way he could repay Solo is by getting him out of Fett’s clutches. And since Solo is technically a member of the Rebel Alliance and Valance is no stranger with doing deals with the freedom fighting organization, I have no doubt that he would do whatever he could to try to bring the smuggler back to Princess Leia. But at what cost? After all, Valance of all people would know what it would be like to be away from someone he loves for so long.
Aside from the melancholy that we see Valance experience, this issue, like other issues in the series, has its funny moments. My favorite moment was when Valance tries to fly into the asteroid field with Dengar stating “Wait! You can’t just fly into an asteroid field!” This was an obvious nod to “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” in which Leia asks Han “You’re not actually going into an asteroid field?”
The difference between the two asteroid scenes is that instead of encountering one space worm like his fellow cadet did, Valance ends up encountering at least four of them while two bounty hunters try to gun him down. With Paolo Villanelli’s drawings and Arif Prianto’s coloring, we see the severity of the situation which was thankfully averted by Dengar.
Speaking of the art, my favorite scene was a splash of Han Solo and Chewbacca which I feel shows how much Valance owes Han.In the smaller panel below, we see Valance shocked at seeing his old rival and rescuer.
You cannot forget the lettering done by Travis Lanham which was used in the fight scenes in the Valance’s flashback and the botched asteroid flight scene. The lettering is a reminder that this is a comic about bounty hunters which means there is going to be a lot of shooting and hitting which makes me feel as if I am watching a “Star Wars” movie or TV show.
Now that the “War of the Bounty Hunters” has been up the ante due to the bounty on Boba Fett’’s head, what does this mean for the other bounty hunters? Will Valance live to see Han Solo and thank him for saving his life or will he die trying to repay his debt to a rival turned friend?
“Star Wars: Bounty Hunters no. 12” is available at your local comic book shop or wherever comic books are sold.
- Writer: Ethan Sacks
- Artist: Paolo Villanelli
- Colorist: Arif Prianto
- Letterer:VC’s Travis Lanham
- Publisher: Marvel
Synopsis: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS: “Target Solo” Cyborg bounty hunter Valance recently rescued a stranded Rebel freighter from marauding pirates.
Dengar let it slip that the notorious Boba Fett captured Valance’s old friend, Han Solo. The two rival hunters have come to an understanding in order to find Fett.
Valance now tears through space in a stolen vessel, desperate to pick up the trail before it’s too late…