Blood Ties: Boba Fett is Dead
Boba Fett is Dead is the second arc in the Blood Ties series, which has now seemingly shifted its focus away from telling the stories of many different Star Wars families and towards being the vehicle for Boba Fett stories and expanding on his family dynamic. Luckily, this shift doesn't result in the kind of wheel spinning that the Fett comics, an on again off again feature in Dark Horse's stable since they acquired the Star Wars license, have exhibited in the past. Instead, we meet Boba's wife and daughter, and watch as he tears through yet another group of unsuspecting thugs and criminals.
The plot is a fairly simple revenge tale in which Boba Fett, with the help of his half brother Connor Freeman, turns the tables against a group of villains seeking to destroy him. Despite the series' subtitle and the cover art, this book never even attempts to build the notion that Boba Fett might actually be dead. For one, it is set even before the events of Return of the Jedi, and for two, he shows up in the story about five pages after his supposed death. This works for the better as spending a bunch of time building up something that isn't leading anywhere would probably just end in disaster (like the Black Fleet Crisis' sub plot where Luke tries to learn about his mom.) Instead of a deceitful buildup with no real payoff, we are treated to a very fast paced story that anyone with an inkling of appreciation for the character should enjoy. Fett's quest to find out who took out the hit on him and turn the tables leads him to a variety of exotic locales, but most notably he stages a daring and truly exciting infiltration of an Imperial military base. Connor, one of the pleasant surprises of the first installment of Blood Ties, finds himself on the run after being associated with Fett's vengeance killings. Through Fett's aid, he finds himself holed up with Fett's estranged wife, Sintas Vel, and their daughter Ailyn. Ailyn is a real gem in this book, an eight year old who believes that kissing causes space worms, yet is also hardened enough to know how to use a rocket launcher. She's sassy and all kinds of adorable, and her (and Sintas') inclusion gives this title the twist it needs to distinguish itself from the other Fett comics.
There are a few disappointing moments, like a hyped up encounter between Fett and Vader (Vader was even featured extensively on the cover of the third monthly issue) that leads to nothing more than a two page cameo, devoid of any fighting or tension. Considering how pivotal a role Vader has played in some of the best Fett stories (including my personal favorite, Enemy of the Empire,) he should have probably been tabled if they weren't going to come up with a better role for him than this. Making up for this ill advised cameo is an absolutely fantastic one earlier in the book featuring Dr. Evazan, the one eyed cantina thug from A New Hope. His back alley medical practice and criminal persona is an offbeat and darkly humorous wrinkle in the earlier part of the story. Another flaw would be the villain himself, some aristocrat that doesn't have much in the way of fighting ability. While he isn't as much of a pushover as the guy from the first book, he is still nothing special and just about as lame. The only saving grace is that the character's motivation for hating Boba Fett is built on Fett's origin from the classic short story The Last One Standing by Daniel Keys Moran. The flaws in this book mostly just push it out of being a classic or must read book; there aren't any deal breakers to speak of and this is a very strong addition to Fett's ever expanding pantheon of adventures.
The artwork in this book is of varying quality, doing some things atypically well and others surprisingly poorly. A lot of the backgrounds are blurry (a cool effect during more intense scenes, but not as welcome during establishing shots and the like) and look like they were very hastily slapped together, while the book also has one or two panels that look like they weren't even finished. It is pretty much the same style as the first book, which presents a nice continuity when read consecutively, but the actual quality occasionally takes a nosedive.
On the other hand, there is still quite a bit to like about the art, particularly where faces are concerned. Ailyn looks absolutely adorable, while Connor's frequently bemused expressions help capture the character quite nicely. Random thugs, including Evazan, are rendered with all the gritty ugliness that can be mustered, and Vader looks quite good in his brief appearance. Another major positive are the vivid explosions and flame work displayed throughout this book. They feel life like in a way that the backgrounds rarely do and definitely contribute towards the book's high octane feel. In the same vein, the lighting is quite realistic and well done throughout the book. If nothing else, it is safe to say that Blood Ties is making use of quite a different style of artwork, something totally apart from the rest of the Star Wars comics both past and present. While it isn't totally successful, you certainly can't knock it for being derivative.
Even though the series has strayed quite a ways from the original premise, going from a series that promises to explore the family dynamics of some of Star Wars' most important characters to just another Boba Fett action book, Blood Ties: Boba Fett is Dead may be a deceptively advertised comic on two different levels, but it is far from a bad one. It is a fairly typical Boba Fett kill fest, but this time with far more interesting trappings than just about any of his previous adventures have featured. The inclusion of his wife and child and a villain with motives that connect directly to one of the most noteworthy of Fett's early origin stories help make this a great buy for anyone with a craving for more of this iconic assassin.